The Other Wine Co is where Shaw & Smith let down their hair.
With the highly successful Balhannah-based winery retaining its intense and purist focus on the “classical” end of cool-climate repertoire – Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, all grown in the Adelaide Hills – the establishment of the Other Wine Co as a second-string brand has allowed winemaker Adam Wadewitz a little latitude in terms of variety and wine style, as well as the source of his grapes.
So far, it’s paid off handsomely: last year, the Other Wine Co was victorious in the Hot 100 Wines with its very first vintage of Grenache. The judges found “a gracious tumble of red fruits backed up by some serious oomph, that doesn’t dominate”, and commended the wine for walking a line between “delicacy and power”.
The grapes for the wine are well out-of-zone for Shaw & Smith proper: the fruit comes from 45 year-old vines located on the north-eastern, Blewitt Springs edge of the McLaren Vale region, where the soil profile is sand over ironstone. Wadewitz, who was himself born in the McLaren Vale Hospital, says the region has a very strong claim as one of the best places in Australia to grow Grenache, and as such is a neat fit for the Other Wine Co’s mantra of “wines from the right grape, grown in the right place”.
Grenache can produce wines that span a lengthy continuum of weight and strength, and McLaren Vale offers examples from across the stylistic spectrum. For the Other Wine Co, the governing considerations of style are drinkability and balance.
“We just love the flavours of the grapes – it wasn’t so much about sugar levels, it was more about trying to capture those lovely flavours of young Grenache and trying to transfer those flavours into the bottle,” Wadewitz says.
“As a group, with Michael [Hill-Smith] and Martin [Shaw] and David LeMire, we felt there was an ability to make a wine that was light, crunchy and really drinkable, but that could handle some complexity as well.
“It couldn’t just be about brightness; it needed to have some substance to it, and we think that comes from those nice old Grenache vineyards in McLaren Vale. It’s a wonderful resource and we feel really happy to be doing our bit by making some wine from them.”
The 2016 Grenache has just been released, and Wadewitz says second album syndrome has been avoided by allowing the vintage and the vineyard to dictate the handling.
“We again saw some beautiful characters in the grapes, and we jumped on in when we thought they were ready.”
Wadewitz says the hallmark drinkability is immediately apparent in the 2016 vintage of the Grenache, and says that whereas the 2015 version had a tension – a “savoury edge” – its successor has instantaneous charm.
“It’s another step in the gradual understanding of the vineyard,” he says.
Given the success of the Other Wine Co wines – the second in the suite is a nely textured Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris – and with no inhibition as to the source of fruit except finding top-drawer quality, an expansion of the portfolio would seem inevitable. When quizzed, Wadewitz says the next Other Wine Co wine is unlikely to be made from one of the oh-so-fashionable Italian grape varieties, but he won’t be drawn on what it might be.
“We’re always thinking about what might work next, in terms of what lights our fire and what it might bring to the wine landscape – so watch this space.”
Photos: Jessica Clark