The Lane Vineyard – A unique & diverse producer in Australia’s Adelaide Hills

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 0
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It is often said that you should choose the producer and not the wine. Simply selecting a grape variety from a region you like is not a guarantee of quality, which is why I like to recommend specific bottles. Recently, I attended a dinner with Marty Edwards, proprietor of The Lane Vineyard in Australia’s Adelaide Hills, at their representatives in the UK, Corney & Barrow. With typically sharp antipodean humour, Marty guided us through a tasting of 8 of The Lane’s outstanding wines. The first thing that struck me about The Lane, is the sheer number of different grape varieties they grow on what is a relatively small plot of land. It’s unique location in the Adelaide Hills means the land’s undulations provide various aspects on which to plant the grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon soaks up the sun on North facing slopes whereas Shiraz looks East and enjoys a cooler microclimate. Chardonnay is planted at 450m (high altitude for wine grapes) on sheltered South facing slopes. The Lane’s RG Single Vineyard Chardonay has been lauded by critics to rival the best White Burgundy, and for a fraction of the price. If we’re talking Aussie/French rivalry, I found the Lane’s 19th Meeting Cabernet Sauvignon to be on a par with the most balanced of Bordeaux reds. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are also planted, and it was The Gathering 2014 Sauvignon Semillon blend that impressed me most.
The Lane Gathering Sauvignon Semillon 2014

The instant you nose a glass of The Gathering 2014, the producer’s fastidious attention to detail is obvious. All the grapes have been hand-picked, a laborious and expensive undertaking, but one that ensures rigorous sorting and selection of only the ripest, healthiest grapes. The grapes are gently pressed in the winery, and only the free-run juice is used – this is the clearest, purest juice that runs freely from the mass of just pressed grapes. The two different grape varieties (72% Sauvignon Blanc and 28% Semillon) are vinified separately, then expertly blended. Fresh lemon, lime and white peach flavours from Sauvignon Blanc are complemented by the smokines the Semillon has already begun to develop. There is a fullness, a creaminess and a complexity to this wine. It lingers in your mouth and makes a great match for asparagus and smoked seafood in particular. When I find wines like this, I try to buy a case. Half will be drunk within the next year, and the rest I will patiently leave in my cellar (read damp, dilapidated basement) to age for 5-10 years. When Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blends are left to age, their flavours evolve from being lemony citrus focused to expressing a more savoury, almost smoky side.

The Lane dinner Razor Clams and Asparagus

Dry white wines made from or blended with the Semillon grape variety are unknown territory to the average wine drinker, even though they’re widely available in the UK and the US. Those on the inside appreciate that Semillon makes up the large majority of the blend in the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, which are some of the world’s finest and longest lived wines. Not only can they last, but they have a tendency to transform and develop exciting new flavours as they rest in the bottle, with correct cellaring. Style wise, and to use a reference point most drinkers will know, they are the opposite end of the flavour spectrum to the aromatic Sauvignon Blancs which hail from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs have justifiably reached iconic status due to their inimitable flavours of the ripest passionfruit in particular, which is distinctive to Sauvignon Blancs made from grapes grown in that location. As is the case with most single varietal Sauvignon Blancs, the wine is usually made without going near an oak barrel, keeping the flavours intensely fragrant and fruity. However, with the addition of Semillon and subtle changes to the wine making process, a completely different wine is born. Dry white blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are some of the world’s most underrated white wines.

Bordeaux is the birth place of dry Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blends, although they only make up around 10% of annual Bordeaux production and live in the shadow not only of the famous red wines but also the rich, sweet wines of Sauternes. These blends are generally comprised of varying proportions of Sauvignon Blanc (usually over 50%) to Semillon which mellows the sherbety flavours of Sauvignon Blanc. More import than the flavour profile is the texture and weightiness which Semillon brings to the blend. It imparts richness, a distinctive smokiness and a complexity that would not be achievable with straight Sauvignon Blanc. The difference in wine-making technique versus single varietal Sauvignon Blanc is majorly that the wine is not only aged but often fermented in large, old oak barrels. The chemical reactions that are understood to take place during barrel fermentation, as opposed to in stainless steel tanks, are in large part responsible for the difference in flavour profile.

The Lane Vineyard 19th Meeting Cabernet Sauvignon
Before you run off and buy a case of The Gathering Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon, consider this one too…
The Lane’s 19th Meeting Cabernet Sauvignon reminded me of how good Cabernet Sauvignon can be when the fruit is ripe and the wine is balanced. It was the perfect bottle to drink at last weekend’s red meat dominated BBQ. First you taste concentrated, ripe black fruit flavours, then subtle clove and vanilla spice. There are telltale Cabernet notes of violets and cassis, and a subtle tobacco leaf undertone. The texture is smooth but there are plenty refreshing tannins to balance the fruit. When we talk about balance in wine, it means that all the elements work in harmony so that nothing stands out as obtrusive on the palate. Fruit flavours, acidity, alcoholic strength, residual sugar and tannins are present in complementary measure so no one element dominates the other. Concentration, complexity, power and balance can absolutely be attributed to this wine.
The Lane Vineyard is represented exclusively in the UK by Corney & Barrow and you can find their wines here.

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