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Young and old make a cracking combo

A back label of a bottle I found on Superquinn's wine shelves recently name-checked the cast involved in making the liquid within.

Carl Lindner and Brad Rey were listed as the vignerons, Elena Brooks BSc as the winemaker, and Zar Brooks, occupation described as 'typist'.

Zar first came to my attention as half of the duo who started a Langhorne Creek winery called Zonte's Footstep, the other being winemaker Mr Ben Riggs. Langhorne Creek, a backwater in the big river of South Australian wine, has long been a home for quirky subversives who paddled against the tide of big brandism to produce distinctive wines of considerable character.

The stated goal was "to make the best wines we can, true to vineyard and variety, so long as we make a bloody good drink" -- 2003 was their initial vintage and liked by most critics from the off.

Dandelion Vineyards, Zar's latest involvement, along with his wife and his Canadian mates, is described as "a combination of all of our favourite local terroirs with mature and, in some cases, centurion plus vineyards, down-and-dirty viticulture and purist winemaking . . . a vinous treasure hunt in our own vineyards", a big, cocky, statement. It goes on: "Our wish is to nurture the unique character of these vineyards and express their terroir in our wines." I've written untold times in this column about the killer pairing of old vines and young winemakers.

In Australia, Chile, Argentina, even in hitherto unheralded parts of France and Italy, the combination is working to high standards and interesting wines are the result. As always, though, the proof of the pudding is in the wine itself, though the methodology gives a clue as to the quality of the finished product.



Crushed

In Dandelion Vineyards' flagship, called Masthead of McLaren Vale (right), whole bunches of Shiraz from specially selected sites are hand harvested, gently crushed and naturally fermented in open tanks and floated over Riesling skins for 10 days. Then they are hand-plunged, basket-pressed into a mix of new (10pc) and old French oak barriques where the wine dwells for 18 months before being bottled, without filtration.

This is extremely diligent winemaking and had me salivating but, again, the bottom line is "What does it taste like?"

It's fabulous. Quintessential McLaren Vale Shiraz (one of my all-time fave wine styles) with floral character on the nose and a substantial body of ripe dark plummy fruit, with a hint of greengage.

From the heady bouquet to the prolonged 'value added' aftertaste it delivers; the more so when you consider I bought this wine for €10.99, daft money for the quality. The Riesling 'floatation' works really well, probably better than many of the currently fashionable Shiraz/Viognier confections with their OTT 'nosegay' aromas.

I'm now gagging to taste the rest of the Dandelion range. The Dandelion Vineyards range of wines is available from Superquinn, rrp around €10.99.


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