For me, one of the best things about being involved in wine is meeting the people behind the products. I recently had the pleasure of catching up again with Matt Wenk, winemaker at the phenomenally successful and prolific Two Hands stable of wines, and his delightful wife and instrumental business partner, Trish. This enchanting couple has recently created the Smidge label, and with typical understated modesty are systematically raising many eyebrows in an industry that spawns new labels on what seems like an endless basis. I won’t bore you with Matt’s many achievements and awards (he has more medals than a Ugandan General), so go to their website at www.smidgewines.com and you can see for yourselves. Like him, I prefer to let the wines do the talking. The Smidge formula is simple: take the best fruit from premium vineyards in South Australia to make exceptional, fruit-driven wines that fully express the regions they derive from. I personally own and enjoy many Two Hands wines, so I was measuring with a very long yardstick when I and twenty-four other hard- to-please palates sat down to dinner this September with his Smidge lineup. Would the maestro be able to live up to the high expectation with this small volume, super premium from his micro-winery?
The throng gave an unequivocal thumbs up. These products were good, very good indeed. His winemaking stints in France and California have clearly influenced Matt’s technique.
The Viognier and the Sauvignon Blanc from select vineyards in the Adelaide Hills had me humming La Marseillaise. The Shiraz was typically expressive, full-throttled Waltzing Matilda. The flagship wine is impressively presented with the ‘S’ Smitch icon etched into the bottle. It doesn’t quite hit the highs that I have experienced in some of Matt’s other works, but it is exceptional quality at the price. James Halliday rates it at 94 points. It commands respect.
Then came the Zinfandel.
Australian Zinfandel? What’s this? I have had too many Zins pushed my way by earnest Californians endeavoring to convince me that this particular grape can produce anything other than over-extracted jammy juice that seems to have a habit of falling apart after three years or so. Don’t get me wrong:I have had a few excellent Zins, but they have been the exception rather than the rule and invariably come with a price tag that would make Warren Buffett blanch. My skepticism was heightened when I spied the 15.8 percent alcohol content on Matt’s offering, “The Tardy” Zinfandel 2005 from Langhorne Creek. Oh my God! Call an ambulance; I am going to need oxygen.
My fears were unfounded as this dark, brooding concoction challenged all my preconceptions. It was extraordinary. Matt told me: “I made the 2002 Zin just for fun, just because I knew of this vineyard from the past... but once the wine was made, people said: ‘You should sell that, it’s bloody good.’”
Yes it is – and so is the 2005. Very bloody good actually – and a real insight into how this couple strives to squeeze the best from Mother Earth. I suspect we will be hearing a lot more about them in the future. - Robert Rees
Robert is a founder of Wine Exchange Asia, serving customers in Singapore and Hong Kong. For more information please visit wineexchangeasia.com or write to email@example.com
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