WAKEFIELD WINES: REMASTERING AUSTRALIA’S CLASSICS
Unusual and alternative varieties might grab the headlines, but it is the much loved classic varieties from Australia that continue to make their mark. Wines that are famous around the world for their exciting, modern and expertly crafted styles.
Mitchell Taylor, third-generation winemaker and managing director of family-owned Wakefield Wines in the Clare Valley, argues that while alternative and more unusual varietals can be alluring (particularly to millennials who are adventurous consumers), these noble classic varieties are stayers for a reason and have undergone an exciting evolution of their own.
“While Australia continues to produce outstanding examples of Shiraz, Cabernet and Chardonnay, we’re witnessing a remastering of these varieties, evolving the style into something more texturally complete across the palate, poised, well-balanced and ultimately more delicious for wine drinkers,” he says.
THE QUEST FOR MIDDLE EARTH
A conversation many years ago with Australian wine writer Huon Hooke inspired Wakefield’s chief winemaker Adam Eggins to embark upon a quest; one he coined ‘the search for Middle Earth’ in winemaking.
Eggins feels the evolution of these classic wines comes from the desire to move away from those ‘big’ wines to ones that are more approachable and balanced. To achieve this, he felt he had to look beyond the collective wisdom of the time and test new approaches and ideas.
“Our journey to ‘Middle Earth’ began with the goal to make wines that were supremely generous in their flavours, aromas and colours, yet still retained a refined and elegant structure We nicknamed this style ‘the ultimate contradiction.’”
This objective is what guides Wakefield’s investments in the winery and vineyards which support the team in ultimately achieving wines with this delicate power and enormous finesse.
As an example of this commitment, in 2004 the winery stopped crushing its fruit, removing the crusher from the processing equipment entirely so that the grapes were only destemmed. White grapes are now whole-berry pressed while reds are just destemmed. For the reds, about 20% of the whole berries enter the fermenter and remain whole until pressing.
“Many told me that the wines wouldn’t taste the same if the fruit wasn’t crushed. They were right; the wines tasted better – more varietal, aromatic and supple,” says Eggins.
In Wakefield’s Clare Valley Shiraz, the style evolution results in luscious, opulent wines of dewy fruit flavours enveloped, but not overpowered, by fine oak and tannin. But achieving that balance was more difficult with Cabernet Sauvignon, which has smaller berry size and amazing tannin potential.
“In great years with long hang time, the Cabernets are some of our finest wines, albeit with powerfully developed tannins,” says Eggins. “The goal with Cabernet Sauvignon is delicacy; finding it every year – that is the challenge. So we chose to be as delicate in our work as we could to massage these powerfully defining tannins.”
TURNING TOWARDS THE FUTURE
Wakefield celebrated a 50-year milestone in 2019, Mitchell Taylor attributes the family’s success to something his father told him many years ago.
“Early on in our wine days, my father told me, ‘Son, we’re not in the wine business, we’re in the fashion business,’ which reaffirmed to me that for our winery to be successful, we’ll need to craft wines that meet the changing tastes of the current market,” says Mitchell.
While great designers evolve over time, retaining the very essence of their founding purpose is what establishes them as a timeless classic. For Wakefield, this is Clare Valley Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
“It’s brought us this far in 50 years, and I am eager to see where it takes us in another 50. But by my estimates, these timeless classics will continue to be close to wine drinker’s hearts for generations to come.”
- Wakefield Estate Chardonnay
- Wakefield Estate Shiraz
- Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon