Friday, January 28, 2011

The Best Wine Tasting in the World: Return to Terroir at the 2011 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

Emily Laughton and Ron Laughton, Jasper Hill

The most remarkable wine tasting I have ever been to took place in Beechworth in late 2004. The tasting was the highlight of the International Biodynamic Wine Forum and featured wines produced by members of Return to Terroir, an association of top vignerons from around the world united by their commitment to the biodynamic system of organic farming.

I’ll never forget the awe that shone from everyone’s face that day. The audience of winemakers, grape growers, retailers and journalists - wine tasting veterans all - was unusually excited, animated and amazed by the incredible flavours we kept finding in our glasses. Each of the wines we tasted - from the most humble rosé to the grandest burgundy - had an utterly distinctive character, a lively energy on the tongue, a totally engaging personality.

That weekend forum - and the tasting in particular - inspired many Australian winegrowers to explore biodynamics. McLaren Vale grower David Paxton is typical: he was sceptical about the more controversial ideas associated with BD espoused in the seminars, but the jaw-dropping quality of the wines he tasted convinced him to convert all of his extensive vineyards to certified biodynamic practices.

Now you have a chance to experience for yourself the thrill that inspired everyone in Beechworth in 2004 when the Return to Terroir group holds its first public tasting in Australia as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March. Simply put, this is an unmissable opportunity to taste the world’s most profound wines - 50 members of the group will be represented - many of which will be poured by the people who nurtured the vines and crushed the grapes. I urge you to secure your ticket to this event right now, as it is sure to sell out.

Janet and Erinn Klein,
The local heroes
There are four Australian members of Return to Terroir: Castagna, Cullen, Jasper Hill and Ngeringa. These producers have participated in most of the group’s tastings from Bordeaux to New York, and all will be at the Melbourne tasting in March.

Vanya Cullen, Margaret River
‘Having Return to Terroir in Melbourne is such a coup: to get so many people dedicated to making wine that truly represents the purity of the land in one place in incredible. You just don’t see these amazing wines all together anywhere else.’

Julian Castagna, Beechworth
‘I try to attend as many of the tastings as I can because I think it’s really important showing that Australia has a place in this diverse group of remarkable people. It is an extraordinary tasting: even in the wines you might not like, you still taste an individuality and purity that makes it a worthwhile experience.’

Ron Laughton, Jasper Hill, Heathcote
‘A Return to Terroir tasting is a fabulous event. People come to it with such curiosity, to find out first hand what biodynamics is all about beyond the mumbo jumbo and dancing naked in the moonlight. And what they discover is intelligent winegrowers producing wines that are totally authentic and true to place.’

Erinn Klein, Ngeringa Vineyard, Adelaide Hills
‘The tastings are very exciting. There’s such an amazing buzz in the room. I’m always ultra-keen to get round and taste as many wines as I can, because find a lot of inspiration from being with like-minded winegrowers, all so proud of their wares.’

Who’s Coming to Melbourne in 2011? Some of the best winegrowers in the world ...

Nicolas Joly, Loire Valley, France
Founder of the Return to Terroir group, passionate advocate for biodynamics and custodian of the remarkable Coulee de Serrant vineyard, source of one of the Loire’s most profound and mineral-rich dry white wines.

Christine Saahs, Nikolaihof, Wachau, Austria
Nikolaihof is both Austria’s oldest wine estate (it has been producing wine for 2,000 years) and Europe’s oldest biodynamic vineyard, having converted in the early 1970s. Extraordinary single-vineyard riesling and gruner veltliner.

Telmo Rodriguez, Rioja, Spain
One of the most important and influential winemakers in Spain’s new-wave, Telmo Rodriguez is also a passionate supporter of warm-hearted, soulful traditional Spanish wine styles grape varieties.

Ricardo Palacios, Bierzo, Spain
The Palacios family is deeply involved in the revival of one of Spain’s most complex and profound red grapes, mencia, grown in scraps of old vineyard flung across the steep mountainsides of Bierzo.

Elisabetta Foradori, Trentino, Italy
Elisabetta Foradori has championed the ancient indigenous red grape, teroldego, through painstaking research and clonal selection. Her wines are exquisitely perfumed, spicy and elegant.

Annie Millton, Gisborne, New Zealand
The Millton Vineyard has pioneered biodynamics in New Zealand for 25 years. The wines, among New Zealand’s best, include fabulously textural viognier and some of the best chenin blanc outside the Loire.

Gilles Lapalus, Sutton Grange
NEWSFLASH, Jan 28: four guest winegrowers have also been invited to participate in Return to Terroir in Melbourne - Felton Road, Seresin and Rippon from New Zealand and Sutton Grange from southern Bendigo.


Public tasting: Monday March 14, two sessions: one from midday to 3pm and one from 4pm to 7pm. Each session will also feature a roundtable discussion between members of the group: a fantastic opportunity to listen to some of the world’s greatest winegrowers discussing their craft.
Where: Zinc, Federation Square, Melbourne
Cost: $65, including Riedel tasting glass to take home

For more about the Return to Terroir group:

(this is a version of an article first published in The Wine Magazine Dec 2010)

1 comment:

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