Wine notes with Clive Hartley

April 14th, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

If you look closely at a label from the wine producer Sutton Grange its motto or byline is 'wines that stand alone’ and tasting through their line-up recently they lived up to their name.

Wines that stand alone

If you look closely at a label from the wine producer Sutton Grange its motto or byline is ‘wines that stand alone’ and tasting through their line-up recently they lived up to their name.

Sutton Grange is located in the Bendigo region, sitting in the shadow of Mount Alexander, a 20-minute drive south of Bendigo and just 13 minutes from Harcourt. It is the same distance to Metcalfe, due south, which is the junction where the regions of Bendigo, Macedon Ranges and Heathcote converge.

The wines coming from this estate cannot easily be seen as Bendigo wines, they have nuances of Macedon Ranges, being grown on granite soils, but are hard to compare because they don’t make a chardonnay or a pinot noir. They make a shiraz (labelled syrah), but not like the full-bodied monsters you get from Bendigo or the brooding, intense Heathcote reds.

There is a theme running through their range. Whites are light, subtle and fresh, signalling the impact of a couple of recent cool vintages. The reds are elegant, medium-bodied and savoury with welcoming lower alcohol, compared to their neighbours. They stand alone, possibly aloof.

Their portfolio is a simple two-tier approach. At a lower price point is their brand Fairbank (the 19th Century name for the property) and then their pricier Estate Range. Here are the wines that caught my attention. 2021 Fairbank Ancestrale Sparkling Rosé was juicy, full of cherries, apricots and nutty lees contact.

The palate is creamy with fresh red apple and yeasty bread notes. Ancestrale means it finishes its primary fermentation in the bottle and then disgorged, leaving some yeast lees in the bottle, so it appears slightly cloudy.

Fairbank 2022 Rosé is a classic dry wine with plenty of red fruits such as strawberries, red cherries and a dash of red apple. Palate is long, firm and a touch savoury. It is simply delicious and has been recognised by some major wine commentators, so don’t just take my word ($35).

They do an interesting sangiovese in a light drink-early Beaujolais style which is very fruity, but dry, as well as a nice, light-bodied but savoury Vino Rosso which is a blend of aglianico and cabernet sauvignon. Both are Fairbank wines and priced at $35.

So far, the wines have all been estate grown, but in 2020 they had to buy in fruit due to a savage frost, so the Fairbank Syrah 2020 was sourced from Heathcote. It’s a lovely medium-bodied wine with blackberry, blueberry and cassis aromas. Some liquorice and plums on a soft tannin, medium bodied, elegant palate.

The final two wines were from their Estate Range and they really hit the mark. 2021 Syrah ($65) had a complex nose with black pepper, blackberry, floral and struck match notes. It was rich but reserved at the same time, with some green and black peppercorns and well-balanced acidity on a medium-bodied palate structure.

Incidentally, I first went to this winery in 2012 and tasted their 2007 estate Syrah and it was outstanding. Price was $60. So only a $5 increase in 12 years.

Finally, their 2019 Aglianico ($65) was elegant and savoury with plenty of ripe tannins that are indicative of this southern Italian grape variety. There are plenty of cherries and rose petal notes mixed in with dried herbs. Again, medium bodied and elegant on the palate.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305 page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www. australianwineguide.com.au

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