Climate change touches the forefront of many areas including viticulture. There are thousands of wine grape varieties around the world yet just eleven (Cabernet-Sauvignon, Chasselas, Chardonnay, Grenache, Merlot, Monastrell or Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Ugni Blanc) are responsible for more than a third of global production. These varieties make up 64 to 87% of production in more prominent winegrowing countries such as Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States.
I did find one grape not on this list grown in South Australia that is included in a Paxton Wines blend I tasted for this month’s World Wine Travel theme: the white wines of South Australia. This is part of our 2022 exploration of Australia and New Zealand. See my invitation post for more information about the topic.
Heading to McLaren Vale
Wine geeks know of the philosophy that argues truly great wines are made in the vineyard. Spending time with terroir gurus like Kees van Leeuwen convinced me, and Paxton Wines believes this too. They hold the concept of terroir close.
David Paxton in South Australia’s McLaren Vale region is one of Australia’s most venerable viticulturists, with over 30 years of growing and managing wine grapes. He originally grew almonds, then switched to grapes. Then, in 1979, he eventually established his own label.
He farmed biodynamically then obtained the certification in 2011 using biodynamics on their roughly 140 hectares (345 acres) as a tool to grow the best grapes he can. In fact, this family-owned and operated winery is one of McLaren Vale’s pioneering biodynamic producers.
Biodynamics With A Contemporary Approach
Devoted to biodynamics and having a connection to the land, Paxton describes biodynamics as “the most advanced form of organic farming”. He utilizes many biodynamic preparations including 500 and 501 packed into cow horns, casuarina, yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, dandelion, oak bark and valerian. For those interested to know more, click here.
Another item Paxton added to their property are bee hives, not for the grape vines as they are self-pollinating, but for plants and other insects. When bees are present, the ecological environment thrives as bees pollinate flowers of plants, which attract other bugs. This process fosters biodiversity, adding to his farm’s ability to be self-sustaining. Simply put, honeybees are vital for maintaining natural balance in the world.
Interestingly, Paxton calls his approach to managing his vineyards ‘back to the future’.
“It involves combining traditional, hands-on management, integrated and complimented with modern technology. We choose to propagate vines from old pre-clonal selection vineyards to benefit from stock with a history of low-yield and high quality… The ultimate result, I hope, is a range of wines that highlight the individuality of the vineyard, vintage and the actions of the people who are the temporary custodians of the land.” Paxton website
Paxton Wines The Guesser White, McLaren Vale 2016 (16€ in FR)
Hunting around Bordeaux, I found a dozen wines from larger, well known Australian producers. While I like all wine, I’m hooked on searching for the less known. La Cave du Capucins definitely falls into that category as far as Bordeaux wine shops go!
Asking proprietor Gilbert about South Australian whites, he grabbed one bottle from his back room. Not knowing about Paxton or this wine, I paused at the vintage yet was assured the wine would be fine. Indeed, it was.
Pale straw in color, this vintage is a field blend from the Thomas Block vineyard of mostly Pinot Gris with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. (The blend was changed annually as the Paxton folk pick the varieties that show the brightest fruit driven characters.)
A prominent first aroma was petrol, sometimes referred to as diesel or kerosine. Being a petrol head, I didn’t mind a bit, yet it is off-putting to some. It’s an aroma compound referred to as TDN attributed to 1) grape exposure to sun, 2) age, 3) a screwcap closure (cork and synthetic closures are found to ‘lose’ more TDN than screw closures, or 4) storage. Commonly found in Riesling and Chardonnay, other grapes can have it too yet in amounts harder to detect.
After swirling and time, this lessened showcasing ginger, tropical fruits and quince. The palate is a thrust of flavors, a juicy mix of grapefruit, lemon, pear, and a saline minerality. Soft and mouth-coating, yet the broad, persistent acidity lifts it before the finish tapers generously, showcasing the saline mineral aspect.
I paired this with a Thai vegetable curry dish and Polenta with arugula, Buratta and pesto. Both pairings worked nicely.
About Thomas Block Field Blend Vineyard
Thomas Block is an 80 acre vineyard block with seven varieties grown: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Graciano, Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The site where Thomas Block sits is one of the coolest in McLaren Vale and produces fruit of exceptional balance and flavor. The flagship EJ Shiraz block sits in the back left corner of Thomas Block; both were planted in the late 1800’s. Thomas Block is one of the oldest surviving vineyards in McLaren Vale and still on original rootstock.
Paxton stopped making The Guesser White after the 2018 vintage, deciding to focus on a 100% Pinot Gris. Turns out Sauvignon Blanc is better suited to Adelaide Hills where it is a few degrees cooler. Happy to have tasted it, I now look forward to trying their Pinot Gris.
World Wine Travel Group Talks South Australian White Wines
I invite you to enjoy other articles related to this month’s topic from my fellow #WorldWineTravel bloggers’ articles below.
Crushed Grape Chronicles (Robin) discusses “Jim Barry Wines – 3 Generations making Clare Valley Riesling”
A Day In The Life On The Farm (Wendy) pairs “South Australian Chardonnay with Pesto Bruschetta Chicken”
Culinary Adventures with Camilla (Camilla) shares “Asparagus-Leek Velouté + Naturalis Sauvignon Blanc 2020”
Enofylz Wine Blog (Martin) digs into “Pewsey Vale – Eden Valley’s Original Riesling Monopole”
AdVINEtures (Chris & Allison) is exploring “South Australia Riesling”
My Full Wine Glass (Linda) discusses “Eden Valley Dry Riesling? Cool!”
Wine Predator ….. Gwendolyn Alley shares “Eight at the Gate: Sustainable Chardonnay In Wrattonbully, South Australia”
Savor the Harvest (Lynn) discusses “Paxton Wines – Biodynamic Pioneer in South Australia”
Food Wine Click! (Jeff) shares “Eden Valley Shines Among South Australia Whites“
Wineivore (Deanna) shares “Brash Higgins Zibbibo Nautral Wine + Sashimi Plate”
Our Good Life (Terri) tells us about “Tait Family Wines and a Family Tradition Meal”
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