Cold-climate wines are seen as the best – especially in Australian wine terms. Here’s a new range from one of Australia’s oldest wine families – McWilliam’s Winery – that celebrates the grapes’ high altitude.
There’s something about the arcane science to making alcoholic drinks that fascinates me. It doesn’t seem to matter how many wineries, breweries and distilleries we visit or the number of times it’s explained to me, the processes involved boggle my mind.
How can such tiny little differences like a day either side of harvesting a bunch of grapes make any marked change in the end product as you pour it into your wine glass?
Well, I tell you what: it makes an incredible difference… just don’t ask me the exact details of why! And even more importantly, don’t ask me how the master winemakers know it’s time.
Another essential feature in winemaking is elevation. And especially in Australia, the higher the better.
Chief Winemaker Jim Chatto at McWilliam’s Winery explains that vines that grow at higher altitude live in a cooler climate and therefore have a longer time to fruit before they need to be harvested. This longer growing time allows more flavours to develop in the grapes.
It’s been around for a very long time – since 1877 in fact. And it’s been a family thing from the very beginning. 6 generations ago, Samuel McWilliams planted his first vines just outside Corowa, NSW – where there’s also a superb whisky distillery by the way.
Now, there are McWilliam’s grapes growing in several parts of New South Wales and the ACT, and their newest wine range is a celebration of the highest.
What is the 660 Reserve?
The McW 660 Reserve is a selection of wine made from grapes harvested at an average of 660 metres above sea level.
Though not the highest (the most elevated vineyards in Australia are at around twice that), the 660 Reserve is a beautiful iteration of medium-bodied high-altitude, cold-climate New South Wales wine.
There are 5 varietals to choose from in this range: a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir from Tumbarumba, NSW, a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hilltops, NSW, and a Syrah from Canberra, ACT.
Why do we like it?
We tried the Tumbarumba Chardonnay, the Hilltops Cab Sauv and the Syrah from Canberra, and we loved them all.
The pale Chardonnay is flinty and clean, though with a note of oakiness that helps with the creamy texture. Recommended with grilled salmon and lemon or roast chicken and spring veggies.
The hearty Cabernet Sauvignon is vibrant and herby, and its silky cassis and chocolatey palate match the classic style of this wine variety. I love the tannins in this wine. Paired with pork and veal meatballs or slow-cooked beef and creamy polenta.
As for the Syrah, it’s a luxuriant wine, full of spices and silkiness, toasty spices from the oak and lively red fruit flavours. McWilliam’s recommends a rack of lamb and roast veggies or grilled eggplant with tomatoes and black olives for this beauty.
We also love the labelling of this wine range. The gilt lined topographical design fits well with the feeling of this wine and the story behind the McWilliam’s family.
What else is there?
At the same time as the McW 660 Reserve, McWilliam’s have also released the McW 480. A little cheaper than the 660, these wines are all from an average of 480 metres above sea level.
As they’re from lower down geographically, these wines are said to be lighter on the palate with fruitier tones. I would guess a very approachable wine range.
The choices here are a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc from Tumbarumba, NSW and a Shiraz from Hilltops, NSW.
These ranges are available from Dan Murphy’s, BWS or quality independent bottle shops.