The Wildest Wine I’ve Tasted

Today’s Story: Ochota Barrels

Ochota Barrels is a small, family-owned winery located in the Basket Range area of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. The idea for Ochota Barrels came about in 2000, when Taras and Amber Ochota were wrapping up a surf and wine trip along the western coast of Mexico in a Volkswagen campervan. Following some time spent as a punk rocker, Taras graduated with a degree in Oenology from Adelaide University then worked as a “flying winemaker consultant” concentrating in Puglia, Abruzzo, and Sicily in Italy. Taras also spent some time making wines in California before he and Amber settled on their 9.6 acres in South Australia and Ochota Barrels launched in 2008. The Ochota Barrels philosophy is to produce pure and fresh wines which, in Taras’ words, are “something delicious and gorgeous for all of us to enjoy with none of the nasties and more of the love.” A blow to the South Australian winemaking community (and beyond), Taras unfortunately passed away last year at the young age of 49 following a long battle with an auto-immune-related illness.

The Ochota Barrels farming and winemaking philosophies center on minimal intervention to produce pure, expressive wines with a true sense of place and variety. Taras and Amber were inspired by the biodynamic producers they met in France, farming their own vineyards with many of the same practices. Fruit is harvested early to preserve natural acidity, and wild fermentation occurs with only indigenous yeasts. Whites see whole-bunch pressing and reds get whole-bunch fermentation and extended maceration with texture an important focus. The wines age in old French oak barrels before bottling with a minimal addition of sulphur.

To learn more or read praise for the Ochota Barrels wines, you can visit their website here. I also previously wrote about their 2020 The Mark of Cain, which is a fun wine made of 100% Pinot Meunier.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Botanicals of the Basket Range

Blend of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Isabella, and Shiraz; 12% ABV

The 2019 Botanicals of the Basket Range is deep salmon in color. This wine leaps out of the glass with aromas of medium (+) intensity and you immediately know you’re in for a fun ride. The nose showcases aromas of white strawberry, raspberry, cherry, rose petal, rosemary, thyme, sage, and chalky mineral. The flavors are of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of maraschino cherry, freshly-picked strawberry, raspberry, lavender, thyme, lemongrass, mint, and crushed rock minerality. This dry, vermouth-inspired wine is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, light tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. In addition to the grape varieties listed in the blend below, 17 botanicals from the Ochota Barrels garden were submerged in the wine and they include sage, wild fennel, blood orange rind, elderflower, lemon balm, bay leaf, and thyme amongst others.

Price: $55. While I can’t put a value analysis on this as it compares to other wines since I’ve never tasted anything like it, I can say that for me this is absolutely worth the price and then some. This is one of the most unusual and fun wines I’ve tasted so far, all while maintaining impeccable quality, complexity, balance, and length. This is truly magical stuff.

Elegant Yet Powerful Aussie Bush Vine Grenache

Today’s Story: Yangarra Estate Vineyard

Yangarra Estate Vineyard is a single-vineyard Australian wine estate established in 1946 in the Blewitt Springs district of McLaren Vale, South Australia. The vineyard was planted by Bernard Smart and his father with unirrigated bush vine Grenache, and this fruit became highly coveted by local winemakers for years to come. The property totals 170 hectares (420 acres), though only 90 hectares (222 acres) of it are planted to vine and Grenache is the signature variety. There are also plantings of Shiraz, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Picpoul Noir, Clairette Blanc, and Counoise. Yangarra farms their vineyard adhering to organic and biodynamic principles, a practice they began in 2008 and received certification for in 2012. Yangarra’s viticultural philosophy helps improve the quality and sense of place in their fruit, which transfers to a winemaking philosophy that is both gentle but characterized by incredible attention to detail. Yangarra’s wines ferment spontaneously with natural yeasts, and they use a combination of amphoras, ceramic eggs, and large format oak foudres with the end result being wines that are true to variety and true to the terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Ovitelli Grenache

100% Grenache; 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Ovitelli Grenache is pale ruby in color and nearly transparent. I decanted this for about an hour and drank it over the following 2 hours, though it didn’t really change a ton with air. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing strawberry, baked cherry, pomegranate, licorice, leather, and clay. The flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of baked plum, wild raspberry, blood orange, licorice, and dried green herbs. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. This is a very fresh Grenache but it has a restrained power to it, and while it’s not incredibly complex right now it should develop nicely and is already very well-balanced.

Price: $50. For the price, I don’t think I can argue this is a great value wine but I would contend this is definitely worth the $50. It’s young no doubt, but this is already showcasing an elegance and quiet power that will bring pleasure for years to come. Very enjoyable.

