There is a cosmic shift happening in Australian wines. While the ranks of the ‘big guys’ (Rosemount, Penfolds, Lindemann’s, Yellow Tail, the list goes on and on…) continue to pump out forgettable juice while desperately creating new products to try to grab market share, there is a quiet minority actually finding art in a balanced style and a sense of terroir. Yes, terroir in Australia! (More on that later.)
The Wine Company welcomes the wines of Heartland into our portfolio, imported to us by our friends at Vintus. These are wines with a sense of place and personal style rarely found in the category of Aussie wine. They show terroir.
Talking about terroir is common when discussing European wines, but often goes overlooked when talking about ‘Down Under’. This is a shame, for Australia is as diverse geologically and climatically as most of Europe, and terroir deserves to be a part of the conversation. The problem for consumers, however, is that 95% of all Australian wine is controlled by five gigantic multi-national corporations who have the (critter) labels in their own best interest rather than the places. Thus, it is rare that Australian geography is discussed.
Let’s change that, shall we?
To begin with, a fact that is obvious but rarely discussed: most people who live in Australia live near the coast and they do so for a reason. The coast of Australia (especially the Limestone Coast, Adelaide, and Langhorn Creek, where these wines are from) allow for a beautiful respite from the jarring heat of the inland. Cool breezes waif in from the sea, dropping the evening temperatures dramatically. If you want to make wines of character, where acidity plays a role and food-friendliness is a goal, planting grapes toward the cooler coastlines is one answer so you have a wide swing of temperatures from daytime to nighttime. (Another answer is to plant in the higher elevations, such as Clare Valley or Eden Valley … more on those in a future post.) However, when your vineyards are toward the coast, and people want to live near the coast, you have a conflict in the form of higher land prices. In other words, it is statistically impossible to make a wine from these prime climates and charge less than $8.00 USD for it. So while the Heartland Stickleback wines are not bargain basement cheap, they are amazingly affordable considering where they come from. (The Heartland Stickleback white and red sell for approximately $13.99.)
Secondly, playing with grapes that fit the temperature swings of a region such as Langhorn Creek simply makes sense. Yes, you can do a 100% Cabernet or Shriaz here (and the Heartland versions are brilliant), but far more fun to play with lesser varietals that have a world wide reputation for showing expression in similar climates. For the Hearland Stickleback wines, this includes (for the white) Verdelho, Viognier, and Semillion; and (for the red) Dolcetto and Lagrein blended into the majority Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. (Dolcetto and Lagrein are Italian varietals that add a streak of acidity and grip not possible in Cabernet or Shriaz. They are both fascinating varietals.)
What is the result? It’s the classic “what grows together goes together” situation. The population of the Australian coast, where seafood is dominant and asian flavors abound, are lucky to have the Stickleback White to enjoy; it might be one the ultimate seafood wines around, with intense peach and apricot from the Viognier (38%) and Semillion (23%) but a firm streak of acidity from the Verdelho (39%). Ideal with meatier seafood such as tuna or swordfish. The Heartland Stickleback Red (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Shriaz, 9% Dolcetto, and 8% Lagrein) shows polish and verve without being at all gooey or overtly rich. A grilled rib eye would probably overpower it, in other words. It’s instead clamoring for lamb, venison, or poultry.
Heartland Stickleback wines are made by Ben Glaetzer (who also owns the brand), a young winemaker who is already a legend in his own time.
“When I look at the winemaker behind some of my favorite Australian wines, the name Ben Glaetzer seems to come up frequently… This is a serious talent who has exploded on the wine scene with a brilliant array of wines.” – Robert Parker
Update 4/30/2013 — check out this great video that Heartland has put together!
Where can you find the wines?
The following accounts have purchased Heartland Stickleback White in the last 12 months. Please call ahead to confirm availability. Accounts are listed alphabetically by city.
The following accounts have purchased Heartland Stickleback Red in the last 12 months. Please call ahead to confirm availability. Accounts are listed alphabetically by city.