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October 28, 2013

Meeting Your Heroes

28 October 2013 | by Andrea Frost

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They say you should never meet your heroes. They’re human. They have moods. They’re not the character in the movie. They’re just people too, you know.

But I think the reasons a meeting with your hero can be perilous run deeper than that. Our chosen hero is as much about our yearnings and needs, our dreams and weaknesses, as it is about the hero. We’re attracted to our heroes because they help us believe how good we can be or perhaps, how good things can be. The hero’s virtues represent our own dreams and fly in the face of what we’re told is possible. If they’re human and they can do it, why can’t we?

So, I guess to meet your hero and find out they’re not so valiant after all is like being told your dreams aren’t possible.

Wine too has many heroes; wines that are famous for an indefinable alchemy of excellence, mystery, journey, legacy, values and magic. Although not human they brim with mystery; they may not be acting but they have many personalities; they may not be famous but they’re often the stuff of legend and though they may be available, it’s often just briefly. The rest of the time they live in the stories retold by others about their marvelous encounters.

Recently at the Langton’s Classification tasting I had a chance to meet a few of these wines. Wines I’d heard about and tasted only briefly, many not at all. In this case, I’m pleased to say, that meeting my heroes was actually quite something.

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2013 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling
Clare Valley
RRP $52
grosset.com.au

This wine shows that a hero is as much about the alchemy that arises from the component pieces, as the component pieces themselves. It is a symphonic combination of site, variety, viticulture and pristine winemaking. Winemaker Jeffrey Grosset is known to many as a perfectionist. His wines areo ften described as precise, perfect, pure, sublime and brilliant. In addition to his pristine winemaking practices, Grosset runs certified organic vineyards and a holistic approach to place. Change one aspect even slightly and you change the magic. Grosset produces seven wines including two red wines but it is the Rieslings for which he is famed. The Polish Hill Riesling is the benchmark and is a fragrant, lively, zesty wine with precision and length that’s crafted to last. One of Australia’s heroic white wines.

2011 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz
Hunter Valley
RRP $115
brokenwood.com.au

Lean into a glass of Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz and you can almost hear the whispers of legends, stories and lore that have infused into this hero of the Hunter Valley. There are the founders including James Halliday, who, along with friends including the lauded winemaking personality Len Evans, made the  vintage of Brokenwood in 1973. There’s the influence of winemaker Iain Riggs and the 30 vintages of Graveyard Shiraz crafted into the Hunter Valley symbol it is today. And, if you lean in and listen very closely, maybe, just maybe, you can almost hear the ghosts who would have been laid to rest had the graveyard actually been put there, as was the plan before the vineyard was planted. A wonderfully complex, yet medium-bodied wine that melds savoury notes with dark fruit and gentle tannins. A delectable hero of the Hunter Valley.

2011 Cullen Diana Madeline
Margaret River
RRP $115
cullenwines.com.au

Being a hero is not just about what you achieve but how you achieve it as well. This wine, an Australian hero from the Margaret River, is a fitting tribute to the late Diana Madeline Cullen, who helped to pioneer the Margaret River wine region, was founder of Cullen Wines and winemaker until 1989 when her daughter Vanya
Cullen took over. It is said that Diana Madeline, who became a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to viticulture and wine, was famed for her graceful and generous manner. This wine and its winemaking is all that and more; certified biodynamic, carbon neutral and from a naturally powered estate, it is a wine of as much grace and elegance as itsnamesake. Brimming with attractive Cabernet complexity of dark berry fruit, herbal and floral notes and fine velvety tannins. A fitting tribute to a graceful hero.

2010 Mount Mary Quintet
Yarra Valley
RRP $145
mountmary.com.au

Like true heroes, this wine has a mythical status among wine lovers. The Yarra Valley winery is not a wine name that’s brash or flash, but spoken about quietly. This makes sense given founder Dr John Middleton’s disdain for self-promotion and attention seeking, an attitude he passed on to his son Dr David Middleton who now runs the winery. As if only to add to the mystical nature of it all, I was at a literary do in Bendigo recently when a friend and colleague walked in with a bottle of this hidden in his bag: “Get into it”. Looking briefly both ways, I did. The wine is a blend of the classic Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It was startling and beautiful, subtle and elegant and sat with us the whole night, even if it was in secret. A quiet hero of the Yarra Valley.