Hopping in on an Island
If we think if Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia, the mental picture is typically one of seals, sea lions, penguin colonies and picturesque national parks. Sadly, it seems, us Queenslanders are largely unaware that the Island also possesses a perfect climate for viticulture and is home to about 30 vignerons and around a dozen wineries.
Kangaroo Island was named by British explorer Captain Matthew Flinders as “Kanguroo Island” due to his observations of prolific grey kangaroos when he arrived there in March 1802. Although a French explorer who arrived shortly after Flinders, Commander Nicolas Baudin gave the landmass a different moniker, it was the British name which stuck. The Island is surprising large; covering an area of about 4,405 kilometres and making it the third largest Island off the coast of Australia. At its nearest point to the mainland, it is only about 14 kilometres away but by air, it is a short half an hour flight from Adelaide and by ferry, only a 45 minute run from Cape Jervis (which is about an hour and a half drive south of Adelaide).
It’s said that viticulture on the Island dates back to the late 1970’s when the first vineyard was planted. The first wine made from grapes grown locally on the Island was blended with fruit from the Barossa Valley and sold from a local cellar door operation at Eastern Cove. By 1990, the first single varietal made entirely from Kangaroo Island fruit was made – an Eastern Cove Cygnet (although this was not released on a commercial basis).
Coincidentally, the very first commercially made wine made entirely from Kangaroo Island fruit was produced by one of my favourite Adelaide Hills producers, the Amadio Family. In 1991, local Kangaroo Island producers, Michael and Rose Florence, joined with the team at Amadio Wines to produce single varietal wines under the Kangaroo Island Trading Company brand.
These days, the Amadio team continue to craft wines using Kangaroo Island fruit and their handiwork has evolved into some of the most spectacular examples of cabernet, shiraz, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc that you’ll find on the bottle shop shelves.
Kangaroo Island Trading Company Merlot 2015
I confess to not having sampled a large number of Kangaroo Island wines but there is little doubt that the Kangaroo Island Trading Company Merlot 2015 is up there with the very best South Australian merlot wines I’ve seen.
Given the maritime environs, the nuances of a wine from a Mediterranean climate shouldn’t be surprising. On the nose, there are wisps of clove and raspberry laced cedar but once on the palate, the black cherries and dark red fruits evolve alongside layers of vanilla, mocha and develop into a spicy lusciousness on the finish. It is a beefed-up style of a varietal that can at times be soft and even washed out at the back end. But not the Kangaroo Island Trading Company merlot! The fruit is sweet, bold
and almost ostentatious with hints of acidity around the edges. At worst, you could say that there is perhaps a little bit of warmth perhaps due to the generous mouth feel or its 14% alcohol concentration. Maybe that’s just a product of naturally occurring ripeness in the warm Kangaroo Island climate?
As you expect from a $40 bottle of vino, it should capably withstand years spent laying on its side but it’s drinking perfectly now, so why wait?