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*Offsite events are contracted to and coordinated by a 3rd party, and are in no way affiliated with Chambers Street Wines.
In South Australia, amidst the record-breaking heat and monolithic rows of commercial-zeal, there is a new pulse in one of the world's most maligned wine regions. In modest sheds built on parched hills, some of Australia's magic is reemerging. It's not the flashy, ambitious sort of the early aughts; it's a discreet sea-change that's gaining momentum despite the humble deflections of those now in the spotlight.
As outsiders, it's easy to draw comparisons between Australia's natural wines to the "glou-glou" we love so well from France: low tannins, no sulfur -- the wines share the celebratory "drink now" joie de vivre that we have certainly embraced at Chambers. But where are the Baudrys of Adelaide? The Lapierres of Margaret River? The Aussie New Wave might argue that they aren't trying to to be the Down Under counterparts. But Australia has terroir, after all. From the aromatic eucalyptus oils vaporizing in the midday sun to the smoky wild herbs and oxidized soils - it's there. And, now there's actually a group of uncompromising people who take the time to care about that more than growing a brand. Indeed, Penfolds and Cullen would say Australia absolutely does have terroir (but it requires an arithmetic intervention to interpret those virtues).
It's a stark contrast between someone making humble wines in their shed versus an enormous estate. Australia is vast and it's impossible to know what everyone is or isn't doing in the vines or adding in their cellars. Nor is it important when there is transparency. Whatever category we assign the following wines; whatever the winemakers lack in certain inherited "know-how," they more than make up for in their pursuit of making honest wines from organic fruit. Which is to say, when they declare there is nothing added to their wines, they mean nothing added. They're not omitting the multiple doses of sulfur, the tiniest bit of tartaric acid, or Champagne yeast inoculation hiding behind the unassuming, homespun label.
The wines offered today represent a tiny subculture of winemakers who have access to and/or domain over the grapes they use from specific sites in the Adelaide and one singular wine from Margaret River. It's an exciting cross-section for natural wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike. Amanda Bowman
"Sand on Schist" is James Erskine & Fionna Wood's sprightly Chenin Blanc from the Blewitt Springs Vineyard planted in the early 1940s in McLaren Vale. The age of the vines and the geological treasure of the white sandy soils with scattered quartz and schist form an idiosyncratic site for those who cherish the idea of Australian terroir. The subsoil is heavy clay that retains enough water for the vines to be dry-farmed. The grapes are certified organic and hand-harvested with care. The final wine is bottled under crown-cap without any added sulfur, acids, or foreign yeasts. The 2017 is the color of a golden afternoon, with vivid aromas of wet sand, salty kelp, squeezed lemon, spicy ginger, and tangy funk. The palate is brisk and lip-smacking with notes of green apple, lemon, salty leesiness, and finishes with a persistent flavor of fresh peach flesh. This bottle makes us nostalgic for long afternoons on warmer days. Fans of natural wines will not be disappointed if they choose to drink now, but we suspect this wine will benefit from some time in bottle to allow its mighty terroir to shine. Amanda Bowman
"Red/White" 2017 is a provocative blend of organically grown Merlot (55%) and Semillon (45%) that Sam Vinciullo purchased from the Warner Glen vineyard in Margaret River. Ever careful and deliberate, Vinciullo de-stemmed and basket-pressed the Merlot and let the Semillon macerate on its skins. The hand-picked grapes are co-fermented in stainless tank and gently plunged by hand. All of his wines are bottled without fining, filtration, or added sulfur. In the glass the wine is the color of black cherry and redolent with plump blackberries, pressed violets, coffee grounds, and heady eucalyptus aromas. The fresh and kaleidoscopic palate shifts from notes of crunchy blueberries and mint to bracing passionfruit, pear skins, and spicy green pepper. A dazzling wine from a talented winemaker. We're looking forward to tasting his 2018 vintage which will be made from his own fruit in Cowaramup! Amanda Bowman
“Flat Out” rosé is a snappy field blend of direct-press Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and whole clusters of Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Savagnin from the organic Mount Compass vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. The wine is fermented in tank then bottled unfined and unfiltered with no sulfur added. The ruby-tinged 2018 shows bright aromas of ripe strawberry, pomegranate, and lime flower. At 11% it is refreshing and drinks more like a light red with bold flavors of watermelon, tangy citrus, and crunchy acidity on the finish. Serve chilled, no passport necessary for a virtual trip to the southern land of sunshine. Amanda Bowman
The man behind "Limus" is Kyatt Dixon, a name that sounds like the hero in a Clive Cussler novel, but lo! he is quickly becoming one of Adelaide's protagonists, saving its thirsty civilians from the crimes of industrialized wine. This action-packed Pinot Noir comes from Scary Gully Vineyard in the Forest Range of Adelaide Hills. The vines are farmed the old-fashioned way (without the convenience of sprays and chemicals) by Gareth and Rainbo Belton from Gentle Folks winery. The 2017 is spry, yet heavily scented with halcyon aromas of waning summer: smoke mingled with pine, tart cherries, sandalwood spice, and wafts of sage. Dixon de-stems 2/3 of the grapes and allows them to spontaneously ferment; the included stems lend a toothsome texture to the otherwise breezy palate. Ambrosian flavors of watermelon and sour cherry glide over concurrent notes of mountain pepper, rosemary, and savory herbs. A merry, natural wine from the Hills suitable for any situation where one bottle is not enough. Amanda Bowman