Going Old-School: Some Australian Winemakers Embrace “Field Blend”


Getting back your roots is a matter of blending, according to a story this past by The Australian's Max Allen. 
“In our modern world we've become obsessed with single varietal wines, where each type of grape is kept separate from the others in the vineyard and the winery – planted on its own, picked on its own, fermented on its own, bottle on its own,” Allen wrote. “Once upon a time, though, many vineyards were planted with a mix of grapes.”
Known as a “field blend”, Allen wrote, red and white grapes were picked and fermented together. Certainly out of style in today's world, Allen noted “a growing number of winemakers are once again playing with the concept.”
Allen then dove into a series of reviews about Australian field blends, pointing out their uniqueness and strengths. 
He began with Cape Jaffa winery's Anna Hooper, who makes a mashup called La Lune Field Blend. The wine, Allen said, is a blend of “no fewer than 11 varieties including chardonnay, pinot gris, semillon and sauvignon blanc” and is wild-fermented in oak and a “large, amphora-like ceramic egg.”
While the blend may sound like the stuff of grade-school sugar mongers making suicides from the soda fountain a Burger King, it actually tastes quite good.
“It's a bloody lovely wine, rich and creamy in texture, generously fruity and spicy in flavour, full of a sense of place,” Allen wrote, “of warm sunshine freshened by sea breezes.”
He then moved on to winery Between Five Bells' 2013 H-Cote, a blend of riesling, nero d'Avola and negroamaro. 
“On paper, perhaps, the idea of putting two tannic Italian red grapes … into the same vat, barrel or bottle as the famously fragrant and crisp German grape, riesling, sounds decidedly odd,' Allen pointed out. “But it works beautifully; the white variety lifts the natural perfume of the negroamaro and that scintillating riesling acidity balances the round squishy dark fruit of the nero d'Avola.”
Allen then moved on to winemaker Andrew Margan's Hunter Valley field blend, 2013 Block 11 Red. 
“(The wine) is a blend of shiraz, mataro and tempranillo, grown side-by-side in the same vineyard and fermented together, and is a gorgeous mix of warm wild berries and dusty red earth.”
He concluded his exposition of field blends with Rutherglen-based Campbells Wines' The Sixties Block red.
“Like many field blends, it's a fabulous celebration of diversity,” Allen wrote, “and the uniqueness of place.”

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