I’ve been meaning to write about this producer since I tasted their wines at the Adelaide Cellar Door Festival back in February. I kept putting it off though, because I know they have some interesting wines in the pipeline that might advance me in my quest to taste 100 varietals. However, I swung by Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills a couple of weeks ago where the winemaker had set up a tasting, and this wine subsequently turned up in my neighbourhood bottle ship, so I decided that covering it now is more important than waiting on their next releases. And with that, I give you the By Jingo! Adelaide Hills Montepulciano 2008.
In terms of region and grape, we’ve been to the Adelaide Hills many times, and somewhat surprisingly this is not our first encounter with a Montepulciano – I tasted the Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo back in December. Even more surprisingly I wrote a borderline halfway decent description of the grape back then. But for review, it’s a red grape planted widely throughout Italy, producing wines that typically have deep colour and medium acidity, which are made without oak influence and meant to be consumed relatively young. Also, it is not the grape used to make the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – in that case the name refers to the town and the wine is based on Sangiovese. I also should have mentioned back in December that it ripens fairly late and gives consistently generous yields.
As with nearly every grape variety I’ve ever described, someone has a patch of it somewhere in Australia, and By Jingo! is not the only such producer of Montepulciano. Vinodiversity lists over a dozen wineries with plantings or wines made from it, largely in South Australia but with one in Victoria. There are also plantings in New Zealand and California, though I think it’s fair to say they are all of very small scale and that the grape hasn’t yet really taken off outside of Italy.
By Jingo! is based in the Adelaide Hills, but I hadn’t heard of them until February, partly because they only celebrated their first year as a label this month, but also because they don’t as yet have a cellar door. What I’ve learned about them since then is that they’re driven by a love of Italian varieties, with Montepulciano being their star variety. The winemaker and vigneron, John Gilbert, got his start in wine by planting a small vineyard and taking a low level job with a producer in McLaren Vale. He followed up with a winemaking degree, vintages at opposite ends of Italy in Alto Adige and Sicily, and work on other wine labels before this venture where he’s finally able to focus on Italian grapes in Australia.
In addition to this Montepulciano, By Jingo! has produced a Zinfandel and a Montepulciano / Zinfandel blend. There is also mention of Nero d’Avola and Negroamaro on their website. In addition, a Grillo has been produced but not yet released, which Gilbert apparently imported as a variety in 2001. More conventionally, they also produce a Shiraz.
On top of that, they have a wine they call Mendoza, named for the Chardonnay clone used to produce it. Not being a Chardonnay expert I can only relate that relative to the classic Dijon clones, Mendoza can have smaller berries with a greater skin to juice ratio at the expense of higher incidence of millerandage (hen and chicken) which is when you get very small berries mixed in a bunch of normal sized berries. Both of of those factors can contribute to a richer style of Chardonnay. By Jingo! describe theirs as having citrus and icing sugar characters.
I have a bit of a gripe with their naming choice. The clone is named for the region in Argentina in which it is believed to have originated, and hence it’s an Australian wine with the name of a non-Australian wine region prominently printed across the front label, a practice once widespread throughout the industry here but now largely stamped out. That said, they’re certainly not trying to pass off their wine as anything other than Australian Chardonnay, and most Australian consumers who know the region Mendoza will likely also have heard of the clone, so it’s perhaps only an issue if they export to South America.
Back to the wine at hand, in the glass, it is clear and bright, with a dark ruby colour and quick legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium intensity and notes of red fruit – cherries and plums – sweet spice, some star anise, and a bit of potpourri. On the palate it’s dry, with medium acidity, medium soft, mouth coating tannins, medium plus intensity, medium plus alcohol, medium body, and a medium minus length. There are notes of cherries and plums, and a cocoa powder taste and texture. The texture might be down to it not being filtered and me not properly decanting, though it is by no means unpleasant.
I don’t taste Montepulciano often, but I had a look back at what I wrote about the one I tasted in December and was pleased to see the tasting note was more similar than different. I’m happy giving this wine a rating of very good. The fruit is still fresh, even after three years in oak, but some developed notes are certainly coming through. The time in oak I think is what sets it apart from how this grape is traditionally handled in Italy, and as such while it’s drinking nicely right now, I would expect it to cellar well for at least a few more years in contrast to the drink now style of Italian Montepulcianos. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of their range released, particularly varieties I have not yet tried.