Peter and Vicki Manning were unlucky drilling for water when they moved to the old rocks of Mount McKenzie to plant vines and make wine in 2001. But they sure were lucky in another way: they’d moved next door to Domenic Torzi and Tracey Matthews, of the little winery that bears their surnames.
No water in the well meant abandoning the planned vineyard; being next door to Torzi-Matthews up there between Angaston and Eden Valley led to many reds on the verandah and neighbourly dreamings which revealed Dom’s profound knowledge of vineyards whose owners would part with parcels of prime fruit elsewhere around the Barossa.
Since then, the modest but tidy Véronique label has presented us with vintage after vintage of polished Barossa classics whose prices, like those of the formidable Torzi-Matthews, are way below modest once the contents are fully digested: up in them parts you don’t have to surrender to brutal discounters like Hungry Dan to find rock-solid value-for-money.
Peter now makes the wine in the same earthy, honest manner that earned Domenic my deepest respect.
Véronique Old Vine Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2014 ($22; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap) is from a suite of vine gardens stretching from the very old rocks of Marananga across to the northern-easterly Barossa vineyards of Moppa and Koonunga; locations with no further need to prove their mighty provenance.
Judicious blending and methodical oxidative winemaking have knocked some of the more site-specific corners off this wine; two years of older barrels and regular racking has ensured a polished-but-piquant drink that sits there winking at you, daring you to find a crack or a fault.
I can’t see any. No variety dominates the bouquet, which is deep and dark and tight, with just enough of that prickly summer dust to flare the nostrils and set the olfactory juices loose. Schlück. Classic Grenache silk, polished to a sheen, then velvet and long, tapering acidity to get the laughing gear all a-pucker: the sort of wine that would make the proud south-of-France vignerons of the Ouvèze valley appellations, Vacqueyras and even Gigondas, very happy indeed.
The Vaucluse port crépinettes, or gayettes, and vegetable fritters – beignets – explained in the great Richard Olney’s Provence: the Beautiful Cookbook would dance a hearty Perlinpinpin Folc with this, but make sure there’s fresh hay handy for flopping. With a giggle.
Véronique Foundation Barossa Shiraz 2014 ($22; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap) has more blacksmith about it: I’m sufficiently well-cellared to recall that sharp reek of the hot coke, the soft glowing iron, the sweaty, oily leather apron and those scarred, hairy forearms with their hammer and pliers … but then the little Filster wanders out of the smithy, across the washout to visit the blacksmith’s wife, Lulu, whose shiny woodfire stove always bears a big iron pot of blackberry or mulberry jam.
Which is pretty much what this wine brings: from macho to motherly, all its dreamings are warm and ancient and reassuring. Devoid of sophistry. Transporting. More satisfying than savoury and provocative. Silky and swoony.
Jeez it’s good. Blackened beef, runny-in-the-middle, and a steaming stack of field mushrooms, ta, plenty of mash with diced raw onion stirred in at the last minute and a scoop of spinach cooked almost to caramel, just as Tony Sanso, the King of Kanmantoo, presents there in his comforting Osteria, right opposite the spot where Peter Lewis ran his smithy on the roadside …
Véronique Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($22; 14% alcohol; screw cap) has the soul of the above wines, but it’s more of your confectioner’s shop and florist’s barrow than smithy. It’s pretty, with all those meadow blooms and musk, and the sniff of the sugar left in the bag once you’ve gutsed all the marshmallows.
But that’s just the beginning. Go in deeper and all those glinty hints of past orebodies emerge in the candlelight: this is where wedding rings come from.
Not to be too carnal, it’s the one for the pink lamb cutlets. Dribble.
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