25 September 2023

A spine-tingling dry white

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By John Rozentals.

I’m being given a tasting tour of the Cassegrain winery at Port Macquarie, on the NSW Mid-North Coast, by Alex Cassegrain, who’s gradually taking over winemaking responsibilities under the watchful eye of his father John, who started the business in 1985.

We spend quite a bit of time ‘looking at’ — for that read ‘tasting’ — a barrel sample of 2018 Tumbarumba chardonnay.

Alex Cassegrain … gradually taking over winemaking under the watchful eye of his father John.

It’s made from grapes that originate in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains — decidedly cool country that Alex is sure is the state’s best location for the variety.

After some argument — which includes refilling my tasting glass a couple of times — he convinces me. It’s a fine, elegant, complex dry white that will soon after bottling have lost its obviously oaky edge.

Alex sources his fruit mainly from the cool spine of NSW — the country to the immediate west of the Great Dividing Range, from New England, through Orange, the Hilltops around Young, to the Canberra district and Tumbarumba.

It’s fairly different to the fruit sourcing initially used by John, who at first and by necessity took most of his material from the warm coastal area around Port Macquarie.

Just about midway between Sydney and Brisbane, right on the coastal route of the Pacific Highway, was about the perfect location for a fine restaurant and a cellar door.

But, much to his credit, John also realised that it wasn’t the best location for growing premium wine grapes.

And so it was that Alex and I spent lunch in one of the state’s best restaurants — and also much time ‘looking at’ a chardonnay from Tumbarumba.

Cassegrain website: https://www.cassegrainwines.com.au


Cassegrain 2017 Edition Noir Nebbiolo ($32): The Edition Noir range is really a playground for John and Alex — a label that often indicates a small-range of high-quality fruit and brace winemaking. This Hilltops red is made from the king of Italian red varieties. The wine is complex and shows pronounced tannins. It’s a fine match for a grilled steak, preferable rare or medium-rare and of impeccable quality.

Cassegrain 2018 Seasons Rosé ($22): I loved this wine is the winery restaurant, where is went very well with an appetiser of snails, and I loved drinking at later at home as an aperitif. It’s vibrant, fresh and driven by excellent fruit — a blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon — from the Central ranges and Hilltops Central Ranges, Hilltops. Delicious and of a style we should be drinking lots more of.


Cassegrain 2016 Reserve Fromenteau Chardonnay ($38): The current edition of Cassegrain’s reserve chardonnay comes from Orange and it’s a ripper, a dry white that shows stonefruit-spectrum white-fleshed fruit, winemaker-derived nuttiness and some lovely French oak flavours. It has the style to take some seriously weighty white-meat dishes made from either chicken or pork and served with some cleverly made sauce. Or try it with a spicy mud-crab dish.

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