Mac Forbes 2015 Release
Although many of you will have trouble believing me, the life of a wine taster is more often dull and tedious than exciting or fun. Having to wade through dozens of wines each week to find the gems that I can recommend is hard work.
There are however, two occasions where tasting is a joy. One is sitting down with a few friends to try some old/interesting wines from our cellars. The other is sitting down with a capable winemaker to try a cross-section of wines and discuss the philosophy behind those wines.
Falling into the second category was sharing a meal with Mac Forbes while tasting through his 2015 releases.
Mac takes a hands-off approach to winemaking, in an effort to allow the individual vineyards truly express their characteristics.
How the wines are sealed deserves a special mention. Depending on the variety, Mac is looking for the seal to aid in the wines development. As you would expect, a number of the whites and the Yarra Valley Pinot are sealed with screw caps, but two other closures are currently in use. One is a nifty cork alternative and the other is natural cork.
The use of Ardea Seal synthetic cork rather than a screw cap was dictated by the oxygen permeability characteristics, which mimic cork. These look smart, appear to seal well, and are easier to extract (when young at least). The top wines are currently sealed with natural cork, and use of this will increase in 2016.
The rationale given for the move back to cork relates to the impact that cork can have on the wine as it ages. This includes permeability, as well as the effect the cork itself has on the wine. When asked about the risks associated with using corks, Mac believes that with careful selection of the supplier, as well as rigorous testing of each batch of corks, the risk of taint can be minimised.
There is no doubt in my mind that cork producers have had to lift their game, so I will be interested to see the feedback that Mac gets over the coming years.
Whilst the focus is on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, there is also an excellent 2016 Riesling sourced from the Strathbogie Ranges. I swear I could taste the mineral composition of the soil in this wine. Racy, balanced and morish!
Chardonnay – 2015
The 2015 Yarra Valley Chardonnay is a wine that will make a few friends. Here is a wine that offers a degree of generosity to the fruit, yet has balance along with decent textural components. At $30, this represents excellent early drinking.
The Single vineyard wines offered more personality and, whilst a little more restrained, had increased depth and power. At around $50, the Hoddles Creek and Woori Yallock Chardonnays are not exactly cheap, but they do showcase the quality of Yarra Chardonnay.
Pinot Noir – 2015
Like the Chardonnay, the Yarra Valley Pinot Noir deserves to be popular. The fruit is ripe and succulent, with excellent acidity and mouth-feel. A great drink over the coming summer.
It was the single vineyard Pinots however that really showcased what Mac Forbes is trying to achieve. Crafting individualistic wines where the vineyards and climate dictate what the wines will taste like. The hands-off approach in the winery includes the use of no new oak in any of the single vineyard wines.
The Coldstream ($50) is the only wine that is made from fruit coming from flat lands in the Yarra. I really liked this wine as it combined a degree of generosity with elegance and poise. The Hoddles Creek and Yarra Junction (both $50) come from higher up in the valley, with the microclimate influencing how the wines express. For me, the Hoddles Creek was my pick and will cellar well for at least 5 – 8 years.
At the top of the range are the Wesburn and the Woori Yallock ($75). I was surprised at just how differently these two wines showed. The Wesburn was all minty with a hint of eucalypt, whereas the Woori Yallock was refined and elegant, with a purity to the Pinot fruit that no other wine in the line-up could match. A brilliant wine.