Jasper Hill vineyards (Victoria, Australia)
Former food scientist Ron Laughton decided to quit the rat race and 'live the dream' after recognising the potential of the iron rich Cambrian clay soils at Heathcote 100 kilometers north of Melbourne. He and his wife Elva bought a parcel of vines in 1979 and moved their young family into a caravan whilst they established a dry-grown, organic vineyard. The first vintage was produced in 1982 and was bottled with a 'Lion and Unicorn' label symbolising strength and purity. Ron and Elva's daughter Emily joined the wine-making team in 2001 and she now lives on the vineyard with her husband and children.
'Georgia's Paddock', named after Emily's younger sister (who undertakes the administration and photography), is comprised of 12 hectares of Shiraz, 3 of Riesling and 1 hectare each of Semillon and Nebbiolo. The Riesling has classic kerosene scents and a zesty, whistle-clean, citrus-edged palate underscored by a racy minerality, and makes a terrific foil for spicy Asian cuisine. The Nebbiolo has bags of varietal character with rose and dried herb aromas and a pitchy black fruit palate with a fresh acidity. The 'Georgia's Paddock' Shiraz, the principal wine here in volume terms, has now established itself as an Australian classic which regularly garners positive press. It has a bouquet of dark berries and cherries and a palate brimming with glossy, blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with hints of spice and eucalyptus over a background of ripe tannins. It comes into its own with 5-10 years bottle age.
The family's flagship wine is the 'Emily's Paddock' Shiraz from a 3 hectare plot of old vines. Made from a blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet Franc it typically exhibits a bouquet of pencil shavings, black pepper and blueberries and complex red and black fruit flavours supported by plenty of tannic grip. It is approachable from release but will cellar well for a decade or more.
A fabulous introduction to the Laughton oeuvre is Emily's own bottling of 'Occam's Razor' Shiraz: named after the minimal-interventionist, 13th Century philosopher William of Ockham who maintained that 'What can be done with fewer is done in vain with more.' With a wealth of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit over notes of spices, scorched-earth and a couch of fine tannins, it represents a veritable bargain in this stellar line-up of world class wines.
Ron's longstanding friendship with Michel Chapoutier has spawned a joint venture vineyard planted with a mixture of Hermitage Syrah and Heathcote Shiraz in 1998. The resultant wine is called 'La Pleiade', named after the constellation visible from both hemispheres. It has the signature depth of dark, Heathcote fruit but a discernible French accent with plum and damson flavours and subtle oaky undertones.