Head west from Rutherglen along the Murray Valley Highway for about 6km and you can find Warrabilla Wines. Lovers of Rutherglen Durif should seek out this winery, the Parola’s Limited Release Durif simply has no equal anywhere in the world!
2016 Riesling: In a region not famous for white table wines (Rutherglen makes the best fortified wines in the world without question) we were surprised to find two whites on taste but were a long way from disappointed. Very light in colour, looking more like a Pinot Gris than a Riesling but the nose gives the game away with regard to variety. The mouthfeel is complex, causing debate about how many flavours are present. They come in waves which is a unique experience. We had some debate about whether this was our favourite white from Warrabilla before deciding in favour of the Marsanne, but only just. We bought 24 bottles of this anyway, the value for money was just too good! $19 per bottle
2014 Marsanne: OUR PICK FOR BEST WHITE. Because of our love for Tahbilk (will be writing about them soon after our next visit) we were very keen to try this wine – aged in 100% NEW AMERICAN OAK puncheons (320 Litre barrels). The brilliant gold with touch of green colour screams Marsanne and the honeysuckle nose just confirms the matter. For lovers of aged Marsanne (where the toast and honey flavours have developed and the acidity has dropped right off) this wine should bring you great enjoyment. We were running low on car space at this point but still made sure we took home many bottles of this wonderful wine. $19 per bottle.
2016 “Smithy’s Blend” red blend: Named after winemaker Andrew Sutherland-Smith (whom we were fortunate to meet at the Melbourne Food and Wine show one year – his knowledge of the science of winemaking seems boundless) this blend of 40% Durif, 40% Shiraz and 20% Cabernet was at the time of our visit sold as a clean-skin (NOTE: Smithy’s blend has now been produced a second and third time as labelled stock, available at the cellar door or by mail order for wine club members only). The mulberry colour is at times difficult to distinguish from BLACK ink it is that intense. The strength of Durif on the nose is immediate, which for those familiar with Rutherglen Durif means you know you’re in for a treat. The initial taste is rounded and full of dark fruit, but it is the combination of varieties that allows an additional 2 or 3 layers of flavour to develop as it recedes. Strangely, there is not a lot of tannin in this wine, yet it strangely works. The alcohol dominated a bit too much for our liking, but it was a fun wine to try. $145 per dozen, cellar door or wine club members only.
2016 Grenache: This is no ordinary Grenache, so try it even if you’re not usually a fan. The deep-red colour has a brown, almost golden edge. The nose is typically Warrabilla (if you don’t know what this means, try a few and you will quickly get the idea) but in this case there is a distinct smell of dark cherry. Upon first sip, the use of oak is immediately evident, providing an essence of baked cookies or crumble, whilst remaining completely savoury. An unusual experience to say the least, but one that keeps you wanting more. The food friendliness of this wine is remarkable and so we made sure to bring some home to the cellar. $27 per bottle.
2015 Parola’s Durif: OUR PICK FOR BEST RED. The Parola’s label is only made in the very best years using the very best fruit according to Sutherland-Smith, 2015 being the most recent year for such a label. This wine is simply unmatched anywhere we have seen. The first lesson is to DECANT this carefully, even though it is a young wine, there is a significant amount of sediment to be found in the bottleneck. To pour, this wine is purple-black and thick. The nose is forceful but delightful, giving all the typical Warrabilla features and then some more for good measure. The use of oak is excellent, effortlessly working its way between the big, juicy fruit flavours. The levels of complexity are amazing, and as a final trick, the wine manages a slightly dry finish – exactly how we are not sure. An absolute monster of a wine, a must for lovers of BIG red. $37 per bottle.
2016 Durif: This is a difficult wine to judge having tried a Parola’s Durif any time in the last decade. Yes, the memory lingers that long. This Durif is rich and thick to pour and has a nose full of blackcurrant, yet distinctly not Cassis. The silky-smooth tannins through the red-black goodness are seamlessly integrated, making us wonder for a while if this really was as young as the label suggests (it is, we checked a second bottle). The finish to this wine seems endless as the berry-fruit flavours refuse to die away, and the oak flavours become more pronounced. An amazing wine, comparable to a Parola’s but at a gift-horse price. We expect it to cellar well! $27 per bottle.
2017 Durif: Compared to the Parola’s 2015, this wine is almost light in colour! Immediately the difference is obvious, and the raspberries on the nose are a new feature that were either not present in the 2015 Parola’s or were drowned out by all the other complex features. The mouthfeel is very nice but nowhere near as full as the Parola’s. Still an excellent wine that we are happy to drink (especially in winter months) $27 per bottle.
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon: Interestingly, no Cabernet was produced by Warrabilla in 2016. Smithy says (on the Warrabilla website) that this was due to it being too hot to produce a good vintage. This 2017 offering was matured in NEW French puncheons (320 Litres) and the red-black colour typical of good Cabernet Sauvignon is evident from the first pour. Unlike some other wines of a similar age, there is no colour-change to be seen at the edges, which suggests the wine may have plenty of room to age. The nose is not typically Cabernet; very similar to Smithy’s Blend in fact. The oak is immediately evident in the first sip, although there is some distinct sharpness to the palate not present in other Warrabilla reds suggesting this wine may improve with age (Warrabilla wines are made to be drunk now and as such the labels don’t recommend long cellar times for the varieties). $27 per bottle.
2017 Malbec: We are not too familiar with Malbec as a single variety, most of our experience is in South Australian examples where it has been blended with Grenache and Shiraz. This wine has a mulberry-like colour and a lot more clarity than the heavier Warrabilla reds. The initial flavours are sweet but sharp with blueberries and some herbaceous tones more commonly found in Cabernet/Merlot blends. An OK wine that may well delight fans of lighter aromatic reds, but not our favourite. $25 per bottle.