Jasper Hill vineyards (Victoria, Australia)
The Jasper Hill estate in Heathcote, Victoria was the brainchild of food scientist Ron Laughton who was so compelled by the conviction that the severe, iron-rich, elevated, Cambrian clay scrubland that lies 125 kilometres north of Melbourne had terrific viticultural potential that he decided it was worth trying to prove the point. Happily, his unflappable and unfailingly supportive wife Elva indulged him and was prepared to suffer the privations of living on a building site and raising kids in an unorthodox environment in order to enable him to live his dream. Now it is widely recognized as a world-class winery with a strong international following, that all seems perfectly prudent, but there must have been a few sleepless nights in the early days.
Painstaking planting began from scratch in 1975 and Ron and Elva had the added distractions of constructing a winery and family home as well as raising their daughters Emily and Georgia - after whom their two principal parcels of vines are named. Since the outset, all of the grapes grown here have been unirrigated and farmed organically and both Georgia and Emily have taken a keen interest in operations in recent years. Georgia is a talented hotographer who oversees much of the paperwork and administration whilst Emily and her husband Nick are occupied with viticulture and vinification. Emily and Nick live at Georgia's Paddock with their children Ella and Nate.
The principal wine here, in terms of the volume produced, is the 'Georgia's Paddock' Shiraz that hails from a 12 hectare parcel of low-yielding vines. With a deep purple hue, an intense blackcurrant and blueberry bouquet and ripe core of autumnal fruit supported by peppery undertones and supple tannins, it benefits from decanting and can cellar well for 10 to 20 years.
Completing a commendable compendium is Emily and Nick's own label 'Occam's Razor' Shiraz which facilitates an affordable entry to the range and expresses their philosophy of minimal intervention in the vineyard and cellar. Crafted from carefully-sourced Heathcote fruit, it is redolent of damsons and loganberries with delicate mineral streaks and supple tannins.
The age-worthy and sought after 'Emily's Paddock' Shiraz - much prized by sommeliers - comes from a 3 hectare planting of 95% Shiraz augmented by 5% of Cabernet Franc. With a dark plum robe, diverse aromas of hedgerow berries with notes of mint and a powerful palate of black fruit, leather and turned earth, it takes 3-5 years to come into its own and will mature gracefully for 15 to 20+ years.
Since 1999, Jasper Hill has also produced an elegant 'Georgia's Paddock' Nebbiolo that has a rose and wild herb bouquet and poised palate of dark cherries offset by fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins. It makes a perfect partner to roast lamb liberally studded with garlic and rosemary.