Around the world, great vineyards tend to cluster in specific locations for a range of reasons connected with climate and soil. Yet Mount Langi Ghiran, one of Australia’s great vineyards, sits in one of the most isolated parts of the Grampians region.
Europeans who originally arrived to look for gold planted the first vineyard in the Grampians region in the 1870s. Sheep farms replaced vines from the early 1900s until the Fratin brothers, Italian migrants, re-established the site in 1963. They planted shiraz from the Great Western region at the base of Mount Langi Ghiran, which sits above the vineyard. These vines were from 140-year-old stock.
The unique Mount Langi Ghiran terroir produces spicy and complex wine. General manager and viticulturist Damien Sheehan said his brief was “to grow excellent shiraz”. The highly influential Robert Parker has featured what he considered the three best Australian shiraz on the front cover of his magazine, Wine Spectator, and Mount Langi was one of them.
I tasted a range of estate-grown wines from the high-end Cliff Edge and ultra-premium ranges. The 2008 Cliff Edge pinot gris smells gently of ripe pears. Its acidity and length would make it ideal with steamed dumplings. The 2008 riesling is equally high class, with aromas of lemon peel and lime, and a steely mineral taste.
The 2006 Nut Tree Hill sangiovese comes from a separate vineyard near a grove of chestnut trees. It has aromas of wild thyme and tastes of sour cherries. The 2008 Cliff Edge shiraz had flavours of sweet plums and spice. Its soft tannins mean it is drinking well now, but the wine would keep for at least five more years. I currently am drinking the excellent 2004 vintage.
The flagship reds, the 2005 Blue Label cabernet sauvignon and the 2007 Mount Langi Ghiran shiraz, are beautifully made wines that need to be cellared before they can be fully appreciated. The cabernet sauvignon has aromas of blackcurrants and dark plum. Soft and silky tannins suggest a structure that will last for at least a decade. The wine tastes of cassis and peppery plums and exhibits a pleasantly earthy fruitiness.
The 2007 shiraz smelled of violets, sweet plums and mixed spice. It spent 14 months in French oak and the resulting wine is restrained at first. Winemaker Dan Buckle said a small percentage of whole bunch fermentation added perfume to the nose, and helped build the tannic structure. This wine costs $70 from the cellar door and is a bargain when compared with wines of similar quality from France or the United States.
Mount Langi Ghiran wines are available from the Wine Republic at 39 East Third Ring Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing.
* “There’s liquid gold in the Grampians”, in China Daily, 23 October 2010, page 12.