Think of New-World countries and see which one strikes first. Chances are you’d land in the country of the Kangaroos, Bundaberg Rum, BBQ shrimps, and Bondi Beach – the Down Under. Australia has a vast variety of wine regions producing practically every wine style possible with their viticultural and vinification expertise. Be it the international grape varieties or their local ones, Rutherglen fortifieds, or the red sparkling Shiraz, they are always approachable and delectable. Although they have a lead on most wine-producing countries for delivering value-for-money wines, what really defines them are their rich and luscious reds (or blends thereof) and their oak-kissed whites, both worthy of long-term ageing.One of the most popular regions of the country is the Margaret River. Located near the old-town city of Perth in Western Australia, it is claimed to be the Bordeaux of the Southern Hemisphere. With identical geographical location, climate, soil composition, and grape varieties, it is poised to make some heavenly reds. Recently we had a chance to welcome a few winemakers from the region and among them was Flametree Winery.
The onus of tending to the wines rests with Cliff Royle who is regarded as one of the most exciting and gifted winemaker of his generation. Cliff’s idea remains to exploit the vineyards to derive the nuances of the Margaret River terroir and infuse it into his wines. He produces wines under two labels: -Embers and Flametree, former being their entry-level sip. They grow Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Zinfandel. They also produce a Shiraz rosé, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir based bubbly, and a late harvest Riesling.On his recent visit to India, Cliff’s wines featured at the International Food & Drinks Expo in Delhi, and at Fava and Caperberry Restaurants in Bengaluru for a Margaret River food and wine promotion.The house is called Flametree because like the flametree (aka Gulmohur in India), which flowers only in years when all climatic factors are ideal (and then the leaves fall leaving only the flowers hanging thereby making it appear as if the tree was on fire), good wine can only be made when similar idealities exist. Also, they have a bunch of them growing around the vineyard but that doesn’t make for an anecdotal story now does it?The wines were well received by the consumers and what became a visual synonym of the house philosophy were the clean white labels with a 3D-like classy red logo of the company made up of three leaves. Wi-Not tasted some of their wines and here are our reviews:2009 Flametree Margaret River ChardonnayCrisp, Flavourful, CharmingClean deep straw robe with no ageing under its belt. Straigh-forward fruit-laden nose with moderately intense aromas and something lactic. Notes of grass (alfalfa, I daresay), vegetal hints, pears, guava, and passion fruit followed by an oily finish with smokey and woody undertones. On the palate the wine is completely dry with more intense tropical fruits and gooseberry notes. The acidity is moderate but refreshing and tart, leaning towards lime, giving the wine a certain bite. As it has spend some time in oak the tannins are quite visible too (remember this is a white wine after all) but are extremely smooth and add character to the wine. Moderate alcohol and body. Can be had as an aperitif or with a lightly smoked chicken preparation, perhaps with a creamy lemon dressing.2009 Flametree Frankland River ShirazVivacious, Fruity, SpicyInky-toned purple hue. Rims are youthful, showing very little signs of ageing. Clean nose with a strong opening punch of oak along with dark cherries, plums, black spices, and earthy undertones. Clean and dry on the palate with intense maturing dusty tannins balanced well with subdued acidity, medium body and alcohol. The palate shows notes of sweet cherries, concentrated plums, leather, ground cinnamon and cloves, finishing with a classy utilisation on elegant oak. The wine age for another couple of years but can be drunk just yet. We recommend decanting it for a while before service. A great wine and an outstanding example of everything we have come to expect of a good “Aussie” Shiraz.Aussies have been making wines for over a century now. They have mastered the art of making hassle-free and straight-forward wines. Not to forget the complex and dynamic Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace, some of the most respected wines from the New World, also come from their rather equipped arsenal. Margaret River wines have a lot to them but are yet to create a strong sense of identity for themselves on Indian shelves. Nevertheless, we at Wi-Not reckon that that day is not far, especially with wineries like Flametree impressing the desi palates with their drops and earning the region its deserved niche.