So tonight it’s another interesting varietal, with Saperavi being the star of the show. The wine in particular is The Oddball 2007 from Hugh Hamilton of McLaren Vale. First, the winery and region.
Hugh Hamilton traces his family back five generations to the first people to plant grapes in South Australia, which locally is considered back quite a ways. The winery is interesting for a few reasons. First, they have a wide range of different wines. It’s not just red and whites, but rosé, sparkling and fortified wines as well. That’s not so uncommon in McLaren Vale, but it’s not just the standard varietals, as demonstrated by this wine.
Second, Hugh Hamilton is one of the most heavily branded and merchandised wineries I’ve ever seen. At some point they decided on sheep and have run with it. Hugh himself is described as the black sheep of the family, and all of their wines have sheep branding and names. Visiting their cellar door it, there are far more branded products (and not just hats and t-shirts, but all manner of items) on offer than wines. The individual products that you can see online are all reasonably tasteful, but it’s all a bit much in the confines of their cellar door. That said, I like the wax covering the cork with a sheep seal, though I’m afraid my photo doesn’t do it justice. Very good production values (Hugh Hamilton – not this blog).
So Saperavi – an interesting grape, and not widely planted in most of the world. It’s origins are in Georgia, the country not the state, and as Georgia claims to be one of the oldest regions of wine production, this grape is potentially quite ancient. It is typically quite acidic (in a good way) and also very dark in colour. One of its selling points in the vineyard is its ability to withstand cold weather. How this has convinced people that Australia would be a good place for it is not at all clear to me, but I’m never one to turn down an interesting grape no matter how unlikely the pairing of it with a terroir might be.
The wine in the glass in front of me is as interesting as one could reasonably expect. The first thing you notice is the colour – it’s intense right up to the rim. And even going on five years old, it’s not taken on any hint of brick. It’s not a really young purple, but it’s certainly holding steady at ruby.
On the palate, there’s certainly the intense berry flavour I was promised, though the body is a solid medium. There are also some secondary notes starting to come through – I’m getting dark chocolate which is very pleasant and long lasting. However, what I’m not getting is the searing acidity that I might have expected from my book learning. It’s not that it’s flabby – it’s just a matter of expectations. Just a guess, but might it have something to do with being grown in McLaren Vale, which is a fairly warm climate?
In conclusion, this is a very good wine for me. I love trying new things, especially new varietals. I have had this wine before, as well as another Australian Saperavi from Domain Day, but I think it’s about time I tracked down one from Georgia to see how they stack up next to their progenitor. Until then though, I enjoyed this wine as more than just a curiosity, particularly the intensity of flavour and length of the finish.
So on an unrelated note, I’ve started working on getting some maps together with minor success. Ordinarily I’d say something about not wanting to get too technical because people are here to read about wine, but honestly I think so few people read this that I won’t be getting too many complaints. So I’m using Google Maps, and it’s interesting. Project for today was writing up an web page that had three zones on it in different colours. First problem, not reading the intro section about needing to get an API key. Next, the Google interface takes coordinates in latitude, longitude pairs, but for some reason the KML files I’ve generated have longitude, latitude, altitude trios. Final weirdness, it seems polygons can’t have more than 500 coordinates. Other than that, things are interesting. I hope to put up a sample wine region map in the next week. Next step, writing a script that reads in different KML files and gives me a region for each one, so I can keep code and data separate. After that, figuring out if there is a way to deal with the 500 coordinate limitation.