Unbeknownst to me at the time of writing my note, the 2009 edition of this wine seems to have become something of a favourite amongst wine tweeters and bloggers. I admit to having mixed feelings about it, finding it more worthy than achieved. The refreshingly honest notes that came with this sample suggest 2010 was a difficult year, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my surprise, I prefer this in many ways to the 2009, and am intrigued to taste more in a way that I wasn’t after trying the earlier vintage.
What it comes down to is that this wine, despite superficially similar characters (presumably due to some of the same winemaking techniques), shows quite a different view of the fruit, one that is more subdued and subtle. It’s also more savoury, a fact the nose immediately establishes, as some cheerfully sweet fruit is quickly swept aside by waves of stalk and oak, the latter happily less intrusive in character than in the prior vintage. It still smells home made, but it’s also less chaotic, more resolved.
The palate carries these good qualities through. It’s rough-hewn like its predecessor, but the fruit’s calmer demeanour suggests a sophistication that, to me, is a real step up. Good flow through the middle palate, all dark fruits and spice, before tannic texture kicks in on the after palate. The structure here is very well balanced, with enough grip and astringency to please wine nerds without demanding much, if any, extra time in bottle. The fruit, darker though it is, could still use a notch more complexity. A nice, sharp finish, fruit and oak flavours carrying right through the back palate.
Can less than ideal growing conditions bring out a more interesting side to the fruit? It’s hard to generalise, but I feel it’s the case here.
Eloquesta by Stuart Olsen Price: $A28 Closure: Stelvin Source: Sample
Putting the boot in June 9, 2012 Publication: Illawarra Mercury. Section: Weekender. Page: 20
When it comes to winemaking, Stuart Olsen likes to put his foot in it.
The Mudgee winemaker is a keen exponent of the ancient art of foot treading whereby winemakers crush their harvest using their feet.It’s a tradition that’s been around since the beginning of winemaking and according to the purists it helps to produce highly perfumed wines.Olsen, a qualified scientist, is a traditionalist in the true sense and apart from a few tanks and barrels he has very little machinery or modern equipment in his winery.He has no formal winemaking training, having learned his craft at Torbreck, Crillo Estate, Mudgee’s Lowe Family Wines and on his travels throughout Europe.” In the vineyard I rely heavily on the taste of the berries to determine when to pick,” Olsen says.
“After I dropped and broke my refractometer in 2009, I went back to what I had learnt in my travels – the ripeness of the fruit is all about seed ripeness, along with soft tannins. This has since become the backbone to harvesting my fruit. I spend a lot of my time in the vineyards tasting the seeds, and even the stems, in the lead up to harvest.” Olsen works on the philosophy that Mudgee reds need longer, cooler ferments and has recently released two new wines under his Eloquesta label, one each from the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Both are blends of shiraz, petit verdot and viognier and both wines received three days of foot treading treatment before maturation on champagne lees in a combination of French, Hungarian and Russian oak in a refrigerated shipping container.
(Eloquesta wines are available through Stuart Olsen at www.eloquesta.com.au)
Eloquesta 2009 Mudgee Shiraz Petit Verdot $28:
Ex-scientist Stuart Olsen is not your conventional winemaker and uses the ‘sur-lie’ method of maturation on champagne yeast in a combination of French, Hungarian and Russian oak. Intriguing wine, soft and supple, cherry and berry, integrated spice, lovely balance.
I recently wrote a piece about Mudgee and its lack of regional heroes. Is it a problem or do we just embrace the diversity and the innovation of winemakers to play around with different varieties until they strike gold? In the case of this wine I suggest the winemakers of Mudgee should embrace experimentation because this is a seductively intriguing wine that’s full of character. It’s a blend of Shiraz and Petit Verdot with a small amount of Viognier and as a mongrel blend it seems to shine. Stuart Olsen the winemaker is self taught and has a proclivity for wines that are: “deeply coloured, soft and perfumed.” Whatever he has learnt has certainly rubbed off here, as this is highly drinkable and addictive red. Black cherry, violets, bay leaves, something meaty and peppery, also cumin and cinnamon, I love the perfumed lift here. It’s got some warmth but that fruit and spice profile is somehow hypnotic. Layered and long with a keen intensity of flavor, it’s a little rough around the edges upon opening but give it time and it reveals a heady scent and quality drinking at the price.
The result of a lighter, wetter vintage – but quality-wise it’s still up there. Needs some time to settle into its skin but even at this young stage it’s an interesting and accessible drink. Mighty freshness/brightness, a hallmark you’d have to say of winemaker Stuart Olsen’s style. It’s cause for celebration in itself. This release tastes of muberries, plums, lavendar and juicy boysenberry. Oak is far in the background. Attractive tannin bite, some warmth, some hay-like notes. It’s a nice drinking package, no doubting it.
Stuart Olsen is not your average winemaker. Without a formal education in oenology Stuart has no existing paradigm for his winemaking.Stuart’s first release was a 2008 Mudgee red. He has recently released two more wines, the 2009 and 2010 Eloquesta wines. The wines are blends of Mudgee shiraz and petit verdot, with a splash of viognier.A self-taught winemaker, Stuart has used a number of techniques and varieties learnt from working with various winemakers whilst travelling the world. “I have a love for deeply coloured, soft and perfumed wines,” he explained. “This has led me to use an unorthodox blend of shiraz and petit verdot. These varieties work well together, with the viognier helping to lift the floral essence of the wine. “We don’t have too much equipment in the winery; a few barrels and tanks. Most of the winemaking is very traditional, allowing the fruit to shine. With only one wine per vintage, there’s nowhere to hide.
Unlike the larger wineries where there is flexibility to move parcels of wine around, if the fruit is no good, it shows up in my wine.” Whole bunch and whole berry fermentation and carbonic maceration for one week prior to gentle foot treading have helped to produce these highly perfumed, soft yet rich wines. “Mudgee reds need longer, cooler ferments to bring out these characters,” said Stuart. After foot treading for three days the ferments are hand plunged daily for a number of weeks before pressing. The wine is then matured ‘sur-lie’ in a combination of French, Hungarian and Russian oak on healthy, champagne yeast in a refrigerated shipping container. “ Many winemakers think I’m a touch mad ageing ‘sur-lie’ as it can create very reductive wines, however it’s the quality of the yeast that ensures my wines have matured well.”
“The 2009 vintage in Mudgee was exceptional, with good winter rains and a long, sun drenched ripening period. It was ‘peaches’, as is the label of the 2009. The 2010 on the other hand was tougher; a ‘red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning’ type vintage, with sporadic rain challenging my patience.” The hue of the 2010 label reflects this.”In the vineyard I rely heavily on the taste of the berries to determine when to pick. After I dropped and broke my hydrometer in 2009, I went back to what I had learnt in my travels – the ripeness of the fruit is all about seed ripeness, along with soft tannins. This has since become the backbone to harvesting my fruit. I spend a lot of my time in the vineyards tasting the seeds, and even the stems, in the lead up to harvest.”
The Eloquesta wines are bottled with a minimum of sulphur, instead using gentle carbon dioxide to preserve the wine. It is recommended that the bottles are decanted for at least an hour to allow the carbon dioxide to dissipate and the wine to really open up.