I visited the Barossa Valley recently to actually see the birthplace of so many great wines. Australia may have had a reputation here in the UK as producers of cheap and cheerful plonk but if you scratch beneath the surface you will find that the country’s wine-producing regions have a lot more to offer.
It’s true that humongous producers like Jacob’s Creek, Yellowtail and Wolf Blass can dominate the landscape with their industrial style wineries; at first glance I thought they were petroleum factories, with their gigantic standing tanks and network of steel pipes running in, around and above the entire site. But there are also plenty of small producers and boutique wineries – some of whom, I suspect have probably given each plant a name.
John is a legendary winemaker; having been Chief Winemaker of Penfold’s for almost 30 years, he was in charge of making their iconic “Grange” wine for the better part of three decades. However, after all that time, he felt the need to strike out on his own and so in 2003 he started up his own label, John Duval Wines.
He only makes 4 wines because he wants to make the best possible wine. He sources his grapes from the old vines of the region, some of which can be over a century old. This results in wines that are complex and very concentrated.
I met John at the tasting room that he shares as part of the winemakers group, Artisans of Barossa. A modern, light and airy single-storey complex, it sits on a small hill overlooking old-vine Shiraz. John poured his latest vintage on release for me: the 2011 Plexus Barossa Valley Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre. I suppose you could call this his entry-level wine but priced at £23.75, that’s quite a high entry level.
The wine is a real pleasure to drink though: dark and complex with a very pretty, for lack of a better word, nose to it. As a matter of fact, as we were tasting the wine, both John and I exclaimed at the same time what a pretty wine this is! On the palate, it’s savoury with bright red fruit flavours and a peppery note on the finish. No one could accuse this wine of being a jammy Aussie Shiraz;great structure and balanced acidity make this a wine just calling out for a plate of charcuterie.
John’s wines are available from AG Wines, retailing at £23.75.