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Lowe Family, with Jane Wilson

by Tom Cannavan, 06/09

It has become an annual fixture in my diary now, to have a lunch and tasting in Glasgow with the effervescent Jane Wilson (right), winemaker with Lowe wines of Mudgee, Australia (see also a report from 2003). For seven or eight years in a row Jane has come back to her native Scotland to present a series of wine lunches, dinners and tastings, helping to grow the Scottish distribution of her superb wines, particularly in the restaurant sector where her wines feature on many of the nation's top wine lists.

As well as giving me a chance to taste through some of her latest releases, Jane told me that she had scaled back her very large contract winemaking operation, to concentrate more and more on her estate wines, and indeed to find a little 'work life balance', making time to enjoy some of her other interests, particularly her love of art. "It was the tail wagging the dog," she tells me.

back to nature

Jane's other great passion is ecology, and to that end her vineyards have been certified organic since 2007. She is alreading working biodynamically, and hoping for certification next year, but that has not been without its challenges: "2008 was a hugely wet vintage," she tells me. As we are moving more and more to minimum treatments and sustainability, we were probably a bit naive and didn't spray enough, so we lost a lot of grapes. We could only make one red wine, and we called it the 'Climate Change red'." She has also created a voluntary sustainability standard that she is following along with other local growers, including carbon accounting,

Jane's drive for sustainability is now extending into organic livestock farming, producing high grade pork from old breeds that she currently sells to Sydney restaurants, with one eye to having an organic shop and or restaurant at the winery in the future.

Jane describes 2009 as "Just the perfect vintage," with a wet spring followed by a dry summer and autumn, giving perfect ripeness and acidity (she mever adjusts acidity in her white wines). "I'm so pleased it wasn't a third bad vintage in a row," Jane confesses, "Already a lot of local grape-growing businesses are going to the wall as big companies stop buying."

Lowe Family wines can be purchased in many restaurants around Scotland and from their UK importer l'Art du Vin, via their website at www.aduv.co.uk.

the wines

Lowe Tinja Riesling 2008
Typically light, dashing, sherbetty Riesling with waxy lime leaf notes, fabulous, razor sharp palate, fruit and acidity slicing across the tongue. There is some palate-weight here, a prickle of zesty, lime-spiked fruit and a brilliantly long, dazzling finish. Beautiful stuff at only 11.8% ABV. In screwcap. 91/100. £10.30

Lowe Tinja Sauvignon Blanc 2008
This year the screwcapped Tinja Sauvignon Blanc has a huge, pungent herbal pea-pod vibrancy - much more so than ususal. The palate has lovely lemony zest and life, with a great dry finish from all natural acidity. Big core of fruit. Fantastic punch and mouth-watering quality. 90/100. £10.30

Lowe Family Merlot 2005
Very fine, cedary finesse, with a deep-set plummy character, quite dense, but subtly fragrant and spicy. Tight and grippy, but not austere: there's a creamy, full-bodied ripeness, but that spine of tannin gives wonderful structure. Good acidity and balance and a harmony into a long finish. 91/100. £13.85

Lowe Family Mudgee Zinfandel 2006
The wine that brought Jane the International Wine Challenge trophy for Zinfandel in 2005, this has a cherry-scented and powerful nose with lots of lifted aromatics and spice from American oak. Some Dundee cake raisin and clove spice. The palate has a juiciness to the fruit, with lots of slightly tart, berry fruit and those dusty Zinfandel tannins. This is a relatively subtle zin, but has all the varietal character. 92/100. £15.10