Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tasting with Peter Fraser of Yangarra Estate Wines

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet Peter Fraser, the winemaker for Yangarra Estate Vineyard, and taste some of his wines with him over lunch. Yangarra Estate makes biodynamic wines produced in McLaren Vale in South Australia.

Peter’s parents were conventional farmers and that’s how he initially approached his work. After attending a three day biodynamic farming seminar that really resonated with him, he was inspired to move the vineyards into an organic and biodynamic condition starting in 2008. By 2012, they were A-grade certified biodynamic by Australian Organics and as of 2013, all of their wines are certified both organic and biodynamic.   

The single vineyard estate has about 250 acres of land under vine with about 170 acres for natural corridors, creeks and vegetation. Rather than tending to the grapes for a big fruit, full body style of wine, they are focusing primarily on a more elegant style of Grenache and on a more savory and complex style of Shiraz. Peter feels that this all starts in the vineyard with healthy soil. “There is stuff that we do that I can’t explain why it works but it does, so I keep doing it. There is no science.” He explained that when you first stop using the herbicides, you get inedible broadleaf weeds coming up everywhere with long tap roots pulling up nutrients from deep underground so they don’t deplete the topsoil, when these die they add back in the nutrients. It is the way the soil tries to save itself. The grasses then come back and the soil gets back into its natural cycle.
Yangarra also uses all indigenous yeast to include more of the true terroir into the wine. They handpick their grapes and they use a mechanical sorting table that eliminates raisins in warmer years to control the excess alcohol and the flavor range.
All of the wines that we tasted were well made, delicious and food friendly; I feel comfortable recommending their entire line.
·         2012 Viognier had fresh fruit aromas and flavors of apricot, melon and citrus with medium body and acidity. Peter only has 2 acres of this Viognier under vine. He avoids the concern of high alcohol and the oily waxiness that can arise with this grape variety with gentle pressing. This wine is priced at $25.

·         2011 Old Vine Grenache is made in a light elegant style that starts in the sandy soils in which the vines are grown. It has concentrated aromas and flavors primarily of fresh cherry and thyme. It has a medium body with a plush texture, balanced structure and a long finish. Peter only uses old French oak for aging this wine. I would love to have this wine at my Thanksgiving dinner table!                       The 2012 Old Vine Grenache is more available now and is priced at $32. This was a slightly warmer year which made for a slightly fruitier wine though still similarly styled.

·         2010 Shiraz had rich aromas and flavors of ripe blackberries, pepper and potting soil. It has a full body, sweet ripe tannins, clean acidity and a long savory finish. Peter only uses about 20% new French oak with a very subtle toast. He wants the terroir to be showcased rather than the barrel flavor. He feels that this is his best vintage that he has made so far. He makes this in a more Burgundian style trying for more complexity with less in your face fruit; he employs winery techniques such as cold soaking and opting to punch down versus pumping over for more elegance and to obtain greater aromatics. This wine rests on the lees for 12-15 months giving it a smooth texture and a savory note. This wine is 100% Shiraz which is sourced from sandstone and ironstone soils.
The 2011 Shiraz is more available now and is priced at $25. This was a slightly cooler year which resulted in a more restrained wine with a bit more of an herbal note though still similarly styled.

·         2010 High Sands Grenache had intense aromas and rich flavors of fresh ripe dark cherry, dried fruit, white pepper and a floral rose note. Medium+ body and acidity with smooth tannins and a long lush slightly savory finish. While this wine is high end, it is not the big powerful, over ripe style that people associate with Australia in this price range. It is grown at an elevation of 700 feet in the highest part of their beach-like sand dunes. The sand is almost 5 feet deep and the 70 old vines create a more concentrated flavor profile and its bigger structure. Peter gives the vineyard all the credit for this fantastic wine. It is aged in their best older barrel program and spends six months longer in barrel than their other Grenache. Peter considers this wine to be the most expressive of the estate’s terroir.  Only 50 cases were produced, a splurge at $90 but so worth it!

·         2008 Ironheart Shiraz has pronounced aromas and flavors of ripe black fruit, iodine, chocolate, earth and leather. Full body, clean acidity, sweet ripe tannins with a rich savory finish. This robust and age worthy wine is sourced from 20 year old vines grown on ironstone soil. Peter says this is the biggest Shiraz he has made and feels his 2010 and 2012 are more restrained. This wine is priced at $80.

·         We also tasted his 2004 Cadenzia GSM blend with its aromas and flavors of raspberry, licorice, coffee and spice, which was absolutely fantastic. The Grenache and Mourvedre dominate with the Syrah more in the background. Unfortunately for us, very little has come to the United States as most of it is consumed in Australia.

All of these wines are highly recommended!