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Lucky to love Paracombe


The Drogemuller family continues to give us wines of many types, with quality as high as their cool upland vineyards but at way-down floodplain prices, writes Philip White.

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Paracombe Adelaide Hills Tempranillo 2014
($22; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap)

The Horner family grew this at Cudlee Creek, across the river and up the gully from the Paracombe plateau. Cudlee Creek is not very much like the bits of Spain where Tempranillo comes from. But I’ll bet if you waved this beauty beneath a knowing Spanish nose you’d get a raise of curiosity about its source.

Tell them the Drogemullers made it at Paracombe, Torrens Gorge, Adelaide Hills, South Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia.

It has a lash of the Parade Gloss shoe polish that I love in fine Tempranillo, with all those slick snaky black berries and hedgerow business. Always reminds me of the perfume Zorro left when he’d escape through the casement, leaving the drapes swinging and the lass there weeping into his hanky with the Z.

Makes me wish there was a leg of black Iberian ham hanging on the back of the kitchen door. Warm black olives, neat or in pasta; real crunchy bread.

Stopped weeping now? Good. Here, draw up a pew. It’s on me. Bargain at this spend. We can afford another. Forget bloody Zorro.

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2013
($23; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Five-year-old Shiraz of this quality could easily claim another $20 on its sticker. In fact, you can pay twice this much for unfinished/unmade Basket Rangers Shiraz just across the Torrens Gorge.

The Droggies have always offered amazing value in healthy, bright, intense Shiraz like this, made with deep respect of both grape and gulper. Of course one can savour it with soulful scrutiny, gazing into one’s glass like a lovelorn connoisseur with a thesaurus jammed in it somewhere, and all sorts of high-level gastronomic fallutin’ can be fully justified with tea-smoked duck or roast beef or mushrooms.

But me? I can simply slurp this wine. It’s intense, lithe and alive. Not many places on Earth offer higher-country, cooler-style reds of such distinction and honesty. Lucky us.

Paracombe Adelaide Hills The Reuben 2013
($23; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Having blithely covered Rioja and Rhône, Paracombe now presents its take on the Bordeaux blend. A horde of Côtes-de-Bordeaux AOC and Entre-Deux-Mers makers would love to put wines of this quality on the table at this sort of a spend. I can hear their sacred blues bleats. Twelve baahs!

Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet franc, Petit verdot and Malbec swim together here, just as intense, but more lithe than the pair of wines above.

Finally, there are flowers in the hedgerow, adding violets, lavender and musky confectioner’s sugar to the topnote. And the oak’s had a touch of flame at the bottom end: charcoal.

It’s not presumptuous: it’s just disarmingly matter-of-fact. This wine doesn’t want to know how you feel.

Chicken; saltimbocca; lamb cutlets; crumbly chèvre with fresh tarragon … into it!

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Cabernet Franc 2013
($27; 14% alcohol; screw cap)

Cabernet franc is a favourite red variety which is rarely nailed well in Oz: its pastoral springtime florals, which can vary from frail and effete to boisterous and brashly flat-out-in-your-face, can offer the prettiest points of Aquitaine/Atlantic France, but seem maybe a bit floozie-feminine for coarser Ocker boyos who, regardless of gender, generally pick it too ripe, when it seems the sudden absence of such fragrant gaieties reassures them. They prefer their tea boiled black in a campfire pannier.

This one’s on what I reckon is the higher end of the alcohols that still permit the entrapment and preservation of these pretty, more fleeting water-soluble fragrances. Any stronger, and you lose them. This also has some of the leathery harness aromas which are usually soluble only in higher alcohol.

So whatter we got? A velvety, softer, comforting red which seems to me to walk a compromise line between the macho and mysterious, but which I hope teases enough of us to spend a little more curiosity cash pursuing the more elegant, finer things of life. Like Cabernet franc.

One can still flog a lot of fifties chasing French Cab francs that don’t reach this one, to be perfectly francis with you.

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