Best Bordeaux Recipe, Barrel-Fermented Semillon Sauvignon Blanc of Year
With a bevy of praiseworthy wineries, contention over the pecking order of Margaret River labels is constant and subjective. However, a small producer called Arlewood is materializing as the sleeper of the region and making infinitely more complex and refined white wines in the Graves style.
Their Sussex Loc 3991 cuvee, of which only 300 cases are made from 17-year-old Semillon and 11-year-old Sauvignon Blanc, has the requisite backbone and comparable quality to the great white Bordeaux’s in the Pessac-Leognan appellation.
While Semillon is acknowledged as one of the noblest of all grape varieties, invariably blended with its time-honored partner sauvignon blanc, it remains relatively unfashionable and perhaps the most underrated white grape variety in terms of quality, in Australia or the world for that matter. Arlewood ranks as my top selection this year for the “Must-Have Bordeaux recipe of barrel-fermented Semillon – Sauvignon Blanc of the Year” as it is exceptionally well priced and outclasses all the white Bordeaux Blanc’s that I tried, all several times the price of the Arlewood.
Terroir Vintage Synopsis
Surrounded by the westerly influences of the Indian Ocean, Margaret River has a Bordeaux-like maritime climate with long, dry, mild summers, and is ideally suited to these varieties. Stretching 100km from north to south and about 27km wide in parts, there are significant variables in both climate and soil compositions and individual terroirs however, the subregion of Willyabrup is considered the ‘sweet spot’ for Bordeaux varieties and home to Arlewood and other proven performers such as Cullen, Moss Wood and Vasse Felix. The soil at Arlewood is rich, gravelly topsoil over loamy clay with excellent drainage. Situated only 4 km from the ocean, the vineyard benefits greatly from the marine influence.
The Semillon components are fully barrel-fermented, blended with selected parcels tank fermented Sauvignon Blanc, then aged on the lees (yeast cells) in French barriques for a further 12 months with 50% of the barrels new. This provides the richer, oily texture, yet retains a citrus chassis and freshness from the Sauvignon Blanc. The Sussex Loc is only made in great white wine vintages. Clearly 2005 was such a vintage and represents a true “Reserve” wine.
Arlewood Sussex Loc 3991 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (HK$190). I decanted the wine to let it breathe: yes, many white wines also benefit from decanting. Indeed, it opened up nicely with a sherbet of grapefruit, lemon zest and scents of kiwi fruit, evolving to a more exotic mélange of guava, ripe peaches and custard. Fresh coconut and toasted almond wood characters mixed with the fragrance of banana, and summer fields of straw and peppery olive oil. A juicy, tangy palate entry loaded with piquant lemon, then fleshing out with succulent peaches and nectarines, although the lemon edge is ever- present. The wine has a silky creamy, soft textured mouth-feel as the intense citrus acidity lingers.
Serving & Food Pairing
I can envisage this wine pairing very well with good old-fashioned roast pork and applesauce, yet also having the power to handle many spicy Asian dishes like, tangy Thai salads, sweeter yellow curries with seafood and particularly suited to the more refined elements of Indian cuisine.
Longevity & Price Point
While already an excellent drink, this wine has the structure and ever-present acidity to y age for a decade or more easily. Moreover, it is exceptionally well priced and would not disgrace itself among white Bordeaux at several times the price, retailing around S$57 in Singapore and HK$260 in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong: Margaret River for Asia, Ground Floor No. 3, St. Francis Street, Wanchai Tel: 9803 1873
Singapore: La Vigne, 40 Holland Grove Road, Tel: 6462 0053
Margaret River is the perfect multifaceted holiday destination, offering something for everyone and within easy reach of most Asian cities.
White sandy beaches with world-class surfing, bush walking with unique wildflowers and naturalist activities, whale watching, fishing, diving, local artists and boutiques and of course many excellent winery cellar doors, augmented by many praiseworthy restaurants and all types of accommodation.
For wineries visit, www.margaretriverwine.org.au