Orange is the new pink
According to the well known Charles Caleb Colton aphorism, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Or for the Oscar Wilde disciples, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. So when winemakers leave their regional heartland to source fruit from a competitor district, it must surely be taken by the local industry as a form of great compliment?
I recently received samples of a couple of bottles of wines recently released by Gartelman Wines – a well established Hunter Valley operation that has for years been producing some terrific Semillon and Verdelho (amongst a range of other varietals). But when I tore open the postpack box to find bottles of chardonnay and shiraz made from fruit grown in the Orange region, my interest was piqued and these bottles of sample stock weren’t going to remain united with their screw caps for long!
The irony in a Hunter Valley winery sourcing fruit from the Orange region for their flagship Shiraz and Chardonnay lies in the relative duration of their pedigrees as winemaking districts. The Hunter Valley can trace its vinicultural origins back to the arrival of Semillon vines with James Busby back in 1832 while the Orange region, some 260 kms west of Sydney only saw its pioneer plantings of table wine grapes in about the early 1980’s and didn’t really become a commercially operable winemaking centre until the mid-1990’s. And now it seems, the Hunter, one of the industry rock star regions situated about 450 kms away to the northeast, is importing the upstart’s fruit to make its premier level varietal offering!
2015 Gartelmann “Diedrich” Shiraz
But having tried the 2015 Gartelmann “Diedrich”Shiraz I can well understand the attraction to Orange’s cooler climate fruit. The Diedrich shows bright and lively colour in the glass and has a highly perfumed and pretty nose of jubes, red frogs and rose petals. On the palate, it’s only of medium weight but delivers layers of sweet raspberry and currents. There’s a nice savoury undercurrent on the finish and some spiciness on the edges. The winemaker’s use of both French and American oak has given it a really nice balance and the finish is elegant and clean thanks to youthful acidity loitering through the conclusion. This has to be one of the best Shiraz I’ve seen come out of Orange – even though the $50 ask is perhaps heading towards the troposphere! Last year the Diedrich won the Trophy for Best Wine of Show at the Orange Wine Show so perhaps that goes some way to justifying the price tag. Despite the cost, it’s not a style that I would be inclined to cellar for long. It’s drinking brilliantly right now and it’s hard to see the dazzle Gartelmann’s top-shelf shiraz becoming any more luminescent with time on its side.
The star of the wine district around the Central West town once known as “Blackman’s Swamp” is undeniably on the rise. You could even suggest that the wine industry of Orange is currently, in the pink!