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The New Barossa
Part 18: Rusden

Magnolia Road, Tanunda, PO BOX 257, Tanunda, SA 5352; Tel: (08)8563 2976; E-mail: canute@internode.on.net; Web: www.rusdenwines.com.au

Rusden's Christian Canute in the vineyard

Rusden is one of the success stories of the new Barossa. Dennis and Christine Canute purchased 40 acres of rather run-down vineyard back in 1979. Dennis carried on his day job as a teacher to give Christine, who was a fifth generation grape grower, the opportunity and funds to begin the work of rejuvenating the vines.

But this was a tough time in the Barossa: rather than seeing the old vines as a precious heritage, the Australian wine industry was shifting its focus to cooler climate areas, and tragically some old vineyards were being ripped up. Grape prices were absurdly low.

Fortunately most of the Canute’s old vineyards survived (although they did take out some old Grenache, Mataro and Semillon, a decision they now regret) and they carried on selling their grapes to local wineries. But they kept getting told that their grapes, grown on these rather undistinguished sandy Vine Vale soils (left), weren’t up to much by the wineries they were supplying. Fed up with the low prices they were getting for what they believed to be good quality fruit, they decided to try their hand making their own wines.

Things started small, with a bit of homebrew: in 1992 Dennis and his chum Russell made a barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon for their own consumption, which they labelled Rusden (for Russell and Dennis). Things grew from there, and in 1997 Dennis’ son Christian, who was working at Rockford, became seriously involved. In 1998 7.5 tons were crushed, which grew to 10 tons by the following vintage.

A few years down the track, and they are hugely successful. While more than half their crop is still sold to a local winery, in 2002 they crushed 44 tons. The top wines sell out fairly quickly, fetching high prices.

Christian is now fully responsible for the winemaking. He’s a young guy, and initially I was a little apprehensive about spending time with him because he has a reputation as a bit of a wild boy. Wild he may be, but in person he’s a quiet, friendly sort of guy. We tried through an extensive line-up, including some older vintages. ‘I’m aiming for balance’, he says. ‘I don’t want to get 8 or 10 years down the track and have the wines taste of oak.’ Indeed, these are quite different to some of the other new Barossa wines – perhaps it’s the sandy soils having an effect. They initially tend to show as very forward and sweet, but they’re not big black bruisers, with the fruit tending more to red than black in character. The mini-verticals showed, though, that despite the initial fruit sweetness, these are wines which do age very well.  

Rusden Christian Chenin 2005
Just 250 cases of this wine are made. It has a really interesting nose: fruity with a nice fatness and some straw-like character that for me is one of the signatures of Chenin. The palate is rich, full and smooth with a creamy texture. Delicious. Very good/excellent 90/100

Rusden Driftsand 2004
350 cases made. A blend of Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz, this shows a ripe, lush, sweet nose of liqueur-like fruit. Quite fresh but very sweet. The palate has more of this liqueur-like quality to the sweet fruit. A lush style with a spicy finish. Very good+ 88/100

Rusden Christine’s Vineyard Grenache 2004
150 cases made. Sweet, open, opulent nose is very fruity. The palate is open and rich with soft, concentrated sweet red berry fruit. Very good+ 89/100

Rusden Christine’s Vineyard Grenache 1999
Fantastic nose: earthy and spicy with some sweet fruit, showing some almost Rhône-like evolution. The palate is soft and expressive with a lovely earthiness to the sweet fruit. Nice complexity; a southern Rhône style. Fantastic. Very good/excellent 93/100

Rusden Christine’s Vineyard Grenache 1998
Striking, spicy nose with an animally, medicinal edge. The palate is savoury and spicy with a striking earthy character and a long spicy finish. I guess this is quite bretty, but it works well. Very good/excellent 92/100

Rusden Ripper Creek Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2004
500 cases made. Nice fresh blackcurrant fruit nose with a subtly minty, herby edge. The palate is concentrated with a soft texture and bright fruit and acidity keeping things fresh. A really nice expressive wine. Very good/excellent 91/100

Rusden Chookshed Zinfandel 2003
A remarkable wine and a bit of a rarity: you don’t see many (if any?) Barossa Zinfandels. 100% new oak is used and the wine weighs in at 16% alcohol. The nose is sweet, ripe and intense with dramatic fruit: very distinctive; porty and rich. The palate is huge, rich and vividly fruited: a big concentrated black wine. The grapes dry on the vines from 4 tons/hectare to 2. Very good/excellent 93/100

Rusden Boundaries Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
This was a tough year and Christian reckons it’s the worst Cab they’ve made. It has a ripe, sweet, opulent nose with a tarry edge. The palate is rich, intense and quite sweetly fruited with a red berry character. Sweet and a bit porty. Very good+ 89/100

Rusden Boundaries Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Sweet distinctive blackcurrant fruit with a subtle herby edge: nicely perfumed. The palate has lots of soft, pure fruit with nice structure underneath the fruit. A nice expressive wine. Very good/excellent 92/100

Rusden Boundaries Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
Quite a classic nose showing some evolution, with earthy, herb-tinged spicy fruit. The palate is sweet and expressive with good density of earthy, spicy black fruits. There’s some fruit sweetness here – it’s a really nice expressive wine. Very good/excellent 92/100

Rusden Black Guts Shiraz 2003
Very lush, sweet, opulent black fruits nose. Quite dark and intense with some chocolatey richness. The palate is concentrated, lush and intense with distinctive liqueur-like sweet fruit character and some tarry, spicy complexity adding interest. Very good/excellent 92/100

Rusden Black Guts Shiraz 2002
Some rich, spicy, chocolatey notes join the black fruits on the nose. Sweet and heady. The palate is concentrated and dense with bold, ripe, spicy fruit. Tarry almost. An interesting wine with lots of personality. Very good/excellent 94/100

Wines tasted October 2005

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