Wine | Passion for cool-climate winemaking | John Lewis

GREAT PASSION: Chief winemaker Ben Haines in the “very special” Mount Langi Ghiran vineyard.
GREAT PASSION: Chief winemaker Ben Haines in the “very special” Mount Langi Ghiran vineyard.

MOUNT Langi Ghiran – the name’s a tongue twister, but the new wines I have just tasted from this western Victorian Grampians Region brand are balm to the taste buds.

The name means “home of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo” in local Aboriginal dialect and the vineyard was established in 1963 by three Grampians area concreters, brothers Don, Gino and Sergio Fratin.

The Fratins sold in the 1980s to Trevor Mast, whose skills rocketed the brand to international fame and in 1996 saw Trevor named world winemaker of the year by US wine guru Robert Parker. 

Sadly Trevor died in 2013 at 63 after a five-year battle with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2002 he had sold Langi Ghiran to the Rathbone Wine Group, owner of Margaret River's Xanadu and Yarra Valley's Yarrabank and Yering Station brands and headed by Doug Rathbone, founder of the international Nufarm agricultural chemical giant.

Langi Ghiran gets a top five red stars rating in James Halliday’s Wine Companion and since the 2015 vintage chief winemaker Ben Haines has been in charge. Four of the five new-release wines I recently tasted are from Ben’s inaugural vintage. The five are the $30 Mount Langi Ghiran 2015 Cliff Edge Shiraz and 2015 Cliff Edge Cabernet Sauvignon and $20 2015 Cliff Edge Riesling and the $18 2015 Billi Billi Shiraz and 2016 Billi Billi Pinot Gris. 

Cliff Edge reds come from vines up to 50 years old on the slopes of an isolated granite mountain at an altitude of 350 metres-plus above sea level and with a mean January temperature of a chill 18.1 degrees.

Ben Haines grew up in country Victoria and developed an interest in winegrowing from walking through vineyards to school.

His post-school launch into a wine career took him to South Australia, Tasmania, Europe and the US before returning to Victoria to work from 2006 to 2010 as senior winemaker at Mitchelton in Central Victoria’s Nagambie Lakes area – a post that fostered a great love of Rhone-styles and varieties.

In 2008 he was The Wine Society’s Young Winemaker of the Year and now at Mount Langi Ghiran he has “boundless artistic opportunity” allowing him to exercise a passion for cool-climate winemaking, especially with shiraz.

“The feeling this place gives is indescribable,” he says, “you simply cannot deny the heritage and the sheer beauty and energy of this very special vineyard.

“There is so much to acknowledge of the past here at Langi – the more you dig, the more you find.”

WINE REVIEWS

CABSAV GRABS ATTENTION

SHIRAZ is Langi Ghiran’s showcase variety, but this Mount Langi Ghiran 2015 Cliff Edge Cabernet Sauvignon demands attention with its 13.9 per cent alcohol, garnet hues, briar scents and vibrant blackberry front-palate flavour. Bramble jelly, spice, herb and mocha oak integrate on the middle palate and the finish has minty tannins. PRICE: $30. DRINK WITH: cherry-glazed roast duck. AGEING: 12 years.

RATING: 5 stars

GREAT-VALUE BILLI BILLI

THE great-value Mount Langi Ghiran 2015 Billi Billi Shiraz comes from a brand based on Langi Ghiran and bought-in Grampians fruit. The wine has 14.5 per cent alcohol, purple hues and spicy blackcurrant on the front palate. The middle palate introduces Morello cherry, mint chocolate, capers and mocha oak and peppery tannins play at the finish. PRICE: $18. DRINK WITH: lamb kebabs. AGEING: four years.

RATING: 4.5 stars

COOL-CLIMATE ELEGANCE

FROM 50-year-old very cool climate vines, this Mount Langi Ghiran 2015 Cliff Edge Riesling has a mere 9.5 per cent alcohol, is green-tinted straw in the glass and has honeysuckle scents and elegant lime front-palate flavour. Lemon curd, apple peel and gunmetal character feature on the middle palate and slatey acid refreshes at the finish. PRICE: $20. DRINK WITH: seafood marinere. AGEING: 10 years.

RATING: 4.5 stars