I’m excited to offer the just-released Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2018. This terrific wine has become one of Canberra district’s most sought after. If you like elegant, top-notch, cool-climate Shiraz, this is for you.
“Someone asked me the other day… ‘who are the next generation of producers who will truly create a legacy in Australian wine, not just those in the avant-garde creating waves now, but making wines and wine styles that will sustain and be part of the fabric of ‘fine wine’ culture in Australia’s future?’ I would put Ravensworth and Bryan Martin firmly in the list. No misses from him. Building a formidable argument to prestige.” Mike Bennie, The Wine Front, May 2017.
“Clonakilla has long been regarded, rightly, as the leading winery in the Canberra region. But in the past few years, Bryan's Ravensworth wines - particularly his more adventurous bottlings - have garnered increasing critical praise, show success and consumer interest, especially among the sommelier wine-bar crowd.” Max Allen, AFR article, May 2017.
Ravensworth was established in 2001 by the Martin family. It’s a tiny affair about 30 minutes north of Canberra in Murrumbatemen, just around the corner from Clonakilla and Eden Road wineries. This area is chilly - well suited to high quality, cool climate wines. The winemaker at Ravensworth is Bryan Martin, right-hand-man and assistant winemaker at none other than the iconic Clonakilla winery. Bryan’s been at Clonakilla since 2004, but still manages to find time to make his own wonderful wines, which until the 2020 vintage he did in a corner of the Clonakilla winery.
“Bryan's becoming a bit of a poster boy in his own right now. And quite right too. I don't think we can go wrong really. Bryan's been an extraordinarily great blessing to our business." Tim Kirk owner/winemaker of Clonakilla in Max Allen’s AFR article, May 2017.
Bryan has wine science and viticulture degrees from Charles Sturt Uni and is also an ex-chef (hence the cool foodie labels). Food and cooking still play major roles in his life, as he explains: “I cook more than most people, and I’m always trying different things, new techniques. It’s the same with winemaking. Drinkability is uppermost.”
In style, Ravensworth wines tend to be a little softer, more youthful and approachable than Clonakilla.
“Not surprisingly, the Ravensworth style has a lot in common with Clonakilla - the wines are aromatic, light-to-medium-bodied, soft of tannin and modest in alcohol. They are beautiful, seductive wines that emphasise fragrance and texture,” Huon Hooke.
Ravensworth has received many accolades over the years, including top wine at the Canberra and Region Wine Show, champion wine at the NSW Small Winemakers Show and top wine at the 2012 Canberra International Riesling Challenge. Halliday rates the winery 5 stars and Bryan was nominated for Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year in 2013.
Ravensworth makes a range of wines from their own estate-grown fruit, as well as several other wines with fruit from top growers in the Canberra, Tumbarumba, Hilltops and Gundagai districts.
The Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier blend is in the same vein as those from the famous northern Rhône appellation of Côte Rôtie. Here, a small addition of the perfumed white variety Viognier is included in their red wines, adding a touch of elegance, and subtle aromatic and floral characters.
I had a chat to Bryan last week and he described the 2018 vintage as warmer than the previous. It was an easier year, with good conditions and no problems. The more I speak with Bryan the more I realise how understated he is. Halliday rated the 2018 vintage for reds in the Canberra District as 9 out of 10. Bryan told me that he’s happy with the way the wine has turned out.
The fruit was handpicked from 20-year-old vines in a “wild looking” 2.5 acre organic estate-vineyard. The Shiraz (95%) and Viognier (5%) were fermented together in a series of 1 tonne fermenters. Vessels of this size are tiny by winemaking standards, real small-batch stuff, and means everything can be done by hand. This allows a level of gentleness and attention to detail that you just don’t get using larger tanks.
Bryan finally built a winery of his own just in time for vintage this year, but back in 2018 he was still making wine in a corner of the Clonakilla winery. Naturally occurring yeasts were used for the ferment and none of the additions that many wineries traditionally rely on, were used (eg. Diammonium Phosphate to help feed hungry yeasts). Bryan’s fastidiousness and his keeping the winery spotless, plays a great role in minimising potential problems. After ferment, the wine was left soaking ‘on skins’ for another 3-4 weeks, to ensure optimal extraction of colour, flavour and tannin. The soggy grapes and skins were then pressed, but gently enough to ensure the seeds were not crushed - a potential source of bitterness in wines. The wine was then transferred to barrels (ex-Clonakilla), the first 12 months of which were in old puncheon (500L). The second 12 months were in two old big (2,000L and 3,000L) foudres with the overall aim to not impart too much oak influence. This is only the second vintage with a longer, two-year maturation, and the wine seems to have benefitted greatly from it. Bryan told me the wine is minimally sulphured when transferred between the barrels at the 12 month mark, rather than at bottling which is when most winemakers do it. He reckons doing it this way disturbs the wine less. After maturation the wine is bottled straight from barrel, with no filtering or fining.
While this ‘less is more’ low intervention approach might seem simple, it’s only the best winemakers who make it seem so.
As you would expect from the warmer conditions, the wine is riper, more generous and more tannic than the previous vintage, but remember, this is in the context of a cool climate wine. It’s definitely no Barossa beef-cake. There’s plenty of bright, clean acidity, as well as delicious red and dark fruits. You also find a lovely floral character and plenty of spice. Despite the warmer conditions, the wine has the same alcohol content as the previous vintage, 13.5% and is sealed with a screwcap. A little closed at the moment, but it will sing with a few years in the cellar.
“An amazing year, super concentrated, loads of spice and red fruit. If you’ve followed this wine before, it’s on point and showing a restraint that’ll see it cellar for years.” Winemaker’s notes.
“Such a good wine here. Has that feel of pedigree - lots packed into a small space, fine chomp of tannins, raises on fresh acidity, regional flavours of blueberry, pepper and herbs. Fragrant as all get out too. It’s just that little bit skittish at present, feeling like it would benefit from time in decanter or cellar. Still, the fruit sings here and gee whiz it’s lovely.” 94 points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Front.
No other reviews yet. But with a limited release wine of this quality, when the reviews are published (and they will be glowing), this will have long sold out. Given the limit on supply - the vineyard is only 2.5 acres, that’s going to happen quite quickly.
Also, the devastating fires earlier this year resulted in Bryan losing 100% of his fruit this vintage to smoke taint.
This is around a third of the price of the Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. Incredible value.
I can offer it for $37 a bottle (less than last year). Order here