De Bortoli. The name is synonymous with quality wine at all price points. From the entry level bulk casks (the Cab Merlot was a Uni staple) and the Sacred Hill range; to the varietal affordable qualities of the Windy Peak wines; extending through the Yarra Valley Estate wines and punctuated by the golden (in all ways) Noble One. Along with being one of Australia’s First Families of Wine, they’re incredibly approachable and open. Never afraid of experimentation in wine and bottling expression of terrior from all their vineyards, I’m sure that their number of labels is the most in Australia outside of those in the stable of Treasury Wine Estates.
But I tend to think of De Bortoli as a seasonal winery, that is: there’s a wine for each season. But for some reason, I almost always equate them with Autumn and Summer. Summer for the antique, operatic La Boheme whites and Autumn for the complex, fragrant Pinot Noirs produced from the Yarra across the PHI, Roirret and Estate Labels. I realise that this is but merely a subset of the impressive portfolio and of course, Noble One is beyond seasons…
Which brings me to two special releases: the 2012 De Bortloli Reserve Release EZ and the 2012 Vinoque Roundstone Gamay Noir. They were released in January, but the wines didn’t speak to me of summer and long hours of hot sun where Riesling and young Semillon (and beer) reign.
They spoke of autumn, my favourite season. The sun can be warm, the nights start to grow long and cool. A season where you crave the last degrees of the warmth from the retreating sun but enjoy the crisp cool freshness of the evenings. As the season progesses, there’s a feeling in the air of anticipation. Of seeing the leaves burn orange as they turn. Of smelling the smoke of a freshly lit woodfire. Of the knowing comfort in a warm familiar jacket unworn for months. So to me, these two wines are autumnal varieties for autumnal situations…indeed, I think Leanne De Bortoli also has a similar appreciation of the wonderful season of autumn, as her press release notes call for the Gamay Noir to be drunk “on a late summer/autumn day with peasant food…”
2012 De Bortoli Reserve Release EZ
EZ is short for “Edelzwicker” the name given to a blend of the noble Alsace varieties (Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. Traditionally, Alsace whites are named as per the variety. A blend of non-noble grapes is known as a “Gentil”). The 2012 EZ is “Riesling dominant” with Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. Indeed, this truly reminds me of the wines I had last year in Alsace over other Australian white aromatic blends. In my WSET studies, we debated the difference between European aromatic whites (Riesling, GWT etc) and Australian. Both can have searing acidity, length and express terrior, but the main difference I was given was one word: Extract. To me, this is a textural sensation and the EZ is one of the only Australian wines I’ve tasted that could fit this criteria.
Bottled aptly in Flute d’Alsace. A little petroleum on the nose, soft lime citrus fruit, kaffir lime leaf, poached pear, lychee and very subtle rosewater giving sweetness. According to the notes, it could be classed as ‘Off-Dry’ with 15 grams per litre of residual sugar, but I find that crunchy acidity and texture and mouth feel hide this sweetness. There’s power. There’s complexity. Medium bodied, high acid. Very soft tropical fruits, hints of yellowbox honey, lychee and lime. Great length. This is a cracking white that through complexity and structure, speaks not of hot days, but of cool nights.
RRP: $18 (Cellar door only)
2012 Vinoque ‘Roundstone’ Gamay Noir
There’s a lovely come-good story as to how the De Bortoli’s were able to source the fruit for this wine and I was lucky enough to taste the 2011 vintage pre-release. I distinctly remember the gravel character and texture that accompanied the wine. So I was excited to see the 2012 arrive in the post for another chance to experience this wine in much classier packaging than the previous sibling. Please note the QR code that directs you to…well, you’ll have to buy it, use your smartphone and check it for yourself!
Lovely bright purple edged rim in the glass. I get again a little of the gravel on the nose. Christmas cherries, herbal and spiky briar. Medium to full on the palate. Some rubber and lovely ripe dark red cherries. Spice, new leather/rocks and high acid. Good length that finishes smoky. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a happy bubblegum bright BeauJo Nouveau type of Gamay, oh no. There’s a reason it’s “Gamay Noir,” there’s a lovely darkness to this wine. The darkness that sits outside cool windows when you’re inside, beside a fireplace, round a table with a small group of friends and steaming platters of food for you all to share.
Both wines Samples courtesy of De Bortoli Wines