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Dandelion's legacy gardens of lion's teeth


Whitey likes the exquisite wines of Elena Brooks from Dandelion Vineyards.

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Dandelion Vineyards Enchanted Garden of the Eden Valley Riesling 2016 ($27.50; 11% alcohol; screw cap) is much the better-settled wine after a year or so in bottle: it’s creamy, smooth and alluring, where many others are sharp and crunchy with acid like a smashed windscreen.

That winemaker Elena Brooks has picked and made the wine to be virtually dry at just 11 alcohols and still achieve this gentility and comfort is a great credit to her indomitable gastronomic intelligence. It reminds me a little of Dr Ernie Loosen’s Riesling from the Pfalz part of Germany. It has an aged lime-and-ginger marmalade notion to it, and it’s just a teeny bit toasty.

I admit to guzzling half a bottle in no time at all with not one thought of accompanying food. It’s just that easy. Cool.

Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz Riesling 2013 ($27.50; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap) is no printer’s error. Having recently suggested that too much McLaren Vale Shiraz looks like it’s pruned for vast lazy yields if indeed it’s been pruned at all, the writer took some comforting flak which was hungrily sucked in.

All that cosmetic nonsense about geological tastings and Scare Earths and whatnot will not fix this embayment’s Shiraz: they’ve been at that marketing sophistry for 10 years now. All they need to do is check the average price achieved per tonne, relate it to the vineyards’ geologies, and admit that there parts of the vignoble where people probably shouldn’t bother with Shiraz, or any other grape, as their work tarnishes the very fine and reliable job done by others.

No likelihood of that, given the powers that be.

Then, just yesterday, the UK’s most influential wine journal, Decanter, reported a tasting of Australian Shiraz priced between ₤8 and ₤20 ($A13 and $A33) and simply suggested that “McLaren Vale was the biggest disappointment, with the largest proportion of ‘bland, unremarkable’ wines.”

Every likelihood of that, given the powers that be.

That price bracket’s supposed to be this region’s forté, for Bacchus’ sake.

On the other hand, Walter Clappis’s The Hedonist was singled out for exceptional praise. That’s on Kurrajong piedmont geology: just about my favourite for Shiraz. Think Marius. And Drew Noon’s Grenache.

There’s nothing new about blending a little Riesling in Shiraz. Charlie Melton’s been doing it from the start: his old Barossa bush vine vineyard has Riesling vines speckled through its Shiraz, to be picked together. The Riesling contributes some focussing, drying acidity. Saves on the tartaric additions.

While I review this 2013 wine – there’s still a skerrick around the trade – there’s some advantage in seeing it with a little bottle maturity. This blend could well solve the Shiraz problem for some, although you wouldn’t want everybody running off doing it like they stupidly did with Viognier. Most of those folks should get some sensible pruning done and limit their yields or get on the dozer and start a fire. We need more native vegetation around the place: especially in the bit I call The Wok, on the lowest clays from Willunga down past the airport to Aldinga. That would make one fine marsh for tourists and wildlife: you could even hide a couple of intensive eco-villages in there: small two-story houses facing in to shared courtyards in the bush.

This Lion’s Tooth is about the Riesling: just 5 per cent of the blend. The admixture seems to have added some pleasing crunch to the blackberry Shiraz. It’s not that shattered windscreen acid, but even the bouquet seems a bit closer to honed Damascus steel than your usual gloopy jam. You get a tidier finish without having to squeeze too much tannin from the skins and pips. The entire wine is more stylish and stylised, is more appetising and entertaining, leaves you more bright and keen than the types of McLaren Vale Shiraz that nobody loves.

There’s a new vintage emerging now: I’ll review it when it hits. And if the Poms at Decanter don’t like it, I’ll drink half of it.

Dandelion Vineyards Legacy of the Barossa Pedro Ximenéz XXXO ($60 375ml; 19.5% alcohol; screw cap). I hear there’s a change of name in the pipeline: Zar Brooks is now calling this Legacy of Australia, perhaps because old soleras like Karl Lindner’s Barossa barrel hoard end up absorbing bits and pieces of wine from all over the place as they settle into great age. Like the Lindner stack has been sitting there growing and glowering for nearly 70 years.

This isn’t gloopy, either, despite that alcoholic strength. It has an acrid, dusty sherris-sack in its bouquet. Below that wells the simmering fruit mince, with plenty of rind. It’s sweet, sure, but has plenty of acidity and what blenders called rancio: that illusion of dryness that comes with great age and oxidation of fortified wine in the barrel stack.

Perfect for nuts, raisins and runny cheese. And given its form and obvious breeding, it’s cheap at this price. It has finer form than many of the popular cooked versions from Jerez. Seriously. Heat emulates age, but is never so genteel. Let the Brits drink Jerez.

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