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Wines of Brown Brothers, Australia

By Tom cannavan, 05/00

Brown Brothers are a family owned winery based in the King Valley, Australia. Established in the 1880's with plantings of Muscat, Riesling, Shiraz and Mourvèdre, Brown Brothers must now have one of the the most diverse varietal ranges of any winery: no fewer than 45 different varieties are planted, most bottled as single varietal wines.

The slopes farmed by Brown Brothers in the King Valley rise from around 70 metres to over 800 metres and offer a variety of soils and climatic conditions. Vines are planted accordingly with, for example, Pinot Noir and Riesling near the cooler top of the slope, and Spanish varieties like Tempranillo and Graciano nearer the valley floor. That is also where grapes destined for Brown Brother's Noble Riesling are planted. In a similar situation to the Bordeaux region, the Valley sits between two rivers so botrytis is a fairly predictable occurence.

This was a tasting dinner presented by Scottish deli Peckham's, in conjunction with Brown Brothers. After the tasting we enjoyed a few glasses of the wines along with some excellent food in Peckham's restaurant in their Glassford Street store (Glasgow). Retail prices are quoted: £5=$8US approximately.

Sparkling/White

Sparkling Pinot/Chardonnay - £10.99
Brief notes only as this was sipped whilst socialising: very Champagne like with reserved apple and lime flavours and a nice yeastiness. Good mousse and refinement.

Chenin Blanc 1998 - £5.99
Light gold/green. Lovely aromas of fresh apple and grass with some honeyed, floral nuances. Palate is delicious with a little sweetness and lots of ripe pear and juicy apple fruit. Quite lush and very easy to drink, it is long with tangy acidity. Terrific quaffing stuff.

Family Reserve Riesling 1995 - £10.49
Deep, rich gold colour. Really distinctive wax and paraffin nose of developed riesling fruit with lovely lime fruit beneath. The palate is rich and pure, shot through with juicy lime acidity. This is richly-textured and shows a weight and slightly honeyed edge of botrytis fruit, though it is vinified totally dry in style. Excellent.

Semillon 1997 - £7.99
Quite a deep yellow/gold. Lovely nose. Lots of ginger and cinammon with a big, buttery richness all restrained by a little vegetal, straw-like note. The palate has keen citrus fruit and grapefruity acidity, with a touch of oak fleshing-out the finish. Savoury, quite long and really rather good.

Red/Fortified

Tarrango 1999 - £5.99
I last tasted this wine in the '97 vintage, about two years ago. I wasn't really convinced by Tarrango, a cross of Portugal's Touriga Nacional and the humble Sultana grape, but this was a little more impressive. The colour is light cherry and the nose is just brimming with cherry bubblegum (Bazooka Joe?) and confectionery notes. The palate has a pleasantly earthy quality with a silky texture and berry fruit. Decent length and more enjoyable than strange (which was my overriding impression last time). Surprisingly, Brown Brothers biggest seller in the UK and worth trying as a super-charged Beaujolais-style quaffer.

Barbera 1996 - £7.99
My Wine of the Week at time of writing (based on another bottle tasted a few days ago). This confirmed my impressions of a chocolate and crunchy berry concoction with a lovely chewy quality of fruit. Delicious and terrific with barbecues or pizza.

Shiraz 1996 - £8.99
Medium/dark crimson. This has a big, sweet nose of thick blackcurrant with a slick of vanillin oak and a little gamey edge adding some complexity. On the palate it is rich and chocolaty with plenty of bramble fruit, blueberry and balanced tannins and acidity. The finish is quite long and the quality of fruit persists. There's a lot of competition at this level in Australian Shiraz, and though this wine didn't really distinguish itself from that crowd, it is drinking very nicely and should cellar for a couple of years.

Reserve Tawny - £9.49
Brief notes as this again was drunk whilst chatting to others at my table, but this struck me as a nice wine with sweet rum-soaked raisin fruit and a fudginess about the palate. A little bit raw in the finish, but good.