On a cold Saturday afternoon with rain and hail pelting down, Gippsland Food Adventures was pleased to organise a gathering of 14 wine enthusiasts in a shed in a picturesque Leongatha South paddock. But it was no ordinary shed! It was a wine pressing room, fermentation room, laboratory, meals area, office, etc etc but most importantly…… home to the Dirty 3 winery of Marcus Satchell and Lisa Satori.
Marcus is a star of the local wine industry, having returned to his home region, after time in the Yarra Valley and some stints overseas. He has had some involvement in most of the leading wineries in South Gippsland, and judges at state and national wine shows. As a contract wine maker, he works wonders with the Waratah Hills grapes of our good friends Neil and Judy Travers, but is also focussed on his own vineyard at Dirty 3.
Our group was united by everyone’s love of wine, but also a desire to appreciate and understand this "nectar of the Gods" a little better. And who better to guide us than Marcus? At the end, one of the participants said he’d never met a winemaker so down to earth and "so not pompous". There were no wine wankers here!
Marcus began by highlighting that the most important thing to do when tasting wine is enjoy yourself, and that we did for the next 3 hours. The setting around a large table with platters of Gippsland cheeses, salame and sourdough bread in the middle was a feast for the eyes.
Complementing the scene was the white tablecloth and beautiful glassware – important elements when assessing wine. To maximise the concentration and enjoyment of the wine aroma, glassware that narrows at the top is essential, and the tablecloth provided an excellent background to assess wine colour.
So we had 6 South Gippsland wines lined up for assessment, 3 whites and 3 reds, for the afternoon. And what did we learn? Well, colour is the starting point – this can give a guide to wine variety and age. The very pale colour of the first two wines -
Then after giving the glass a little swirl we had a list of aromas to select from to describe what we could sense. There was "herbaceous", some "passionfruit", "green apple" – individuals spoke of their initial impression, then as a group we discussed the outcomes and Marcus guided us to some consensus. (Fortunately no one selected the "cats wee" descriptor!) In many ways this was a lightbulb moment for many learning to concentrate and trying to identify exactly what was present in the wine.
Finally we got to taste them! The reisling was of a partially sweeter style, and as Marcus described, the sweetness tends to go "sideways" around the mouth, rather than straight through it. The sauvignon blanc was showing high acidity – commonly found in those NZ wines – which worked very well with the cheese.
The chardonnay was the darkest in colour, reflecting the longer fermentation or age in the vat, as well as the actual colour of the grape. The flavour spectrum for this variety included "melon, "butter", "honey", and "toast", but most of the group got a strong peach aroma.
During "intermission" while we rinsed our glasses, everyone savoured some green olives on the table. Marcus highlighted their role as a great palate cleanser between wines due to high salt levels. He spoke of one of Australia’s leading wine judges who regularly chews on a green olive when faced with 150 or so wines to taste in a day!
The three main red varieties were presented – pinot noir, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Observing colour and aromas and tasting continued, with the added dimension of tannins in the red wines – these are responsible for the puckering feeling sometimes left in the mouth, and one of the guides to a wine’s cellaring potential.
The aroma profiles we were searching for in the reds were more about berries, spices, chocolate, earthy/woody flavours. Our cool climate of South Gippsland ideally suits pinot noir production. With Bass Phillip in our neighbourhood, we have probably the best in Australia, but there are also numerous other local wineries making a great drop.
Good shiraz and cabernet sauvignon wines are harder to make due to the cooler climate, although Marcus pointed to Purple Hen and a rejuvenated The Gurdies. wineries near Westernport Bay. North facing slopes and micro climatic conditions enables some good examples of these varieties to be made here.
The aroma of our cool climate shiraz differs from the heavier reds made in the hotter climates of Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. There tends to be more black pepper and spice than the plum and blackberry aroma of the traditional South Australian areas.
Now to test our new skills, Lisa poured us all a sample of a masked wine. Yes, we all agreed it was a red! Colour and aroma ruled out pinot, and spicy aromas pushed us toward a shiraz over a cabernet. Tasting the wine pushed us further to shiraz – no one was bold enough to suggest a vineyard or vintage, but we were pretty pleased with our correct varietal selection.
The day finished with a delicious aged Rutherglen muscat. In the absence of any Gippsland fortified wines, on such a cold day it seemed a logical place to conclude our wine adventure!
There are a couple of places left for our next wine class, focussing on Rieslings and a vertical tasting of Dirty 3 Pinot on August 6 th. Send us a message on facebook if you’re interested.