Weird week here – the second sparkling wine this week, and two Australian wines back to back. Not my normal routine, where I do try to mix things up, but this one came out of the blue and it seems like as good a time as any to give it a go.
First off, full disclosure: I know the owner/winemaker as a friend, and have even done some work for him. On the one hand, I wouldn’t write anything bad about him or his wine, but on the other hand, I know his wine to be good and therefore I’m not really too worried, despite not having tried this one before.
So Tilbrook Estate, a very small winery in the Adelaide Hills near Lobethal, with James Tilbrook doing almost all the work. They produce a wide variety of wines, red and white, dry and sweet, and now not only still but also sparkling. Of particular note, they do a very high quality Reserve Chardonnay as well as a very light and refreshing Botrytis Pinot Gris.
For knowing James, I am approaching this wine in a different manner than I would most wines. In particular, James is from Suffolk, England, and while it’s not exactly the deep south of England where some fantastic sparkling wine is being made these days, I’m approaching this sparkler as though it’s an Australian wine trying to be English, as opposed to an Australian wine trying to be from some other part of the Old World.
That said, this wine is made in a very traditional style, somewhat akin to something you might find in France. The grapes are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are about as traditional as you can get. They’re whole bunch pressed, fermented in tank, with the second fermentation in bottle and then disgorged by hand with zero dosage.
Where it’s not traditional in the least is the closure. This is not the first bottle of Australian sparkling wine I’ve seen under a crown cap, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Henschke does a sparkler which is very nice under crown cap as well. However, it is a funny sight in that my mind immediately thinks it must be a huge bottle of beer.
Right – so having now tasted the wine, it is indeed very nice. It has a fine colour – slightly less pale than the standard white wine shade and more toward straw. The bubbles are quite persistent. The nose is mild, with a little bit of biscuit. On the palate, there is certainly the green apple advertised on the back label, but also some lemon, and a hint of vanilla. It’s very well made, particularly as it’s a first vintage, though I believe James has done some work with a sparkling producer in Tasmania.
All in all, a nice drop, with more complexity that I was expecting, and I’m hoping it proves successful enough that we see more of it in the future.