First taste: Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2017
It’s always a pleasure to receive a sample of Toby and Emmanuelle Bekkers’ ultra-refined wines. This latest sample was particularly keenly received because, I’m a fan of 2017 (a milder year) and I’ll be in McLaren Vale next month, judging at the wine show and visiting with producers. Let the preparation start now!
You’ll find my tasting note on Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2017 below. First, here’s a word or two on vintage, viticulture and winemaking from its makers.
2017 was the latest harvest of recent times – the fruit was harvested on 20th, 21st March and 6th April 2017. We feel that late harvests further enhance the definition between each unique parcel of fruit. The Clarendon parcel is lighter in weight and compliments the more intense Seaview parcels. This distinction in weight is, in Toby’s opinion, influenced as much by elevation and distance from the coast as soil or geology. Parcels elevated and further inland produce later ripening, lighter framed more fragrant wines.
This seventh release of Bekkers Syrah comprises 100% Syrah.
69% comes from two Seaview parcels, located around 4km from the coast, at 102-110m on shallow grey/brown sandy loam over calcrete and base rock soils.
The remaining 31% hails from a single Clarendon parcel, located 14.6km from the coast, at 194-242m on red clay loam over siltstone, clay and gravel.
Each year, we accumulate a better understanding of each vineyard plot and how it behaves under different conditions. Emmanuelle fine tunes our winemaking to suit and has, with confidence gained over recent years, extended our pre-fermentation cold soaking and opted for even cooler, slower natural fermentations combined with significant rack-and-return aeration. Emmanuelle explains ‘This allows more time for gentle extraction and less need for vigorous physical agitation of the ferments. It results in wines of intensity but without unbalanced muscularity. It’s surprising how gently we can handle McLaren Vale fruit and still obtain the generosity of colour, flavour and texture we require.’
15% to 20% whole bunches were added to the fermenter. The remaining fruit was de-stemmed, but not crushed and machine-sorted to remove shrivelled berries. The fruit was cold soaked for 3 to 5 days prior to the beginning of natural fermentation. Pump overs were gentle (with no plunging) to minimise over-extraction of aggressive tannins. The wine was basket pressed to oak after 15 to 20 days in fermenter.
It was aged in a mixture of new (62%) and older (38%) French 0ak 500l puncheons. All the parcels were aged separately on fine lees with minimal sulphur additions, then blended and bottled in November 2018, unfiltered.
Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2017
Deep crimson with intense, rich berry to the nose, on day two opening out to show subtle smoky, charcuterie/cured leather notes and a fleeting hint of mint. In the mouth it reveals enveloping but vivid, pureed blackberry and raspberry fruit, with lightly worn, gently spicy, creamy oak and delicate black olive and fresh turned (sod of) earth and mineral nuances. The fruit retains freshness, even a certain bite, making for lovely persistence and engagement on the palate. The finish is long, fluid and involving, with fine, seamless tannins. Beautifully judged, this Syrah celebrates the fruit, but has the chops to age. I imagine it building in body and depth – developing delicious tertiary, savoury, spicy layers, yet never being heavy. Rather, retaining a spring in its step. 14.5%