In a perfect world all winegrowers and winemakers should have only one mission – to make delicious and age-worthy wines. And perhaps financially survive…. In the world we live in many winemakers aiming solely for a financial profit and quite a few winemakers aim to solely express their beliefs. Let´s call the first group industrialists and the second naturalists. Yet somehow the best wines I have ever tasted were made by people whose goal was THE WINE and used their beliefs only as an agent to succeed.
Sorry for this pseudo-philosophical intro but this idea came to mind when I visited the guys from Bent Road Winery. Tasting wines from what they call an experimental label – La Petite Mort (we all know what that means, don’t we…). I recently tasted their Nebbiolo and I was pretty amazed – challenging wine because it demanded some work with a glass and decanter but certainly delicious and varietal. After tasting this Nebb I thought these guys were onto something and I was right. Glen, Robert, Andrew and another Andrew are involved in the operation with Glen (right from Andrew on the picture) being responsible for winemaking and Robert for growing grapes but all of them are involved in every single process of production. They have one of the most beautiful estates in Granite Belt – besides the vineyard there is a forest, creek with some small lakes and of course a picturesque little church nestled on a hill. Lucky bastards. Cellar door only by appointment.
Only five hectares of the land is under vines which means they have to source grapes from different growers either within the Granite Belt or outside the region. Especially for the La Petite Mort label, the experimental focus is not only on winemaking but also on rare varieties like Saperavi or Montepulciano. The idea behind the LPM label is simple – portfolio changes with every vintage (depends on access to fruit) and a different winemaking approach is used for each wine (classic from tank to oak, longer skin contact, barrel fermentation, amphora fermentation and aging…). Not really a terroir driven concept but rather a concept based on a unique drinking experience with huge respect to varietal character. I suspect Glen uses the LPM label as his winemaking playground which makes the LPM wines very entertaining and highly drinkable. This is also thanks to Glen´s obsession with cleanness (Glen is a former medical researcher). Experimental wines are usually made in the name of Holy Funk but Glen works with fairly low level of funkiness (he uses a lab and doesn’t mind to go for conventional practises when things don’t go well). That’s why LPM wines speak about the fruit and not only about how they were made. And that makes them cool.
La Petite Mort Marsanne 2016, Granite Belt RRP $28
Typical barrel ferment. Creamy on the nose and on the palate with smooth and rich texture but the oak impact isn’t in any way out of balance as there is still quite a lot of ripe stone fruits, pears, oranges and yellow apples aromas – very fresh and inviting. Velvety smooth on the palate with intensive flavours of nectarines, pears, grapefruit, touch of honey and white chocolate, only slightly bitter phenolic touch in long creamy finish. I am confused – there is nothing experimental about this wine. It is only balanced, delicious and food friendly white which will pamper your palate for a very fair price.
La Petite Mort Amphora V.M.R. 2017, Granite Belt RRP $35
81% Viognier, 15% Marsanne, 5% Rousanne + 163 days on skins in a clay amphora (slightly amber but not hazy). The skin contact is screaming on the nose – it is bit oxidative but CLEAN!! and so distinctive. All kinds of pepper, apricot jam, pears, apples fallen from the tree and touch of anise – very entertaining. Certainly not high in acidity (and nobody would expect that from Rhone varieties) but it has very solid drive on the palate thanks to its texture and smooth spicy tannins in long finish. Apricot jam, agave (or tequila if you want), black and white pepper + anise again, grapefruit and touch of honey – a head spinning and tongue indulging combination of sweet, spicy and bitter flavours which flow together in perfect harmony. Easy drinking and food friendly (try pork roast with grilled pumpkins) at the same time. Love it.
La Petite Mort Rosé 2017, Granite Belt RRP $28
Rather very light ruby than pink which might lead some drinkers to estimate sweeter wine. Nothing like that, it is bone dry and thanks to higher extraction not only darker but extra structured (for a rosé) with obvious well tamed tannins. It drinks more like light red than rosé. Blend of Pinot Noir and Sangiovese with the Burgundy grape being dominant. Sour cherries, dry raspberries and blackberries plus a touch of youthful creaminess on the nose. Juicy, serious and food friendly. Sour cherries, red currants, plums and spice on the palate, all in harmony and balance ending in nice long and fruity aftertaste.
La Petite Mort Montepulciano 2016, Granite Belt RRP $35
Granite Belt is all about weird varieties (weird in Australian context otherwise there is nothing weird about Montepulciano). Glen and his gang decided to foot tread the grapes to achieve gentle phenolic extraction but instead of getting their feet dirty they invite Brisbane sommeliers to do it for them. Good marketing. Well let´s hope no one stepped on the wrong foot. Very nice interpretation of the variety – dark with lots of black fruit, currants and liquorice on steroids. Savoury flavours of plums, sour cherries, black berries and liquorice are twisting and turning the tongue a bit but that is exactly why you want to have another glass. Finish is full of considerable and bit drying tannins which might improve with some age.
La Petite Mort Amphora Saperavi 2017, Granite Belt RRP $45
Saperavi grapes for this wine came from a vineyard in South Burnett where the vines were, who would believe it, originally grown not for wine production but for resveratrol – a strong antioxidant used in the pharmaceutical industry. Well, luckily, this time these grapes ended in amphora where they stayed for 193 days. As well as V.M.R. this amphora wine is clear in glass and clean on the nose. Very very youthful nose full of black cherries, plum jam, rosehip, pepper, ginger bread, violets, liquorice and yeasty oatmeal aromas. If you have a bottle of this LPM Saperavi wait two years… at least. On the palate it starts with a juicy splash of sour cherries, blueberries, black berries, bit of stalkiness and liquorice but the tannins are what this wine is all about. They are huge, numbing and savoury. What I especially like on some wines from amphora is this natural fruity character of tannins giving them purity and energy of a lighthouse beam. This Saperavi belongs amongst those some wines proving that the key to delicious long skin contact wines is in emphasis on meticulous cleanness and rather conventional approach to unconventional winemaking.