So before anyone else gives a shout about this, yes, I know that Pertaringa and K1 have a great deal of overlap in terms of their owner and respective management teams, and so it could be argued that I’m revisiting a winery. I’ve done this once before with the Zweigelt that wasn’t obviously the same producer as the Blaufränkisch, albeit unknowingly. In this case, I am aware of what I’m doing, and apologies to all the wineries that are chomping at the bit for me to write about one of their wines. (As if.)
There are actually two good reasons I’m writing about Pertaringa so soon after K1. First, I’m obviously keen to rip through a century of varietals as quickly as possible, and varietal Tannats are a bit thin on the ground (though I do have at least one Juanicó in the cellar). Second though, I wasn’t hugely impressed with the K1 Grüner Veltliner I reviewed, and I wanted to have another look.
So having done far too much explaining before even getting to the wine, I have before me a bottle of Pertaringa McLaren Vale Single Vineyard Tannat 2009. I’m going to start with Tannat, because both the region and producer are more familiar and can wait.
Tannat is a classic red grape from Madiran AOC in the southwest of France. Black and tannic, it’s known there for producing highly astringent wines, that are typically blended with other reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, to make them a bit more drinkable. It was the desire within the winery to soften this otherwise somewhat harsh grape that led to the technique of micro-oxygenation, or the controlled introduction of small amounts of oxygen as part of the winemaking process.
Whenever I think of Tannat, I generally group it with Malbec, and to a lesser extent Carmenère. They are classic but lesser known/loved grapes of France that have come into their own in South America, that is Uruguay, Argentina and Chile respectively. It’s not just that grapes that are relatively marginalized in their home country have been embraced somewhere else, but more than that they are now the hero grapes in their new homes, and have emerged with their own distinctive styles. The Tannat that’s produced in Uruguay is much softer, due both to winemaking techniques and blending with medium to light bodied reds such as Merlot and Pinot Noir.
There is some Tannat outside of France and Uruguay, including California and neighbours of Uruguay. In addition to this Australian example, I know of a few other producers in McLaren Vale and there are scattered plantings in Victoria and New South Wales.
McLaren Vale, unlike some other neighbouring areas, is very obviously a valley. As you enter the region heading south from Adelaide, you climb a hill and when you reach the top the region spreads out before you to the east and south with the Adelaide Hills clearly marking the end of the valley. The area is closer to the sea than many that are classified as maritime, but it is in fact a warm Mediterranean climate with very little rain, particularly during the growing season. The sea does mitigate the heat to some extent, though that influence is highly variable depending on the particular patch of the Vale in question. As the region nestles up against the Adelaide Hills, there are some altitude influences.
Loamy sands dominate the soil of the Vale, though there are areas where lime or clay turn up. There are also areas of terra rossa what’s more commonly found a couple of hours south in Coonawarra.
The region is best known for red wine, and though whites were once plentiful, the fashion for them has somewhat shifted locally to Clare and the Adelaide Hills. (Coriole McLaren Vale Chenin Blanc is a notable exception.) In particular, Grenache has a special place in McLaren Vale, as well as the ubiquitous Shiraz. However, the conditions are such that nearly any red will reliably ripen, and so there’s an odd smattering of lesser known varieties, including many Italian reds.
Pertaringa, like K1, is a Geoff Hardy winery. Established in 1980 in a partnership with another viticulturalist, Hardy took full ownership late last year. They have a wide range of wines, particularly reds, including the usual suspects of Grenache, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but also this Tannat and an Aglianico as varietals and Tempranillo, Graciano, Petit Verdot, turning up in blends.
I’m always happier writing about a wine that I like, and I like this wine. The colour is very deep – purple with a hint of ruby, and thick purple legs. On the nose are spicy black and blue berries, and a developing character. The palate is dry, though the fruit itself is juicy and fresh in a way that hints at sweetness. The body is fairly full, which is in balance with the alcohol. It’s listed as 15% ABV, but I think they’re possibly being slightly modest. The acidity is moderate, and the flavours on the palate match the nose – black and blue berries, with some sour plum underneath. There’s a touch of white pepper almost lost in the fresh fruit. Being Tannat, the real question is “how are the tannins?” Well, they’re nice. They’re inky and absolutely mouth-coating. However, they’re quite soft, bordering on being more of a texture than anything else. They work well with the body and alcohol levels.
This is a wine I’m happy to recommend. More Montevideo than Madiran – a very gentle approach to Tannat with plenty of fruit and gentle, but abundant, tannins. I enjoyed it as a young wine, but I would hope that it will have more to offer in terms of complexity in years to come.