By Christine Salins.
The Heathcote region in central Victoria belongs to the Dja Dja Wurrung people, and with this week being National Reconciliation Week, it seems appropriate to share their story of how the region acquired the special soil that produces Heathcote’s rich and intoxicating wines.
The Dja Dja Wurrung believe the dark red, mineral-rich soil was created in a feud between two volcanoes, and if you look at the story told by Justice B Nelson on the De Bortoli website, you’ll see a wonderful Aboriginal painting of how it came to be.
De Bortoli has drawn on these ancient, dry soils to produce its Woodfired range, an outstanding collection that dovetails beautifully with the resurgence of woodfired oven and charcoal cooking. The big, brooding wines go perfectly with a chargrilled ribeye or the hearty winter dishes that we are turning to right now.
The Heathcote Shiraz, Heathcote Cabernet Sauvignon, and Heathcote Sparkling Shiraz have been hugely successful on the global wine circuit. The Shiraz has won nearly 50 awards since its launch in 2015, the Sparkling Shiraz nearly 20 since its introduction in 2017, and the Cabernet Sauvignon 26 since 2018.
Now, a Heathcote Grenache has been added to the range, playing to the growing demand for Grenache in Australia.
Chief winemaker Steve Webber has been making wines for almost half a century and has a special love of the Heathcote region, where the unique soils produce inky-coloured, deeply complex wines with intense flavours.
He likes to describe the flavours as five spice – a blend of fennel, star anise, Sichuan pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. The palate, he says, has a particular grittiness, a result of both the fruit and the special tannin structure. “You can even find the faintest suggestion of vintage port aromas and background notes of violets.”
Fourth-generation winemaker, Kate Webber, loves the way the wines offer a true sense of place, the Grenache producing a soft mouth-coating that is authentically Heathcote. “These wines are big, bold and go really well with charcoal flavours from the barbecue,” she says. “I really love (the Grenache) because it is soft, round and plush.”
Woodfired Heathcote 2021 Grenache, $22: Despite its hints of violet, this is no shrinking violet, with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 14.5%, an intense red/purple colour, and vibrant blueberry, blackberry, and dark cherry notes. It’s already drinking beautifully but will gain complexity if you put it away for a couple of years.
Woodfired Heathcote 2019 Shiraz, $22: Rich and plush, this is a rich and savoury Shiraz with hints of spice and dark chocolate. We enjoyed it with rissoles and vegetables in cumin-spiced yoghurt, but it would also pair nicely with charcoal grilled lamb cutlets.
Woodfired Heathcote 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, $22: Dark purplish red in colour, with a soft, rich mouthfeel. Blackberry and cinnamon notes with a hint of licorice. Enjoy with woodfired pizza or chargrilled steak.
Woodfired Heathcote Sparkling Shiraz, $22: All power to this intriguing sparkling which has won a slew of awards including a trophy at the 2021 Sydney Royal Wine Show. With fine crimson bubbles and enticing chocolate/cinnamon aromas, it has sweet plummy notes and a smooth, velvety finish.