Arfion: Our (fresh, textured and delicious) wineBy Simone Madden-Grey
One to watch, Dave Mackintosh is a New Zealander quietly doing his own thing in the Yarra Valley and creating wines that are well worth a look.
The Arfion portfolio contains five wines including a Field Blend and a Pinot Rosé. The Field Blend consists of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc – an unusual blend perhaps but one that is mouth-wateringly delicious.
Grown in the Prices Ridge Vineyard in the Gladysdale region of the Yarra Valley these grapes eke out an existence in this rather cold and unforgiving site. Each vintage is treated differently according to the vintage conditions – the grapes may be pressed separately but blended as juice before fermentation as for the 2013 or in the case of the 2012 each grape variety was fermented separately before the blend was created, after which 5 months of maturation takes place before being lightly fined and filtered for bottling.
The 2012 Field Blend consisted of 50% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Gris and 15% Sauvignon Blanc while the 2013 switched it up with Pinot Gris leading the blend at 40% and the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc each at 30%. The determining factor for the blend is to express the soil in which the grapes were grown rather than the individual characteristics of each grape variety.
Aromas of green fruit, white flowers and stone fruit lead to a voluptuous palate of stone fruit and pear flavours together with the zingy acidity of fresh oranges and limes. The fresh style of the wine combined with the fullness on the palate is what makes the blend a success.
The rosé is made using Pinot Noir grapes sourced from vineyards in the Yarra Valley – 2014 is sourced from a vineyard in Dixons Creek at the northern side of the valley as well as from a site in Gladysdale. After being picked by hand, a portion of the grapes undergo carbonic maceration for 7 – 12 days depending on the vintage, before being pressed directly to old French barriques.
Carbonic maceration is a technique perhaps most famously associated with the Beaujolais region in France. In general terms the grapes are picked in whole bunches and carefully loaded into an anaerobic tank, usually using carbon dioxide to exclude oxygen. The lack of oxygen facilitates a process occurring within the cells of the grapes, which produces a small amount of alcohol along with certain flavour and aroma compounds. This gives the wine a fresh and fruity flavour and winemakers will use this technique and many variations on it to achieve the required style. In this particular instance for the rosé, a small portion of grapes undergo carbonic maceration whilst the remaining grapes are pressed directly to barrel.
All barrels are lees stirred over a period of 5 months before being bottled and this technique gives the wines a lovely texture or as the website says “fresh, textured and delicious”! Both the 2012 and the 2013 rosés are dry and savoury in style, the red fruit of the Pinot Noir is most definitely there with strawberry and cherry notes but there are savoury umami notes too, and with the texture imparted from lees stirring this makes for a great dinner wine.
Last but most definitely not least, the Pinot Grigio from the Smokestack Lightning portfolio, that sits under the Arfion umbrella and is a wine that is made in minuscule quantities. A mesmerising orange colour this wine is a complete delight; it is unexpected, thought provoking and utterly delicious. The gloves are off with a no holds barred approach – whole bunch carbonic ferment where the grapes at the bottom of the tank were stomped to release their juice before having bunches piled on top, 12 days on skins then pressed to old barrels to undergo malolactic fermentation before 6 months of ageing and then into bottle with no additives, just a small amount of sulphur.
The resultant wine has the gentlest waft of spun sugar, ripe strawberries and the full tangy zing of tangerine on the back palate, a hint of purple flowers with a touch of sour cherries on the finish.
The word Arfion means Our Wine in Scottish Gaelic and is not only an acknowledgement of Dave’s heritage but an apt statement of pride in the fact that the wines are made with the independence of a small family run company and draw on a rich history of experience to produce something that is very unique indeed.
To read more from the Happy Wine Woman please visit: www.happywinewoman.wordpress.com