Oxenbury: The Amphitheatre

The Vineyard
Harvesting 2013 shiraz

At the end of the Everton Ridgeline, a turn in the line of hills creates a natural north facing amphitheatre.   It is a little, dry, sun-blessed bowl.   [Altitude 300m]

Typical of our vineyard sites, the "stuff where the soil should be" is a hillside of broken-up slate.  The section where we grow the white varieties has frequent granite rocks; finger-, fist- and foot- sized, not boulders.  I'm sure the granite has an impact on minerality and elegance, but the slate produces the steely backbone in these wines, both white and red.  Added to that, the slate is very free draining.  Water never hangs around and the vines produce a meagre crop of densely-flavoured grapes. [4 tonnes/Ha is a good year].

We grow several varieties that thrive in theses conditions: Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise which make up the red wine, and  Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier for the white.  The selection of a range of clones sourced from Yalumba, Chateau Beaucastel, Best's and many of the well tested, well known clones is aimed at increasing complexity and elegance at the same time.

Beechworth has a climate and situation that naturally produces elegant, yet complex wines.   Our own vineyards due to the topography and especially the slate hillsides we farm, produce wines of concentration and structure.   Our goal in the vineyard and the cellar is to enhance the best characteristics of both to make elegant yet powerful wines which have their own character.

Especially in the Amphitheatre, the finished wines don't necessarily taste like three or four different varieties.   The varieties are selected and blended to compliment each other.  The wine should be complex and complete.  The wine should be better than the sum of its individual parts.

Current Releases

Oxenbury "the Amphitheatre" Red wine 2013.

Young Grenache, great Autumn colour

Shiraz (55%), Grenache (30%), Mourvedre, Counoise, Durif, Viognier (<5 comment-5--="">
The driving force behind this wine is the character of the 2013 Shiraz.  A hot January "intensified" the crop.  
In such years our Shiraz produces leathery/beef stock/coffee scented wines of strong structure.  Certainly the Grenache in particular adds lift and suppleness, and the Counoise adds fragrance and spice, but these are seasonings.    The overall style of this vintage is reserved in flavour, savoury and firmly structured. 
Like many of the warmer year wines, I find this wine quite dense.  Grenache adds a fruity note to the aroma and there is a touch of oak, but the solid, honest, power on the mid-palate marks it out as a serious wine. 
All our wines have tannins and so are suitable for rich food as well as ageing.
Typical 2013 grapes: small. intense, tannic
Normally I like medium weight dishes with the Amphitheatre red, but with the 2013 vintage, I would suggest slow braises and even cassoulet.   The big-year tannins will cope with fatty roast duck, or duck-fat-fried potatoes.  Even a good Scotch fillet steak would be the right match.

Price: $26/bottle   Order our wines here

Oxenbury "the Amphitheatre" White wine 2014.

Marsanne in the Amphitheatre

The 2014 vintage was a lovely season: warm and dry, but no excessive heatwaves.   Cool nights were common throughout the season.  All the wines all have freshness and vitality.
The aim of our Amphitheatre white wine is to create a complex wine.  In our climate, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier  are varieties which are capable of producing wines of great flavour; our job is to retain as much structure and elegance as Beechworth naturally provides to craft a full-bodied but elegant wine: balance, structure and complexity are the key.

I hesitate to describe what each single variety adds to the wine, because the product is greater than the sum of its individual parts.  In fact, we aim for a complex and harmonious wine.
Nevertheless, the individual varieties and the vineyard and winemaking techniques all contribute.

Marsanne in our vineyard produces a relatively tight wine which gives the Amphitheatre its underlying structure.
Viognier - a great variety, currently much maligned in the press and trade because we in the wine industry have abused it in the vineyard, the winery and the marketplace.  Viognier naturally has an exuberance of flavour, but also it has plenty of 'volume' or perhaps 'roundness'.   We pick the Viognier as soon as we see the the flavour burst through.  In fact, this is the most stressful week: tasting viognier grapes twice a day and judging when to pick.   For this wine, we want scent, not sweat.  [For our other white: Cow Hill Viognier Extra, we want a bit more juiciness, a bit more flavour, a bit more friendliness, so we pick it a touch later.]
Roussanne adds characters that I find hard to put into words.  It has an elusive aroma like stone fruit, but it's hard to put your finger on in.  It seems to add texture to the wine: velvety? buttery? as well as structure: fleshiness? fat?  I really don't know what it does, and yet I can recognise it.
Add in a touch off new oak ferment, a touch of lees stirring, a little barrel maturation.....

The finished wine is gently perfumed: florals, spices, stonefruit and the complexing factors of oak, nuts and creamy yeast.   On the palate it is full-ish and structured.  For those unused to these varieties, this wine has lower acid than typical chardonnay, riesling or sauvignon blanc, so tastes less tart and slightly richer.  It is those layers of complexity that I find interesting.   The fruity, ripe stonefruit / pear flavours linger, but the palate has a firm dry finishing structure.

I think this wine achieves our goal of making an elegant, complex, balanced and interesting wine.  We had a good vintage to do it, but to date, this wine gives me the most satisfaction.

Price: $26/bottle.   Order our wines here


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