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Mclaren Vale, the importance of soil and an afternoon with Chester

Chester d’Arenberg preaches minimalistic interventions in both vineyard and winery…but not apparently when it comes to the number of wines produced, currently standing at a mind-boggling sixty four.

This is a result of his somewhat ‘old-world’ view of things. Soil appears to be the most important factor to Chester, something with which many a Frenchman and woman would heartily concur. This results in a melange of wines that makes Chester and d’Arenberg somewhat of an oddity yet his mildly eccentric nature seems untroubled by how others may view him. Having never tried all sixty-four wines it is impossible for me to attest to a definitive house style, however of the wines I have tasted it is restraint both in fruit concentration, oak and power that makes the reds moreish rather than wearing. Mclaren Vale is traditionally a home of full-throttle, ripe, chocolatey Shiraz that has a sweetness enhanced by maturation in American oak with its overt vanilla and coconut character. Chester’s wines are more meaty, more savoury and made with less emphasis on extraction and new oak influence. Whether this is what you want from Mclaren Vale is up to you, however Chester’s wines should sit more comfortably with your evening meal than most.

For all of the notoriety that d’Arenberg has achieved for its red wines it was the two whites on the tasting table that I appreciated most. The Dry Dam Riesling was much less ‘bony’ than examples often are from Clare Valley further north. This is partly due to the dollop of sugar left in the wine to help balance the acidity and results in either the perfect accompaniment to a summer’s day or pre-prandial aperitif. The Money Spider was also delicious exhibiting Roussanne’s touch of honey, quince and apricot character. Whenever I have Roussanne like this I always wonder why people bother with the blowsier Viognier. Roussanne is what Viognier wants to be when it grows up.

Below are my favourites from the seven wines tried:

The Dry Dam Riesling, Mclaren Vale, 2013, (old vine and low yields), 10.6%
Wine-making: Stainless steel. Very high acidity balanced with 13g/l of residual sugar. Still tastes dry/off dry.
Note: Almost water white and with an intense aroma of lime sherbert and fresh tennis balls. Really delicious with the citrus fruit feeling ripe rather than sweet due to the small amount of residual sugar remaining in the wine. Fresh, vibrant and persistent.
Price: 840NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Creation Wine & Spirit Inc.   02-97918870

The Money Spider Roussanne, Mclaren Vale, 2012, 13%
Wine-making: Stainless Steel fermentation and maturation.
Note: Delicate floral nose accompanied by a little honey, quince and apricot. Moderate-full bodied with enough acidity to support the rich, mouth-filling palate. Harmonious.
Price: 950NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Creation Wine & Spirit Inc.   02-97918870

The Dead Arm Shiraz 2006, Mclaren Vale, 14.5%
Wine-making: 20 months in mixed oak, some French some American with a portion being new.
Note: Beginning to show some signs of maturity, this complex Shiraz has aromas and flavours that encompass spice, meat, fennel, and an earthiness supported by ripe, full and supple tannins. No real overt oak flavour and the mix of sweet and savoury fruit provides a well balanced wine that clearly has the ability to age for another decade. Great length on the finish. Rather fine.
Price: (none left of the 2006) but the 2009 is 2,400
Score: 18/20
Available from: Creation Wine & Spirit Inc.   02-97918870

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