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Bottle And Glass
Red Wine, Bottle Shops, Australian Wine
This time last year I wrote about the first release from an exciting new winery, Between Five Bells. At the time, its only wine was being poured at all three 2012 Good Food Guide wine award winners.
This year, there are three wines from Between Five Bells, and they feature on the winelists of the 2013 Good Food Guide award winners, announced in Sydney this week.
• Best Wine List: Ash Street Cellar (Ivy)
• Best Sommelier: Rodney Setter (Sepia Restaurant)
• Best Short Wine List: Spice Temple (Neil Perry)
(well strictly speaking it’s not at Spice Temple, but it is upstairs at Rockpool Bar & Grill…)
Between Five Bells is the work of David Fesq. The Fesq family is well known in the Sydney wine scene, having been importing and distributing since 1848. I see David around the traps and he’s a very focused and knowledgeable wine man, albeit a little obsessed. Understandable I guess.
Gems like these are snaffled up by canny restaurants very quickly. How’s this for a roll call? Aria, Quay, Sepia, Bentley, Chiswick, Otto, China Doll, Ivy, Love Tilly Devine, 4Fourteen, Bloodwood, Rockpool Bar & Grill and more, with a similar uptake in Melbourne and Brisbane. This means there’s little, if any, available for retail. Fortunately, I’ve managed to secure a small allocation.
The name Between Five Bells is taken from Kenneth Slessor’s famous poem ‘Five Bells,’ written in the late 1930’s. The poem struck a chord with David – to him, its description of something intangible summed up the nature of wine. Also, I don’t normally draw attention to labels, but this one is interesting. Nicholas Felton has continued with the extraordinary designs he created last year, producing new labels for this release. What appears at first glance to be an attractive graphic, is actually a compilation of various data about the wine, on several axes, appealing to wine and design geeks alike.
What I like about these wines though, is the simplicity of their creation. David likes to describe his process as “pure, untampered winemaking.” I’d call him a pragmatic naturalist. His goal is to make his wines as naturally as possible, however he’ll intervene if necessary. Sounds sensible to me. He sources his fruit from two excellent vineyards (one biodynamic, one ‘organicy’) in Geelong and he makes his wine using natural yeasts, minimal sulphur and minimal handling. The wines retain a genuine sense of place and of being handcrafted using traditional techniques.
The response from the industry for such an under-the-radar producer has been incredible. There is a genuine buzz around this venture, grab some before it all goes.
Between Five Bells 2011 White Wine
This is the first release of this wine and it’s made from an interesting and rather unusual blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier, which is a red variety traditionally used in the production of Champagne. I can safely say I’ve never had such an eclectic blend and wasn’t sure what to expect, but it does work, and well.
Natural winemaking is all about ‘less is more.’ The fruit was pretty much left on its own and the natural yeasts did their stuff. The ferment was given extended solids contact and the wine went through malolactic fermentation in old oak. This is the conversion of malic acid (think acid in apples), to lactic acid (found in milk). The result is a softening of acidity and rich dairy or butterscotch characters.
The four grape varieties were used in approximately equal quantities, each adding to the complexity and character of the finished blend. The Chardonnay lends rich malo characters on the nose and, with the Pinot Meunier, gives weight and texture on the palate, while the Riesling provides high-acid structure with zingy sherbet notes. The Pinot Gris lends a Euro-earthiness and complexity on the nose and a Chablis-like oxidative, grippyness. There’s butterscotch, dried apricots, citrus and a satisfyingly dry finish. The wine is light, yet rich and each mouthful reveals something different. This is an interesting, well-balanced and drinkable wine.
The winemaker describes it as “powerful, rich and extremely bright. Dry, aromatic, taut and interesting.”
You’ll find it at Aria Restaurant for $15 a glass or $70 a bottle.
I can offer it for $33 a bottle.
Between Five Bells 2011 Red Wine
Like the white, the red is a blend of four components. Shiraz is the dominant player, with small amounts of Mouvédre, Grenache and – wait for it – a small amount of the Five Bells White (much like Rhône winemakers finesse their Shiraz with Viognier). The winemaking process was of course non-interventionist, using natural yeasts and foot pressing – an experience David described as quite pleasant as the ferment warmed up. The wine was then bottled unfiltered and unfined.
Swirling this in my glass, I thought it was going to be all about cool-climate leaness. It’s a light, bright red colour and there’s plenty of spice and stalkiness on the nose. In the mouth though, there’s an unexpected and welcome weight and mouthfeel. I tasted flavours of currant, cranberry, raspberry and musk with smoke and peppery spice. The firm but super- fine tannins give this smooth and gentle wine a pleasingly dry finish. Like the white it’s just so drinkable.
I’d agree with the winemaker when he describes it as “gentle, medium-bodied, bright and delicious.”
You’ll find it at Sepia Restaurant for $79 a bottle.
I can offer it for $33 a bottle.
If you would like to order please contact me at
phone: (02) 9371 2904.
My conditions of sale are:
Minimum of 6 bottles as total purchase.
Freight for metro Sydney is a $6 flat rate for any amount of wine greater than the required 6 bottle minimum.
Other delivery areas we need to speak/email to confirm a price.
I accept Mastercard, Visa, or EFT.
I need to contact you via phone or email to get your credit card details so that I can process the order securely at my end.
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