The Swift Family may not ring too many bells when it comes to names associated with wine, but as the owners/operators of Printhie Estate in Orange, one of the major wineries in the region, they’ve got a lot of runs on the board when it comes to making quality booze.
So what next in a high altitude, cold climate wine region that grows good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay? Well of course, great sparkling wine, made Methode Traditionelle (as per Champagne). Up and coming distributors Vines To Venues grabbed the Swift boys (Ed and Dave), the winemaker Drew Tuckwell and headed out on the road to display the Swift Sparklings; their Champagne influences and a backstory snapshot of other quality Australian sparkling.
Hosted by Orange resident and well known Wine Man, Peter Bourne, the wines were presented in 5 rounds and told a beautifully crafted story in the fantastic vinous surrounds of Hamish Ingram’s The Woods restaurant….
Bracket 1: The Australian Story
Peter Bourne gave a detailed history of the Australian Sparkling landscape, from early plantings across the country, to the investment by foreign houses and to the now the ‘benchmarks’ of Australian Sparkling:
2009 Domaine Chandon Vintage Brut, Yarra Valley, Vic: Sweet biscuits, autolytic notes with lovely fresh bread and lemon curd. Crackles of drying acidity. Medium to full breadth of palate and fluffy mousse.
2010 Croser, Adelaide Hills, SA: Aldehydic, pea straw, soft lemon. Subtle Pink Lady apple aromas which I find a consistent characteristic of the Croser (and the NV too). Thinnish on the palate and angular acidity. Not a great example, perhaps a Cork issue??
NV Jansz Premium Tasmanian Cuvée, Tasmania: Lovely creamy, lactose qualities in the mousse from the Chardonnay, but then cut through knife line of acid. Green apple crunch, power and breadth through the palate. Great NV, delicious, consistent and reliable.
Bracket 2: The Champagne Connection
Drew Tuckwell and Ed Swift introduced this bracket with more than a touch of emotion. Both spoke about their love of Champagne and the desire to make top quality sparkling wine in Australia that could hold its own against the French. They spoke of research, of terrior, of wine and most importantly, family (Don’t worry Dave, you’ll get to France one day soon). They had singled out Houses and families in Champagne that aligned to the Swift Family values, sought their assistance and input as to how to best establish their own House, and were truly grateful and humbled as to how much help they received.
Pierre Peters Cuvée de Reserve Brut NV, France: Cracking Chardonnay lines of acidity. Fine delicate bead with a slightly, smoky toasty aspect. Medium mousse, soft lemon. Finishes with lovely nuttiness, the Chardonnay notes haunted by a soft Pinot spectre.
Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Selection Belles Année Premier Cru NV, France: Baked apples and cinnamon. Full bready/yeasty nose. Some more sweet toffee apple and brioche. High acids with a little phenolic grip on the gums. Burnt lemon butter and some savoury mushroom/soy hints.
Jacquesson Cuvée 735 NV, France: A Non Vintage, Overt bubbles! Rich sweet nose of red fruits and lemon blossom. Beautifully weighted and balanced with power and precision acidity. Strawberries and almost tropical fruits. The labelling is exceptional and contains more technical information about the wine than almost any other label I’ve ever seen.
Bracket 3: Swift future still base wines from Vintage 2013
Dave’s turn to talk now as he spoke of the relationships between the growers that the Swift Family & Drew Tuckwell have forged. Mutual understanding of what’s required in growing the right fruit for the right wines means quality end products. The vineyards are located in various locations and heights around the Orange district, ranging from 900 metres above sea level to nearby townships 25 kms from Orange. The wines were yet to be finished and can be confronting to some palates if they’ve never tasted such juvenile young wines.
Balmoral Block H, Chardonnay, Orange, 900 metres above sea level: Sour lemon drops, lemon pith. Smoky with a lean, linear mid palate.
Bantry Grove, Chardonnay, Blayney, 25kms from Orange: Ginger beer and long acid. Strong notes of apple. A fuller and broader palate than the Balmoral. Excellent counterpoint.
Bantry Grove,Pinot, Blayney, 25kms from Orange: Very juvenile, primary and base. Banana lollies, musk and rosewater. Lovely pure pinot noir juice!
Bracket 4: 2011 Undisgorged Swift wines
Okay, the majority of Australia seems to have been written off far too early regarding this vintage. Certainly, yields were down for Orange, but there was quality with good parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot. Certainly bodes well for these wines, which we were lucky enough to have a sneak peak of before their release next year.
2011 Blanc de Blancs: Nutty, just toasted bread and a meaty/savoury aspect. Medium full mousse and acid tingles along sour grapefruit/lemon lines. Complexity in layers of citrus and plenty of power on the palate.
2011 Vintage Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir: Smoky with Almond meal and bread crust. Yin/Yang of lovely bright lemon for citric cut through of red fruit roundness. The most approachable of all the undisgorged…going to be an absolute crowd pleaser.
2011 Cuvée : The Big Brother. Red fruits dominate the nose. Bigger, richer, fuller creamier mousse than the previous two. There’s incredible length and breadth of palate with strong acid spine.
Bracket 5: Swift Today
The final bracket culminated with the current releases, all from the excellent 2010 Vintage and having a few years in the bottle before the release just breeds the complexity and maturity that the Swift Family are trying to achieve.
2010 Blanc de Blancs (Undisgorged): A treat to see this one as it is yet to be disgorged and released. Very soft yeast notes and light biscuit. Good chardonnay cashew nut qualities. Subtle bead and mousse but complex, multi layered flavours of long lines of lemon and pure fruit acidity. Extreme length. Super amounts of Finesse and Elegance (capitalisation necessary!).
2010 Vintage Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir: Nose with a little honeyed sweetness. Nuts, lemons and brioche proffer a medium-full complex palate. With softer acidity and a softer feel to this one, almost a Schweppes Lemonade quality (light bubbles and good citrus). Plenty of power and a long life ahead.
Cuvée : Initially seemed far less sweet than the NV but plenty of powerful red fruit balancing the broad grapefruit sour tangs, broad through the mid palate, Incredibly drinkable. (note: I went back to the Vintage after this and the Cuvee made that wine look almost austere)
General Musings and Conclusion
From Wikipedia: The swifts are a family, Apodidae, of highly aerial birds. The resemblances between swifts and swallows are due to convergent evolution. The family scientific name comes from the Ancient Greek απους, apous, meaning “without feet”, since swifts never settle voluntarily on the ground…
There’s a lot of apt descriptors in that entry…Highly Aerial, aiming for the sky, never settling, convergent evolution….
I asked the Swift boys and Drew about how they’re going to keep both Printhie and Swift well supplied with excellent chardonnay fruit from the Orange GI, and they assured me that by exhaustive consultation with their growers, they’re well placed to continue the quality for both brands. There’s moves afoot to establish a “Champagne” house in Orange, complete with all the winemaking facilities necessary (tiraging, riddling, dosaging) to make the Swift Sparklings on site (currently it’s shipped to Victoria for the final steps in the sparkling processes). The venue will also have restaurant and accommodation, yet another jewel in the valuable Swift and Printhie crown. I’ve a feeling that before too long, this House will be take it’s rightful place among the great Australian Sparklings.