Today, Sommeliers Australia, in conjunction with S. C. Pannell and Connect Vines, is having a tasting hosted by Stephen Pannell titled Iberian Invasion. I’ll be attending, and certainly plan on writing up a few of the wines in more detail, but since I have the list of wines in advance, I figured I’d write about the tasting generally so I’m up to speed when I actually arrive at the event.
First, a word about the host, Stephen Pannell. As with many Australian winemakers, his family is involved in the trade. His parents, Bill and Sandra Pannell, founded Moss Wood in the late 1960s, the second winery in Margaret River, and then went on to found Picardy Vineyard and Winery of Pemberton in 1993 which they run, along with Stephen’s brother Dan.
Stephen himself has worked as a winemaker in Burgundy with Domaine des Comtes Lafon, in Bordeaux with Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and in Barolo with G. D. Vajra. Domestically he served as a chief winemaker for Hardy’s, and has racked up an impressive series of awards and trophies, including International Red Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge, the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy, and the Max Schubert Trophy (twice). Decanter Magazine has listed him as one of the 50 most influential people in the world of wine. He’s also spent time working with Fosters and Shaw + Smith in Australia, and Liberty Wines in the UK. I wasn’t sure why he would be presenting Iberian wines so I had to dig slightly, and it appears he recently worked four vintages in Spain, with at least some time (possibly all of it) making wine for Alfredo Arribas at Portal de Montsant in Priorat.
The label S.C. Pannell, operated by Stephen and his wife Fiona, is apparently virtual in that the company does not maintain a winery or vineyards, instead sourcing grapes from growers and hiring space as dictated by their needs each vintage. They do, however, have a tasting room of sorts with Fall From Grace Wine in McLaren Vale.
Every now and again I come across a figure such as Stephen Pannell and wonder how it is I know so little about them. I put it down to being a relative newcomer to the wine trade, but also to the fact that it is an industry that has such a huge field of producers and contributors. Even as recently as five years ago, I was more likely to be found looking at a map of whisky distilleries in Scotland than appellations in France, and let me tell you, it was a simpler time. There are less than 200 distilleries, closer to 100 if you discount the ones now silent, and while there are numerous variations of styles, ages, and treatments, they’re all made from pretty much the same barley. Looking even at a modestly sized region such as McLaren Vale, there are at least 100 wineries, most producing a range of wines encompassing scores of grape varieties, with a different vintage every year. Multiply that across the state, country, and world, and suddenly I don’t feel so bad that I’m unfamiliar with all the iconic winemakers even in my own neighbourhood.
Connect Vines is a South Australia based wine agent, representing a handful of Australian producers, and responsible for importing a couple of dozen Iberian brands into Australia. They also represent a new gin out of Margaret River, The West Winds Gin, about which I will undoubtedly write more at some point soon.
Very little I’ve said so far has much to do with Iberian wines, so just a quick overview as to what I’m expecting we’ll be tasting. It appears that wines from Spain and Portugal will be supplemented with wines of a complimentary nature that S. C. Pannell produces within Australia. The list as provided by Sommeliers Australia is below, but tastings of more than a few wines will often have slight differences between the intended list and wines that turn up on the day, so I’ll update any differences after the tasting.
Whites should include a Verdejo from Rueda northwest of Madrid, an Albillo from San Martin de Valdeiglesias just west of Madrid, a Verdelho from the Alentejo region in south central Portugal, and a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris out of the Adelaide Hills.
The rosés are listed as a Vinhão, Azal Tinto, and Padeiro de Basto blend from Vinho Verde, the north of Portugal and a Grenache from McLaren Vale.
The reds are set to be a Bobal from Manchuela, southeast of Madrid, a Shiraz, Grenache blend from Méntrida southwest of Madrid, a Shiraz, Grenache blend from McLaren Vale, a Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca blend from the Douro, a Tempranillo, Touriga blend from McLaren Vale, and a Baga from Bairrada DOC in central western Portugal.
I’m really looking forward to this tasting, in that it features some grapes (Albillo, Baga), regions (Alentejo, Méntrida), and styles (Rosé Vinho Verde) I have not had the opportunity to try. I’m also looking forward to hearing the presentation from Stephen Pannell, as I’m sure he’s a winemaker whose name I’ll be noticing more and more, now that I know who he is.
List of wines on the programme
- 2010 Martivilli Verdejo
- 2010 Bodegas Maranones Picarana Albillo
- 2009 Esporão Verdelho
- 2010 S. C. Pannell Tinto Bianco
- 2010 Plainas Rosé
- 2011 S. C. Pannell Rosé
- 2009 Bodegas Y Vinedos Ponce La Casilla Bobal
- 2009 Sotorondero Shiraz, Grenache
- 2010 S. C. Pannell Shiraz, Grenache
- 2009 Assobio Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca
- 2010 S. C. Pannell Tempranillo, Touriga
- 2006 Vadio Baga