Shadowfax spin on south of France yields tasty trio

Minnow Roussanne

Shadowfax has made its name this past decade with some of Australia’s most exciting cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, hailing from high-altitude sites in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges.

Those Burgundy varieties find an unusual and hugely satisfying complement with the wines that Al Timms and the team grow on this family-owned estate’s home vineyard in Werribee.

This is where, beginning at the turn of the century, Shadowfax made the far-sighted decision to plant varieties whose traditional home is the south of France.

These include the white grape Roussanne and red varieties such as Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Mondeuse and Mourvèdre.

The range is known as “Minnow”, both a reflection of the grapes’ underdog status and a clever play on “Minervois”, a southern French appellation where these kinds of blends are common.

The red was where it started, with a juicy, spicy rosé following soon after. Then a white followed. With the 2019 red now sold out, we can unveil a new addition to the range: A varietal Carignan.

This spicy, briary, rustic grape is best known in the south of France, but notable plantings also exist in Rioja (where it’s known as Mazuelo) and other parts of Spain (most commonly as Cariñena).

We doubt natives of La Rioja have heard of Werribee, but it’s them that’s missing out. This 2019 is a juicy, fresh, purple-fruited delight.

Get behind the underdog!

2019 Shadowfax Minnow Roussanne $25

Cool-fermented in French hogsheads in the underground cellar. Young Roussanne can be boring but this is the opposite, with a plethora of aromas and flavours in Southern Rhone style. Honeycomb, fig, marzipan and pear are neatly corralled by just-in-time acidity.

95 points. James Halliday’s Top 100, The Australian

2020 Shadowfax Minnow Rosé $25

Squishy strawberry, nutty, toffee apple, a bit of spice. Slippery style, soft acidity, good amount of flavour, slight blood orange tang, almost a thick peel marmalade character, but not really sweet as such, though it is what you might call a comely rosé. A little pith and pepper on the finish, and plenty of interest throughout.

91 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front

2019 Shadowfax Minnow Carignan $25

Carefully hand harvested fruit was picked in the cool of the morning to retain vibrancy. The Carignan fruit was destemmed into small open fermenters, where wild yeast performed their magic. The ferments when lightly hand plunged to extract fine tannins. The wine was then pressed and left to rest in older French hogsheads. The wine was racked then blended and bottled in September 2020.

The nose shows dark blood plum, briary spice, hints of liquorice. Brooding game meats add further intrigue. Black cassis fruits flow onto a round palate. Sappy tannins build through the wine, with a distinct Carignan crunch at the back of the palate. This dark and building wine has presence on the palate that rolls on that thrives with food. – Al Timms, Shadowfax

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