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2010 Gaia, Clare Valley, Cabernet, Grosset
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Jeffrey Grosset, an oenology graduate, gained vast experience with large Australian wine companies, such as Lindemans, before starting his own winery 21 years ago in the historic township of Auburn, in the Clare Valley. Cellar door sales and the winery are based in a picturesque old butter and ice factory, while currently 65% of the grape intake is from vineyards owned or managed by Grosset Wines. These vineyards have the most advanced vine canopy management in the region and the virtual absence of chemicals in pest and disease control is unique. The balance of grapes is carefully selected from growers who support the Grosset commitment to quality.
Riesling is the Clare Valley's famous varietal and Grosset makes two from contrasting sub-districts. The Watervale is from reddish clay-loam over limestone, the district's prized, slightly alkaline soil, which gives a lifted floral style. The other is grown at Polish Hill to the east, on more acidic quartzy soils of heavier loamy-clay over shale and slate. The wines are hand-made, classically understated and built for long keeping.
Jeffrey Grosset has been held in such high esteem amongst his peers for his work with the Riesling grape that back in 1998 he won the accolade of 'Riesling Winemaker of the Year' in Hamburg, Germany.
A testament to his winemaking efforts, is his Polish hill Riesling being rated in the Langton’s classification as exceptional (only 17 wines in total and only 3 of these being white wine make this grade) alongside other iconic wines such as Penfolds Grange and Clarendon hills Astralis.
Langton's Classification of Australian Wine (http://www.langtons.com.au/Wine/Classification.aspx) is a grouping of high-end Australian wines compiled by the Melbourne and Sydney based auction house Langton's, first released in 1991. The Classification is a ranking of the best performing wines based on market demand and vintages made. The Langton's Classification is split into four categories; Exceptional, Outstanding, Excellent and Distinguished.
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.
If ever there was a list of Australian terroirs, Clare Valley would be near the top. Its geographical position an hour north of Adelaide, its latitude and heat degree days (over the growing season) suggest a very hot clime suited to reds. Yet white wines prevail as these factors are offset by an average altitude of 398m (versus Geisenheim at 100m), low relative humidity (37 percent versus 56 percent), high sunshine hours, significant continentality levels (albeit less Geisenheim), cooling south-westerly sea breezes and prime, low, fertile red loam over marly limestone and shale soils set in cooling hill pockets. Irrigation is strictly controlled and less called for in the dry climate.
The town of Clare, founded by Irishman Edward Gleeson in 1840, first prospered on the back of copper mining, then a wheat and wine boom during the late 1800s. Vines were first planted in 1853 by an itinerant Cornishman at a site near present-day Watervale, and Birks Wendouree was founded before the century was over. The corporates moved in during the 1960s dry-wine boom, although there remains a core group of small, family-owned estates.