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JOHN ROZENTALS becomes more familiar with tannat, and like what he tastes

March 17, 2018 Beverage, Headline News No Comments Email Email

It’s surprising how often the sounds of the names of grape varieties reflect the characteristics of the wines that they make.

Hence, the name ‘merlot’ indicates a soft, roundness to this writer. Which is what most wines made from merlot in Australia are.

Similarly, shiraz makes soft, rich, alluring red wines, just as its name would indicate, and ‘cabernet sauvignon’ sounds a bit like an aloof, somewhat austere sophisticate.

With tannat you do generally get a red wine that tastes what its name sounds like.

Apart from the lexicographic similarity to the word ‘tannin’, ‘tannat’ sounds rather robust and angular, which is what the variety’s wines are usually about.

Tannat has its home in the south-western French region of Madiran, where is makes long-living red wines that high respected English critic Jancis Robinson describes as “liquid treasures that are rarely given the time they need to develop”.

But the place that tannat really seems to have come into its own is Uruguay, which given the South American country’s obsession with beef should be hardly surprising.

It’s pretty rare in Australia, but Mark Kirkby has readily embraced it at his Topper’s Mountain operation in the elevated, cool New England region of northern NSW.

I’ve tasted wines made from the variety before, but not often. It’s a bit like durif, from north-eastern Victoria — a bit surprising to start with, but a style that grows on you. Just give it time.


Topper’s Mountain 2013 Wild Ferment Tannat ($38): In less PC days I would probably have described this red as ‘masculine’, with its full flavour and muscular tannins quite able to cope with a substantial steak. With five years of age, the wine is just beginning to lose its angularity. This is a red definitely worth trying. It has novelty value, sure, but also quality — and that’s important if you’re outlaying close to $40.

Topper’s Mountain 2015 Bricolage Blanc ($30): Gewurztraminer contributes only 16 per cent of this unique white blend but its distinctive perfumed character assures that it dominates the other components — chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and petit manseng, a rare, in-Australia anyway, white variety also originating in the south-west of France. It’s a complex, food-friendly dry white that particularly suits spicy Thai or Szechuan cuisine.


Shaw Vineyard Estate 2017 Winemakers Selection Riesling ($18): I often wonder why our bottleshop shelves and winelists seem awash with sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio when there are rieslings as good as this around at much the same price point. This riesling, from near Canberra, is simply a lovely drop offering a burst of fresh, limey flavour. It’s a dry, zesty wine that will go a treat with oysters or white-fleshed grilled fish. Go easy on the lemon, though, the wine will mostly take care of the required cutting acidity.

Written by  John Rozentals

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