Autumn in a Bottle
Wine tasting can be intimidating, there’s no doubt about that. It’s part of the reason Terri and I started The Booze Hags. We want to teach ourselves to be able to taste wine confidently, know what we like and don’t like, and be able to articulate it. Our hope for this blog is that through our journey of learning more about wine, you can also gain confidence.
We couldn’t think of a better way to dive right in to the world of tasting than giving ourselves a special task. Welcome to our very first wine assignment: autumn in a bottle.
Autumn (or Fall for any north American readers) has got to be one of the best times of the year, in my opinion. As the temperature drops and the days become crisp and clear, my cravings start to veer away from Rosé, Chardonnay, Aperol Spritz, and Pét-Nat – although let’s be honest, these are all delicious any time of the year – and I start to desire something a bit heavier and red.
So it was that Terri and I find ourselves on the first cold, drizzly autumn day of the year venturing out to a few bottle shops with the elusive task of finding the perfect bottle of wine to match the day. Our mission was to visit three very different bottle shops – one commercial, one boutique, one natural wines focussed – and ask the same question in each store: what would you drink today?
Our first stop was Cult of the Vine, a natural wine bar and shop tucked away in alley off Sydney Road, Brunswick. Upon entering the store, it was clear Terri and I had found our happy place. There were so many different wines from labels we have discovered on Instagram, come to recognise and desire, and we could have spent hours in there or walked away with one of everything on the shelf – if only we had that kind of wine budget!
The guy working that day came to our aid once he’d finished serving two other customers in the store, and he seemed genuinely excited by our question and the challenge it posed. He had fantastic knowledge of all the wines in the store and I wish I had recorded or made notes on the comments he was making – it was all wine-describing gold. We narrowed our selection criteria down to a medium-bodied, earthy red and walked away with Lucy Margaux’s 2017 Gamay.
Next up we visited Dan Murphy’s on Albion Street, Brunswick, which has a large selection of wines even though it isn’t the biggest Dan’s going around. Whether it was because it was a Sunday or they don’t normally have staff roaming the shelves to help customers with their choices, we unfortunately couldn’t ask anyone what they would drink that day. Instead we turned to the **fool-proof** wine-selection method and chose a bottle based purely on the label – surely one featuring autumn leaves would suffice, right?
Finally, we stopped by Blackheart & Sparrows’ Lygon Street store on our way back to Terri’s apartment. As this is Terri’s regular bottle shop, she already has a bit of a relationship with the staff who work there, and we lucked into being served by one of her favourite team members. Upon being asked what he’d been drinking lately that matched the brief, we were directed to an Austrian wine neither of us had ever heard of but were very keen to try: Ceel’s 2015 Blaufränkisch (Reserve).
After that we raced home salivating, put together a complementary cheese, charcuterie and dip spread and cracked those bottles open. Then came the tricky part of the day: describing what the hell we were tasting and smelling, comparing each bottle, and trying not to guzzle it all in the process. So for our rudimentary tasting notes, please read on!
Lucy Margaux Gamay
Region: Basket Range, South Australia
Retailer: Cult of the Vine
Terri and I have been geeking out on Lucy Margaux wines for a while, and we were super excited to try our first bottle. Straight up this wine had a cloudy, light blood-red appearance in the glass and, like a lot of natural wines, almost looked like it had a slight fizz to it. We found out this is because natural wines are made without additives and some have extra carbon dioxide as a result, giving the wine a light sparkle even though it's not supposed to be a sparkling wine.
The nose on this wine was something else! It had a delicious, mouth-watering, umami savouriness that I find to-die-for. While it wasn’t at all floral – like a lot of Gamays can be – it had powerful aromatics with a hit of tomato and a hint of something earthy and microbial.
According to Wine Folly, “Gamay is one of those wines where a large part of the fruit character in the wine is derived from the aromas (and not as much in the taste)”, and I think that was true for this wine too. Our mouths were hit with a whole heap of tarty, fresh acid, which Terri described as making her saliva glands go into overdrive. As the acid dropped away a completely savoury, meaty flavour emerged that paired perfectly with the prosciutto we were eating.
Ceel Blaufränkisch (Reserve)
I really had no idea what to expect from this wine. There was a brief review under the bottle at Blackheart & Sparrows, but I didn’t pay enough attention to it to remember what it said! Terri and I had both never heard of this variety, so while we were taking our first few sips we did some Googling and discovered that Blaufränkisch is an Austrian grape variety comparable to Pinot Noir and Gamay. These wines are known to have high acid and tannin levels, deep berry or cherry tones, and pair excellently with food.
This Ceel wine had a sensational, deep raspberry red colour in the glass and smelled floral and spicy with mega blubes – that’s blueberries in Terri-speak FYI – and black fruit aromas, plus some hints of something earthy and delicious, like truffle. Despite being known for their high tannin and acidity, we found this wine to be quite smooth and balanced and thought it paired perfectly with everything we were eating.
La Bise Sangiovese
Region: Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Retailer: Dan Murphy’s
We know we’re not the only ones who have chosen a wine based purely on the look of the label, and while it’s something we are trying to avoid as part of our Booze Hag journey, sometimes you’ve got to just go with it. And that’s what we did with this La Bise Sangiovese – lucky for us, this time it paid off!
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that La Bise wines are made by a female winemaker. This shouldn’t be a novelty, but, as we are discovering, it unfortunately is. Natasha Mooney is an inspiring figure in the Australian wine industry; she has years of experience in corporate winemaking, started a winemaking consulting business, and now has her own wine label.
La Bise wines are made from grapes sourced from various vineyards throughout the Adelaide Hills. Natasha and her team search for quality fruit, often from vineyards that are in need of some love and attention, rejuvenating them with “the kiss of life” – hence La Bise!
This 2015 Sangiovese had very fruit forward aromas of red berries and currants, but didn’t taste at all fruity. It had heaps of tannin and not a whole heap more going on, but that can be quite typical of Italian varieties. We think this would be an excellent dinner wine, but wasn’t as well suited to casual drinks on a Sunday afternoon.
So after tasting all three wines, which did we think was the perfect Autumn in a bottle? Probably Ceel’s Blaufränkisch – it was spicy, earthy, not too heavy, went perfectly with the food and evoked that feeling of cosiness that you crave when the weather turns cool. That’s not to say we didn’t smash that bottle of Lucy Margaux Gamay however! In our opinion, that wine is drinkable any time of year, any time of day.