china daily wine column #46

Red Rock vineyard in Australia grows wine on the side of a dormant volcano west of Geelong in Victoria’s Otway ranges. The area looks a little like a moonscape, with deep craters and towering rock walls.

The region’s soil is rich in minerals. Add low rainfall and a cool climate, and the result is a unique terroir.

The vineyard’s label is simple, with minimalist information. At the top of the label is the phrase “Otway’s lakes and craters”. This beautifully describes the land in which the vines grow – a terroir that produces wines full of flavour and grace, yet mercifully low in alcohol compared with some of the monsters made in Australia.

Combine this terroir with sensitive winemaking and you get some distinctly individual wines. Most of the wines I tasted were reds from estate-grown pinot noir, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, though some sauvignon blanc is also produced.

Samples of the 2008 and 2010 pinot noir were provided. Both took a while to display their qualities. I tasted each on three consecutive nights and they got better each meeting. Both are pale cherry in color and show true pinot characteristics. The 2008 tasted of sour cherries and had soft tannins that were also quite chewy, with medium length. By day three it offered aromas of mushroom and strawberries.

The 2010 received carbonic maceration treatment before being matured in new oak hogsheads. It had a spicy nose of cinnamon and liquorice, with light tannins. The alcohol level for both wines was 12 per cent. Both would pair well with pork or duck dishes; indeed, these are wines that perform best with food. Both made my mouth water in anticipation after I smelled them, a sign of a wine worth waiting for.

One of my least appreciated wines was the 2010 Red Rock sauvignon blanc, though regular readers of this column will know I dislike the grape variety. The wine’s high acidity came with a touch of excess sulphur, though that soon wafted away. The fruit and acidity balance worked well enough. This is a wine to drink soon.

The 2006 Charlotte’s cabernets was the highlight. It is a blend of estate-grown cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, coupled with expensive oak. The wine sparkles in the glass, an intense black cherry color, with a spicy nose and flavors of cherry and chocolate. It is drinking well now, the tannins having softened. Another wine that made my mouth water in anticipation. It retails for $30 in Australia.

The 2008 shiraz was another delight: dark cherry in color with a sweet vanilla nose combined with pepper notes. The tannins were soft and chalky, like a dusting of talcum powder, and the shiraz tasted of a range of dark berry flavors. The pepper and dark berry notes were more noticeable when I tasted the wine a day later.

This is a lovely wine that retails for about $30. The vineyard’s web site,, contains minimal information, and notes for all but one wine (Charlotte’s cabernets) related to earlier vintages. Orders can be placed with owner/winemaker Rohan Little, whose email is

* “Full of flavor, yet low in alcohol” in China Daily, 3 September 2011, page 12. Find a link here.

Categories: Not home, wine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s