Charlie Seppelt looks back at the run up to the 2020 vintage, with its low points of very low winter and spring rainfall, strong winds in November during peak flowering, extreme heat in December, and luscious rainfall in January. He says ‘Remarkably the weather turned mild from then. You could sense a breath taken by the vines as they settled back into their job and beautiful results came.’
All of which helps explain why he and partner Skye Salter should exult when in this (2021) vintage they finally cracked just over 900 dozen, twice that of their first vintage, enough for their beloved dog to live on, but little more left over. For they have serious daytime jobs, he as senior winemaker within the Randall Wine Group, based mainly in McLaren Vale, she winemaker for Willunga 100 Wines. Moreover, when they established Paralian in 2018, they had accumulated 48 vintages between them, including Burgundy.
The last served to underline why they chose Blewitt Springs as the place they wanted to make their own, and make grenache (and shiraz) with the high fragrance and brightness of pinot noir. It may also have been the genesis of their only move out of McLaren Vale, to the Adelaide Hills for chardonnay. Tragically, that vineyard succumbed to the 2019 fires in the Adelaide Hills, but will return with the 2021 vintage.
Once you have moved up to Charlie’s level of winemaking, much of the time you are sitting in front of a computer entering or extracting information for hours on end. it’s at the opposite end of the universe to jumping into the small, open fermenter of the Marmont Grenache to squeeze the bunches by hand. In the early years of Brokenwood and Coldstream Hills I did my fair share of skinny-dipping to tread on bunches, but never by hand.
It seems to be a win-win outcome for large producers to allow one of their winemakers to quietly make small quantities of their own wines, but it’s far from common.
2020 Paralian Springs Hill Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz
Hand-picked, 22.5% whole bunch foot trod, remainder destemmed on top; 5-day cold soak; 13 days on skins; matured 10 months in used French oak. Fragrant, spicy, red and black fruit aromas (cherry/berry), the fresh, medium-bodied palate bursting with vibrant berry fruits. 160 dozen.
96 points, drink to 2035, 14% alc, Screwcap, $42
2020 Paralian Marmont Vineyard McLaren Vale Grenache
Hand-picked, 22% whole bunch, chilled destemmed whole berry; 17 days on skins; whole bunches squeezed by hand; matured in used French puncheons for 10 months. Clear crimson; a floral bouquet promises exotic spices, bright raspberry to the fore on the palate, a hint of savoury/plum on the finish. 180 dozen.
96 points, drink to 2030, 14% alc, Screwcap, $42
2020 Paralian Wines Blewitt Springs McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz
A 62/38% blend of the most juicy barrels works counter intuitively in bringing more savoury notes to the structure, although the wine is still very much part of the family of cherry, plum and raspberry fruits. Oh, so easy to drink. 130 dozen.
95 points, drink to 2033, 14% alc, Screwcap, $36