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Leading the way in organic wines

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Whitey pays tribute to Joch Bosworth, a South Australian organic wine pioneer.

Battle of Bosworth McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013
$25; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 85+ points

It’s 20 years since Joch Bosworth began converting his father’s Willunga piedmont vineyards to organic management. Even today some naives expect organic and biodynamic winegrowers to have dreadlocks and lederhosen and slap fish and howl on the roof under the full moon; such mistrust was a lot worse in 1995. Organics were voodoo; Roundup was more than politically correct: it was morally compulsory.

The determinedly conservative farmer Joch was never a slapper of fish. But he made an early observation: after the summer dry and harvest, the first autumn rains saw soursobs dominate the vineyard. This monocultural ground cover precluded the advancement of other weeds and died off in the spring, leaving the vineyard looking like it had been given the standard blanket of Roundup anyway. Guess which practice is cheaper and cleaner? Duh?

Now McLaren Vale leads the way in responsible vineyard practice. The most notable acceptance of such new smarts was evident in this week’s awarding of James Halliday’s Wine Companion Australian Winemaker of the Year garland to biodynamic/organic winemaker Peter Fraser at Yangarra, where I live.

But the Bozzies were first to achieve organic certification, and the first to release wines so certified from the region. These two wines are the 13th in a line of consecutive vintages of certified organic wines. They bear the little emblem of the lowly wood sorrel, the soursob, Oxalis pes caprae.

This Shiraz has a confectioner’s fragrance which is quickly enhanced by a swirl in a jug or decanter: gel mint leaves and musk sticks lie beside the blackcurrant and redcurrant Fruit Gums. The flavours are slightly minty, too, perhaps reflecting its Red Gum country.

It’s never thick, gloopy or overwhelming, but rather a modest red in scale and attitude, and a delicious slurp to have with all sorts of casual cuisine, from pizza to succulent lamb cutlets.

Battle of Bosworth McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
$25; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points

A swirl in the decanter lights up this wine, too: I suspect reflecting the juvenile surliness of both wines’ potential to mature and develop slowly and gracefully in a proper cellar.

This wine also has a confectionary air. It has a similar mintiness, but in a more elegant and racy spaceframe; a slightly sooty whiff of oak sets off a cheeky rakishness.

As willowy and lissom as a whiprod, this bright Cabernet is nothing like the thick, soupy, alcoholic reds of yore. It’s clean as a whistle and bright and lively, reminiscent of Cabernet from a much cooler site than this west-facing spot in the sun. It’s more like Cabernet from Bendigo, say, or maybe Great Southern in Western Australia. Remember the first Cabernets of Howard Park?

It’s Cabernet of the form we used to call ‘claret’ in the old show system; a perfect wine for that Sunday summer roast, mint sauce everywhere: slender enough to refresh a midday palate in weather much warmer than this chill wintry stuff we’re getting.

Buy some for the summer; keep some for 2020.

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