Some of the best wines made in Australia are produced by vineyards in faraway places with limited staff and often no cellar door. For these select few, time is purely focused on producing the best possible wines and often it is only the most dedicated sommelier that manages to get their hands on the small allocation of wines offered.
One such winery, Souter’s Rosewhite Vineyard in the foothills of the Victorian alps, is owned and operated by husband and wife team, vignerons Allan and Kay Souter. While they’re not open to the public, visiting by appointment is possible. Recently I made such an arrangement and was pleased to discover not only a fine collection of cool climate wines – on this day served alongside some excellent French and Australian regional cheeses – but a vertical tasting of several back vintages. The experience was more than encouraging – as I soon learned that I’d just about discovered liquid gold in Allan and Kay’s wines. I wondered what their secret was and what made their vineyard site so special. As I continued tasting, it started to become clear…
Grown on a steep, well-draining north facing vineyard in Victoria’s Happy Valley, fruit ripening at Souter’s is slow yet well-paced due to to the cooler nights and moderately warm summer and autumn days. At approximately 300m in elevation, the vineyard produces cool-climate wines which typify the best from the Alpine Valleys wine region. Plantings of chardonnay, gewürztraminer, shiraz and cabernet feature on this hillside plot of just 5 acres.
First established in the early 1980s, Souter’s is one of the oldest vineyards in the region – their rich and complex cabernet fruit is testament to this. Allan and Kay have managed the site since taking ownership in 2003, when they embarked on a long-term project to reinvigorate the vineyard. The process has managed to bring the aged vines to better health, enabling premium fruit production through careful hand-pruning, mulching and hand-harvesting. Cropping of fruit is kept low, optimising the conditions to grow grapes that provide the raw materials for top wines. Their hard toil has also resulted in local, highly respected and talented winemakers Jo Marsh of Billy Button Wines and Eleana Anderson of Mayford wines selecting the fruit to use within their own wines. And in a nice bit of creative business planning, Allan and Kay have wisely enlisted both winemakers to make their wines. Jo concentrates mostly on the whites and Eleana on the reds.
Happy Valley is an ideal location for growing premium wine grapes. Here the vine roots penetrate deep into the well-draining granitic soil, reducing the need for irrigation. The vineyard produces fruit with pleasing characteristics – for example: elegant flinty mineral notes to the white wines and delicate savoury notes in the reds. While most wine aficionados believe the presence of minerality in wine is due to mineral nutrient uptake of the vine growing in granitic soil, more recent theories suggest it develops in soils that are poor in nutrients. Whatever the case, I’m certainly impressed with the minerality displayed within Souter’s fantastic white wines and the layers of mint, clove and star anise, found in the cabernet sauvignon for example.
‘The region is a wonderful place to grow grapes, with classic alpine warm days, cool nights and rich, stony soils playing their part,’ says Allan.
SOUTER’S ROSEWHITE VINEYARD – OUR TOP PICKS
2016 White Gold
A luscious dessert wine produced using super-ripe fruit – a blend of 40 per cent gewürztraminer and 60 percent chardonnay. Its smooth peach and vanilla and honey characteristics make it ideal for pairing with blue cheese or a delicate chocolate soufflé. Ready to drink now, and may improve in bottle with further age.
Mineral notes combined with unique barrel-charred characteristics make the 2016 Gewürztraminer a rare delight. Featuring a superbly balanced palate of subtle stone fruit flavours layered with delicate spicy notes it makes an excellent food wine. Its clean and modern style is comprised of fresh, lean cool climate fruit that doesn’t overpower. A masterful mid palate boasts classy minerality and more of those gentle charred nuances making this wine one of Souter’s best achievements. We recommend pairing with fine French cheese styles, charcuterie or seafood. Winemaker Jo Marsh.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Boasting a friendly drink-now soft mouthfeel, this full-bodied wine features gorgeous cherry flavours and fragrances, weighted with nicely balanced elements of plum and blackberry – yet subtly. With the addition of chocolate and just a hint of tobacco and savoury bay leaf, this is a slightly fuller, more masculine wine compared with the 2015 vintage (a top wine also available for purchase). Ultra fine tannins are extremely satisfying and beautifully integrated. It finishes with a delightful blueberry note that’s lengthy and just plain delicious. Pair with a grilled, marbled eye fillet steak. Simplicity is the key! Winemaker Eleana Anderson.
A well-crafted, finely-balanced wine showcasing mineral complexity, fine acid structure and delightful floral and citrus notes. A fresh and modern wine style that features expressive stone fruit and citrus flavours and delicate, yet persistent French oak. North East Wine Challenge 2017, Gold award-winner. Winemaker Jo Marsh.
A medium-bodied wine with a delicately balanced palate of cherry, dark chocolate and prunes. Aromas of tobacco, cherry, chocolate and stewed plums feature. Firm yet fine tannins deliver a voluptuous mouthfeel. A wine light enough to allow enjoying a few glasses, yet full-bodied enough to impress the fussiest of old-world shiraz drinkers. The finish is generous and well balanced. Winemaker Eleana Anderson.
390 Happy Valley Road, Rosewhite,
(via Myrtelford), Victoria
Direct Sales, contact Allan Souter: Tel 03 5752 1077