A change of scene. Leaving the valley floor, I was off
to the Eden Valley, and more specifically the slopes of Mount
McKenzie. It's a hill, really, but this is a beautifully secluded
spot, with a stillness to it that seems more than just the absence
of noise and activity. Domenic Torzi has a plot of vines adjoining
his house, and after a brief look around we went to his kitchen.
There was a hunk of homemade bread, a couple of Italian hard cheeses
(Grana Padano and Provolone), some olive oil, and a couple of
bottles of wine.
olive oil is important for this story. This is where Domenic started
- his family business. He makes award winning oil from trees in the Barossa and Adelaide plains. He's a third
generation olive oil producer: the Torzis have been doing this since
1970. The oils are cold processed and centrifugally processed, with
three labels, which I tried. Vat 1 has a lovely green grassy
edge; it's aromatic and fresh, with some greenness. Very fine and
fresh. Synergy is rich, slightly green with some vegetable
notes. Very soft on the palate. Lovely. Una has a complex
green pepper nose. It is quite distinctive on the palate with lots
of richness and a minty, eucalypt edge.
Theirs is the only vineyard
for some distance, because it’s in a frost pocket, hence the name
of the wine they make, the Frost Dodger Shiraz. This is a fairly
unique wine, made in a sort of Amarone style. 50–60% of the grapes
are dry racked after harvest, and these are then co-fermented with
fresh-picked grapes, harvested a little late, using the indigenous
yeasts. ‘We have no problem fermenting to dryness’, reports
Domenic, ‘and the fermentation doesn’t get hotter than 28 °C’.
First impressions can be misleading, with people as well as wines.
for some pruning (left) - you can see that this is an isolated
plot of vines from the background. Domenic Torzi looks
cheerful, despite the freezing weather (right).
A quick sniff and slurp, and
you’d think this was all about a blast of sweet, ripe fruit with
perhaps just a touch of greenness in the background. But give it
time, and it reveals itself as quite a profound wine, with striking
texture and elegance. Surprisingly, half-full bottles were showing
very well two days later after bumping around in the boot of my hire
car, when I pulled them out and tried them with dinner. 2002 was the
inaugural vintage, and the 2003, if anything, is a little better:
these are thought-provoking wines which justify the fairly hefty
price tag (in the UK they retail at £25). Domenic processes 10 tons
of his own fruit, and the remaining 15 tons is sold off to generate
revenue (to Elderton). Next year he’ll be making his first
Riesling, just 600 cases; a natural ferment will be used here also.
Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz 2002
50-60% of the grapes are dry racked and co-fermented with
fresh-picked grapes picked a bit late, and crushed on top of the
ferment. 25% new French oak; the rest is 2nd and 3rd fill American.
Wild yeasts used. Breathtaking nose of sweet, pure aromatic fruit
(perhaps a floral note?) with subtle herbal notes and hints of tea.
There's also a subtle herbaceousness. The palate is elegant with
sweet, herb-tinged black fruits and good acidity. Great length here:
this is a sensational effort. Excellent 95/100
Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz 2003
70% mixed new and seasoned French oak; 30% new American. A
barrel sample; to be bottled November 2004. Pure aromatic fruit on
the nose, mainly raspberry with some black fruits. The palate shows
lovely elegant fruit with great definition and good acidity. Smooth,
ripe and elegant. After a while the nose seems quite taut, with some
blackfruits, a hint of chocolate and subtle spicy elements. It's
seamless. Chewy, spicy elegant palate with some cool climate
definition. In time this may surpass the 2002; it's slightly more
structured. Very good/excellent 94/100
later: I had a chance to try some more wines in May 2005:
Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Riesling 2005 Eden
Domenic Torzi has just released his first Riesling, which has been
fermented with indigenous yeasts. It has a striking, complex limey
minerally nose with some bright, delicate floral overtones. The
palate shows limey, spicy fruit with some depth and richness, all
the time retaining a precise delicate touch. Finishes dry. Although
this is being assessed at a very young stage, it seems already to be
a brilliantly expressive wine full of interest, and it will be
interesting to watch its evolution. Very good/excellent 93/100
Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz 2003 Eden Valley,
A chance to re-try this wine now that it has been bottled.
There’s a dark chocolatey edge to the nose of lush, smooth black
fruits. Quite complex. The palate is intense with a nice contrast
between the sweet dark fruits and good acidity. Structure is
provided by the spicy, grippy tannins, giving a savoury bite to the
fruit. It’s a wine that rewards attention and promises much beyond
the immediate rush of ripe fruit. Real potential to this seamlessly
smooth effort. Very good/excellent 93/100
available in the UK from The Cellar Door and Bordeaux Index