Towering timber. Plummeting temperatures. The pastoral scenes of the South Western Highway. All reasons that make the Southern Forests – the catch-all for the regions of Pemberton, Manjimup, Northcliffe and Walpole, among others – such an appealing winter destination.
That the region produces some terrific cooler-climate wines doesn’t hurt, either. As wine director of the region’s Truffle Kerfuffle food festival, Rachael Niall (Budburst, manager of the soon-to-open Tiny’s Liquor Emporium) knows some things about the region’s vines and vignerons. Here are five wines she’s looking forward to sharing with others this winter.
Silkwood Estate The Bowers Autumn Riesling 2017
This is such a pretty little thing. Perfumed, with lavender and talc notes, leading to apple, lemon barley and orange blossom. It has a touch of residual sugar but fine lines of acidity make this an elegant riesling.
Hillbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Winemakers know that sauvignon blanc grown in the Southern Forests is highly rated, so it was no surprise to find a bunch of high-scoring sav blancs at a recent (blind) tasting for Truffle Kerfuffle. This Hillbrook sauvignon blanc, made by a one-time Australian Winemaker of the Year, Rob Dilletti, is a pure but alluring wine with elderflower, snow pea and fennel aromas, and a textural citrus palate. (For a more complex sauvignon blanc, seek out the oaked Truffle Hill Fume semillon-sauvignon-blanc blend).
10 Chains Chardonnay 2017
A vibrant modern chardonnay that ticks all the boxes. It shows grapefruit, white peach, quality savoury oak, some grippy phenolics, and mouthwatering acidity. An all-round pleasant wine at a really reasonable price.
Batista Estate Pinot Noir 2012
Bob Peruch of Batista Estate, is a colourful, salt-of-the-earth man who planted many of the first vineyards throughout Manjimup and Pemberton. I took a walk through Bob’s own vineyard last year and was amazed to see how much quartz was scattered throughout, and how quickly the soil profile changed. As well as wine, he gave me some cheese, pork sausage and honey to taste, all of which he had made or harvested from his farm. This is real-deal pinot with loads of depth and structure; flavours of satsuma plum, rhubarb, nutmeg, and hints of Sichuan pepper, minerality and earthiness. Six years of age means it’s right in the sweet spot now for drinking.
Picardy Shiraz 2015
The Pannell family may have raised the bar for Western Australian pinot noir, but don’t pass up their other reds. Taking inspiration from France’s Rhone Valley region, one of the spiritual homes of shiraz, there’s a touch of malbec and viognier in the blend to add lift and complexity, while old oak barrels add fine grain. Treading the line between grace and power, this is a wine I would happily drink with a truffle croque monsieur (should I be so lucky).