Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 18

18 12 2018

By Peter Vetsch

Well, any wine was going to have its hands full tonight, following on the heels of the toughest act to follow so far in the 2018 calendar, last night’s masterpiece single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Ken Wright.  Like a schedule loss on the second night of a back-to-back home-and-home set in the NHL, Bricks may have strategically selected what I would guess is the least expensive bottle in the whole calendar ($15ish for a full bottle) to take one for the team right after we all revelled in the most expensive bottle in the calendar.  The Advent backup goalie in this case is the 2016 Ram’s Leap Semillon Sauvignon Blanc from New South Wales, Australia, a bottle that continues what is now a Bricks Advent tradition of vinous animals leaping, after the highly tasty Frog’s Leap Zin from 2017.  Stag’s Leap next year?  Most definitely.

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Ram’s Leap is part of the Canonbah Bridge range of wines, a producer with which I was not previously familiar, possibly because the place where their estate vineyard is planted is not even a recognized wine region!  It forms part of the broader appellation of New South Wales, but so does 30% of the Australian wine industry.  The 80-acre vineyard was strategically planted on an old riverbed in the middle of a 30,000-acre sheep farm near Warren, slightly west of the Hunter Valley, a couple hours northwest of Sydney.  Half of the plantings are Shiraz, and the other half are, well, everything else:  Merlot, Grenache, Mourvedre, Semillon, Verdelho, Chardonnay and Tempranillo.  It remains the only commercial vineyard in this highly arid area, with scorching hot days and cool nights that facilitate the practice of organic viticulture (there are no plant-attacking fungi, mildews or moulds in the desert, so less need for herbicides).  Canonbah Bridge takes their organic principles one step further by aiming to avoid any intervention with the vineyard soils whatsoever:  no tilling, all weeding (and much fertilizing) performed via wandering sheep service, cover crops preventing the spread of unwanted plant life, etc.

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It’s hard to dig up reliable information on the 2016 edition of this Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, but the order of the varietal listing means that the Semillon has to be the larger proportion of the blend, a fact backed up by the svelte 11.5% ABV — Semillon is often harvested early to preserve acidity, at remarkably low sugar ripeness levels.  The 2017 Ram’s Leap Sem Sauv seems to back up that intuition, clocking in at 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc (and 3.12 pH, so acid officially preserved).  Its predecessor is a strangely advanced-looking burnished golden colour in the glass, but is all young Semillon on the nose, part cautious golden apple and honeycomb but mostly wet wool, seawater and grass, surrounded by a faint rubberiness.

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Stelvin Rating:  3/10 (It’s, um…red?)

Australian Semillon often needs a decade or more in the bottle to fully blossom and metamorphosize into a rich, layered extrovert, but when young it tends to be quiet and reticent, and the minority of Sauvignon Blanc (sourced at elevation from the nearby Orange region, for those of you who noticed it wasn’t in the Rolodex of estate plantings) doesn’t coax it along much.  This is strait-laced and narrow, its neutral citrus, green leaf and grainy flavours and linear acid forming a direct path right down the middle of the tongue, its broad mouthfeel not yet allowing its flavour components to stretch their legs. It finishes quietly, knowing that it is not yet quite ready for the world, but suggesting that there is still more to come that is currently behind the scenes.  Nobody had a chance as a follow-up act to a bombshell Willamette Pinot, but this is a $15 bottle that could easily go for a decade and that represents what it is with aplomb.

88- points

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