by Fred McMillin
for May 15, 1998
Winery of the Week
A Winery in the Pyrenees
Hugh Johnson in his World Atlas of Wines describes "the rolling landscape of the Pyrenees."
Has Hugh lost his head? If you've driven south from Bordeaux into the Pyrenees you KNOW the rugged hills are anything but "rolling." So what's the explanation?
One hundred miles northwest of Melbourne in southwestern Australia is ANOTHER Pyrenees range, in the wine district of Victoria. Let's start with the district.
"Victoria is Australia's most exciting wine state," writes critic Huon Hooke. "In 1960 there were less than 20 wineries...30 years later there were 169!" The mild Pyrenees area produces richer, fuller wines than the cooler regions nearby.
A leader in making those rich wines is Taltarni, led since its 1972 founding by Bordeaux native Dominique Portet. His Cabernet has been described by experts as "explosive," "awesome," and "blockbuster." Hence, it was no suprise when it won a major USA competition. The Shiraz also is praised for its distinctive "power."
As for whites, Sauvignon Blanc does unusually well in the Pyrenees, and Taltarni discovered it early on. In fact, they were one of the very first to make that wine in all of Australia.
While Taltarni has done beautifully, the first Pyrenees winery had its problems. Founded in 1848 by a family named Mackereth, it survived phylloxera and the effects of World War I...but it couldn't handle the church. In 1929 a Methodist minister bought it, destroyed the cellars, uprooted the vines and closed the winery.
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