Back in February I wrote about the Sorrenberg Gamay, which I enjoyed greatly. However, it let me down in my quest to post about 100 varietal wines in that it’s made with a small percentage of Pinot Noir. It’s less than 15% so it need not be mentioned on the label, but enough that I cannot in good faith tick the box for having written up a varietal Gamay. However, today I intend to do just that with the Eldrige Estate Gamay 2010.
First off, I’m not having this wine just to tick a box. As I’ve said before, Gamay is one of my favourite grape varieties, but suffers from a trio of disadvantages in terms of popularity – being a light red, inevitable comparisons with Pinot Noir, and Beaujolais Nouveau. None of these are actual disadvantages in terms of the quality of wines produced, and Eldridge Estate, like Sorrenberg, is another Victorian winery that takes the grape seriously.
It is based on the Mornington Peninsula, which I described to some extent when I covered the Point Leo Road Vineyard Lagrein, and I had the pleasure of a brief visit to the Eldridge Estate cellar door back in September. Unfortunately, they were sold out of their normal Gamay, but I didn’t leave empty handed as they had a special trio of wines in 500ml bottles that were Gamays with different treatments in the winery. Those three are in the cellar (along with the note detailing how they differ) for a later date, but I was pleased to find that a local merchant still had a bottle of their Gamay for sale even if none was on hand at cellar door.
Eldridge Estate has been owned and run by Wendy and David Lloyd since 1995, and exclusively produces estate wines, that is wine made from grapes that they themselves grow. Their property is near the town of Red Hill, and has nearly 3 HA under vines. Situated on a north-facing slope (this is the Southern Hemisphere), their soils are a red earth volcanic loam (sand, silt and clay) and their vines are dry grown, though there is a dam at the bottom of the hill in case of emergencies.
Most of their plantings are a mix of a half dozen Pinot Noir clones and five Chardonnay clones, with a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc and this Gamay. They produce varietals (some from single clones), a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (which I assume they also grow) sparkler, and a Passetoutgrain, which translate to something along the lines of “pass all grapes” and in Burgundy is a co-fermented blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir. Their Sauvignon Blanc is sold as Fume Blanc, with a 50/50 blend of barrel and steel fermentation, and then ageing in a 50/50 mix of new barriques and older, larger format barrels. This Gamay is gently destemmed and fermented by wild yeasts with 90% whole grapes, preceded by five days of cold soak and followed by another four days of the same.
This wine is a bright and clear with a medium minus ruby colour – dark for a Gamay. Very slow legs when swirled in the glass. The nose is clean with medium plus intensity, and a developing character. Aromas range from ripe red berries to pencil lead and a bit of black pepper. It’s not quite perfume on the nose, but certainly some lifted fragrances are there. The palate is dry, with medium to medium plus acidity, a medium body, medium alcohol, and a medium plus flavour intensity. I get plum, black fruit (berries, cherries) pencil shavings and a small bit of liquorice. There is not much in terms of tannins – certainly some from the skins, but there were no stalks in the ferment, and if there’s any oak, I can’t detect it. It has a medium plus length with more pencil shavings/lead on the finish.
This is an interesting Gamay, and certainly a very good quality wine. It was all fruit when I first tasted it, but I revisited my notes and the glass a couple of hours later and it was better than just that, with more of the developed characters being evident, especially the liquorice which wasn’t there at all on first taste. Also, it’s darker and has a fuller body than most other Gamays I’ve had, which is a pleasant surprise. I like this wine quite a bit (though I thought I might from the outset, so no great surprise). Served blind, I think I would have guessed Pinot Noir in terms of the variety. I will have to try the other, better known, Eldridge Estate wines at some point, the Pinot Noir especially, but I’m both thrilled in general that they’re making a Gamay and pleased specifically with the one I have in my glass.