Fun, Vibrant, and Refreshing Pinot Meunier From South Australia

Today’s Story: Ochota Barrels

Ochota Barrels is a small, family-owned winery located in the Basket Range area of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. The idea for Ochota Barrels came about in 2000, when Taras and Amber Ochota were wrapping up a surf and wine trip along the western coast of Mexico in a Volkswagen campervan. Following some time spent as a punk rocker, Taras graduated with a degree in Oenology from Adelaide University then worked as a “flying winemaker consultant” concentrating in Puglia, Abruzzo, and Sicily in Italy. Taras also spent some time making wines in California before he and Amber settled on their 9.6 acres in South Australia and Ochota Barrels launched in 2008. The Ochota Barrels philosophy is to produce pure and fresh wines which, in Taras’ words, are “something delicious and gorgeous for all of us to enjoy with none of the nasties and more of the love.” A blow to the South Australian winemaking community (and beyond), Taras unfortunately passed away last year at the young age of 49 following a long battle with an auto-immune-related illness.

The Ochota Barrels farming and winemaking philosophies center on minimal intervention to produce pure, expressive wines with a true sense of place and variety. Taras and Amber were inspired by the biodynamic producers they met in France, farming their own vineyards with many of the same practices. Fruit is harvested early to preserve natural acidity, and wild fermentation occurs with only indigenous yeasts. Whites see whole-bunch pressing and reds get whole-bunch fermentation and extended maceration with texture an important focus. The wines age in old French oak barrels before bottling with a minimal addition of sulphur.

To learn more or read praise for the Ochota Barrels wines, you can visit their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2020 The Mark of Cain

100% Pinot Meunier; 11.6% ABV

The 2020 Mark of Cain is pale ruby and almost rose petal in color. The nose is beautifully perfumed and of pronounced intensity, showcasing aromas of bright red cherry, ripe wild strawberry, raspberry, crushed pomegranate, red rose petal, lightly tilled garden soil, delicate dried green herbs, and wet granite. There’s also a touch of strawberry yogurt and light bread, but these blow off in the glass. Flavors on the palate are also of pronounced intensity, with notes of pomegranate, tart red cherry, raspberry, white strawberry, a hint of eucalyptus, rose, a pinch of white pepper, and crushed rock mineral. This dry red is light-bodied with high mouthwatering acidity, low tannins, medium (-) alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This is vibrant, refreshing, and unbelievably pure while showing great complexity for its youth. 190 cases produced.

Price: $60. Though fairly pricey, I think this is absolutely worth trying and buying multiple bottles of. This is one of those “wow” wines for me, particularly given the youth. I haven’t had a wine this fun, vibrant, crunchy, and refreshing in a long time.

Fantastic Riesling From Eden Valley’s Oldest Vineyard

Today’s Story: Pewsey Vale Vineyard

Pewsey Vale Vineyard was first established in the Eden Valley wine region of South Australia in 1847 by Joseph Gilbert. After arriving from England, Gilbert sourced his vines from Macarthur Vineyards at Camden in New South Wales which were originally sourced from Rheingu, Germany in 1837. Importantly, Pewsey Vale Vineyard is not only Eden Valley’s first ever planted grapevines, but the first successful recorded importation of the Riesling variety to Australia as a whole. Though the vineyard fell into disrepair during the global financial crisis of the late 1920s and 1930s, it was rediscovered in 1961 and vigneron Wyndham Hill Smith started revamping the site. Today, Pewsey Vale produces 4 bottlings of Riesling from this historic site.

The vineyard itself sits on average around 485 to 500 meters above sea level and is planted entirely to the Riesling variety. Difficult to manage due to its high altitude, rocks, and varying microclimates, the vineyard demands constant care from winemaker Louisa Rose and viticulturist Darrell Kruger. In 2013, the Contours block of the vineyard (where my wine today comes from) received organic certification, though Kruger farms it adhering to biodynamic practices.

Today’s Wine: 2013 The Contours Museum Reserve Riesling

100% Riesling; 12% ABV

The 2013 Contours Museum Reserve Riesling is transparent medium straw in color with greenish-yellow hues around the rim of the glass. This is gorgeous on the nose, with aromas of lemon, lime, green apple, white florals, petrol, wet stone, and rubber. On the palate, I get notes of lime zest, grapefruit, underripe pear, lemongrass, honeysuckle, toast, and rocky mineral. This dry Riesling is light- to medium-bodied with vibrant high acidity and a long finish.

Price: $34. This is a very nice wine with only untapped potential with more bottle age, and one that I find to be a great value. Definitely give this a shot if you come across it.