Freeman Nebbiolo review
Freeman Vineyards nebbiolo 2010 "Altura Vineyard" Hilltops, NSW.
The Hilltops region is near Young in NSW, slightly North of the Murrumbateman region, and once famous for cherries. I went to school with some guys from Young and when we were looking for a wine region to settle in, we looked at Hilltops (as well as several others). At that point, I caught up with an old school friend whose family had been Young cherry farmers. My only fond memory of boarding school was when his family sent a crate of cherries in the mail at the beginning of the season. It didn't matter how many kids wanted some cherries, there was always more than enough for everyone. Perversely, my friend had found his way into the wine industry in Young, while his dad refused to diversify and refused to let him plant vines on acreage where unwanted cherry trees were being pulled out. The quote I remember in about 1998 was (with respect to cherries being the first stone fruit to ripen) "the only fruit on the supermarket shelves at Christmas is cherries. You can never go broke." My mate's dad ended up with nothing but land to sell, and thousands of fruit farmers developed earlier ripening varieties, developed transport to ship tropical fruits to the cities and developed refrigeration and controlled atmosphere storage to make fruit available at Christmas. Funnily enough, now wine is seen as indespensible at Christmas, and cherries as a novelty. Anyway, move forward a dozen years:
I quite enjoyed this wine. It's address is listed on the bottle as Prunevale Rd, Prunevale, which of course leads you to characterise the fruit quality as prune-like. It's a much earthier style of nebbiolo with the aromas of tar (and Prune) emerging after it has been open a while. Like all good nebbiolo wines, it has flavour intertwined with the lingering tannin after taste. In fact, I guess this wine has more flavour and more accessible tannins than many young nebbiolo wines, and I think that whole package shows that it comes from NSW: even Hilltops is a warmer-wine-style area than most of Victoria and the Adelaide Hills. It doesn't have the nerve and edge of flavour of Oxenbury Vineyard nebbiolo, nor the brightness of Arrivo (Adelaide Hills) but it has a rustic charm. (It is also slightly cheaper than many Australian nebbiolo wines: $35 cellar door). If you're interested in nebbiolo you need to have this in your cellar: both to drink with goat osso bucco and to show the uninitiated an accessible style if nebbiolo. And if you're not into nebbiolo, buy this one for a good example of flavoursome wine, and then buy the Oxenbury for purity. It occurs to me that some of these wine styles rely more on fruit-derived characteristics than a solid whack of oak. Nebbiolo is possibly the most clear case of this: it is complex on the palate in its own right and doesn't need the assertive layer of oak. Perhaps that is why a wine like this: a warmer, more giving style of nebbiolo might ease people into the other less modern nebbiolo wines which a nebbiolo aficionado might like.
I have also liked the Freeman "Secco" rondinella/corvina 2009: a great Italian wine style represented here in a really flavoursome way: medium bodied and flavoursome with both fruit and bitter herbs.
And the Freeman tempranillo 2012: an oaky, modern, bright fruited style of tempranillo which shows why this variety belongs alongside sangiovese as as the two grape varieties which should dominate the general red wine market. So accessible in flavour and such great structure for either friendly, interesting or premium styles.
All their wines are from the Hilltops region in NSW (near Young) and can be found at http://www.freemanvineyards.com.au