There probably couldn’t be a more contrasting character to Peter Gago’s school master personality than that of the formidable Dave Powell, Torbreck’s loud, ebullient creator. Powell is a large physical presence with an equally large personality. If I was a farmer I’d describe him as a magnificent beast. Straight-talking, opinionated, passionate, occasionally crude, he is clearly a force of nature in the Barossa. Talking to him there’s a more than mischievous glint in his eye. It’s easy to imagine the hoot you’d probably have spending a night out on the tiles with Powell, though given his evident enthusiasm for a soiree you may well probably find yourself checked into A&E by morning.
As chief winemaker at Penfolds for a decade, responsible for Grange and the rest, Peter Gago holds unarguably one of the wine industry’s plum jobs. He’s also a master entertainer. I don’t think I’ve attended a wine tasting tutored by a more dynamic personality. Gago was constantly on the move, gliding up and down the floor of the ‘masterclass’ theatre at the London Wine Fair in May as if on stage at Wembley arena.
Last month I dug out a couple of mature South Australian reds to try – a bottle of ‘94 Penfolds Bin 389 and a ’95 Petaluma Coonawarra. I’ve been struck again and again by the ability of Aussie wines to age wonderfully, not just at the top end but also at the affordable level too [Wynns Black Label Cab immediately springs to mind] though obviously Bin 389 and Petaluma Coonawarra are at the more elevated end of the price spectrum. Australian longevity will come as no surprise to those down under, but there’s little mature stuff knocking about here, despite the importance of Oz wine in the UK. We buy it and we drink it, which is fair enough.
Caught up with Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander winemaker Steve Flamsteed at the London Wine Fair last week. He was showing their Giant Steps 2010 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir single vineyard wines among others. Great stuff – early days though and you’d expect these to develop well over the medium term. Overall I’m a great admirer of Giant Steps. Production is tiny, the pinnacle of a triangle supported by the Innocent Bystander brand. What’s not to like in their vivacious, bright Pinot Noirs and their classy Chardonnays?