Forget the Fab Four. Look at this Fab Five.
The Glaetzer family traces its wine heritage in Australia back to the late 1880s, when Glaetzers were among the first to grow grapes in the Barossa Valley. Today, two generations are involved in Glaetzer wines: Colin Glaetzer and his son Ben. Both have achieved stardom in the crowded community of Australian winemakers.
Ben Glaetzer’s name is known to anyone who has even modest familiarity with Australian wine. He’s been making wine for nearly 20 years, and he’s not yet 40. He’s worked in many of the world’s wine regions, but settled back in South Australia, where he and his wines have won a slew of international awards and accolades. Among other things, he’s been Qantas Young Winemaker of the Year and Robert Parker’s “Wine Personality of the Year,” and his wines have won big in major international competitions.
Heartland winery is Ben Glaetzer’s project. It’s located in Langhorne Creek, a cool-climate region of South Australia, about an hour’s drive from Adelaide. Wine grapes have been grown here since the 1860s, and you’ll find cabernet sauvignon vines that were planted in 1891 and shiraz vines almost as old. Most of the region’s wine is red, and all of Heartland’s is. Ben Glaetzer focuses on cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, the signature grapes of the region, but Heartland also draws on newer migrants, such as grenache, malbec, dolcetto, and lagrein.
With Heartland, Ben’s aim is to make “subtle, balanced reds with true lightness of touch.” He says he’s looking for purity of fruit, what he calls “animated fruit.” “Wines have to stay alive. I want the fruit to smell fresh, alive and animated.” He’s also aiming to make more affordable wines without compromising on quality in the process..
You’ll find these qualities in four Heartland wines released in Ontario through Vintages in early 2017 and another available by private order. They’re well priced and I think they show the quality you’d expect to pay a lot more for. You can buy the Vintages wines as long as supplies last, and all five also be ordered (by the case) from the importing agent, The Vine Agency. To order them, contact Alex Gaunt at email@example.com
You can check these and other wines in The Vine Agency’s portfolio at: thevineagency.ca
Heartland ‘Spice Trader’ Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Langhorne Creek, South Australia $17.00 ($204.00/12-bottle case)
[Vintages release: 15 April 2017] There’s full-on fruit in your glass when you pour this, but it’s anything but a mindless fruit-bomb. Here the flavours are rich, ripe, and positive, but well on the virtuous side of the line that separates the drinkable from the undrinkable, the food-friendly from the food-hostile. There really is some spiciness in the flavour profile, which is supported by well-measured acid that gives some edginess to the texture. The tannins are easy-going, and it’s ready to drink as soon as you get it home. I suggest enjoying its freshness in the next year or so.
Heartland Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Langhorne Creek, South Australia $19.95 ($239.40/12-bottle case)
[Vintages release: 1 April 2017] Langhorne Creek is a cool-climate region, and that bodes well for cabernet sauvignon. The first inkling that the place and the variety are an item lies in the aromas, which display not only the ripe fruit but also that herbal note so characteristic of many great cabernets. It’s there on the palate, too, but so subtly that you would never think of it as green – or, if you did, you’d shake your head and dismiss the idea quickly. The fruit here is perfectly ripe, well layered, and underpinned by fresh, clean acidity. The texture is juicy and even a little succulent, while the tannins are slightly drying and well integrated. It’s drinking very well right now and will hold its attractive freshness to the early 2020s.
Heartland ‘Director’s Cut’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Langhorne Creek, South Australia $39.00 ($234/6-bottle case)
[Available only from The Vine Agency] Every now and again you stick your nose in a glass of wine, sniff… then stop dead. It happened with this wine, because the aromas were so dense and intricate that they caught me off-guard -- it’s easy to become a bit blasé when you’re almost through tasting a couple of dozen wines. The question in my mind was whether the palate would measure up: we’ve all been startled by a flavourful wine with a pallid nose and disappointed by a bland wine with a deceptively promising nose. In this case, the palate more than kept up, and the nose and palate were closely aligned, and that’s a positive in my book. The fruit here has truly remarkable depth and breadth. The complexity is impressive, and you’d need scuba gear to plumb the depths of this properly. This is a very well-structured and -balanced wine, with acidity calibrated just right to rein in the powerful fruit and keep the palate fresh so that you want another glass. It’s fairly high-octane, at 15% alcohol, but there’s no evidence of it on the nose or palate. As for the tannins, they’re fine, still a little grippy, but easily manageable now. This will hold to the mid-2020s, but I think now to 2020 is a good drinking window so that you enjoy the fresh purity of the fruit.
Heartland Shiraz 2013
Langhorne Creek, South Australia $19.95 ($239.40/12-bottle case)
[Vintages release: 18 March 2017] Shiraz was the meal-ticket for Australian winemakers for many years. Its popularity wore off a little, and now many premier Australian winemakers are looking for new varieties and finding them among those that grow around the northern Mediterranean. But whatever their merits, shiny new varieties can blind us to the familiar – in this case, shiraz. This Heartlands example is no ordinary shiraz. For one thing, it’s a cool-climate animal, not raised in the warmth that can easily produce jammy wines too low in alcohol to be drinkable and so aggressively fruity that they’re lethal to food. Here you get bright fruit (with a hint of eucalyptus) through and through, complemented by clean acidity that complements the fruit excellently. The tannins are relaxed, and you can enjoy this in its still-youthful style from now to the end of the decade, possibly longer.
Heartland Stickleback 2013
South Australia $14.95 ($179.40/12-bottle case)
[Vintages release: 7 January 2017] This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, grenache, and merlot. The back labels says it’s “soft round spicy,” and you can’t argue with that, although you might want to add “drinkable.” That’s implied by the graphics of the stickleback fish on the labels: whole fish on the front label, an eaten fish, cleaned to the bones, on the back. Yep, this is a bottle you’ll easily drain to its bones. What you get in the bottle is a richly flavoured red, with plenty of concentration and complexity, with the fruit well balanced by the acidity. It’s soft-textured and dry with negligible tannins. It’s a wine for drinking, not thinking about, but it’s a quality effort all through. Drink it now and in the next couple of years.
These two wines are also available from The Vine Agency. I haven’t tasted them, so I can’t comment on them:
Heartland ‘Director’s Cut’ Shiraz 2013 $39.00 ($234/6-bottle case)
Heartland ONE (cabernet sauvignon/shiraz blend) $85.00 ($510/6-bottle case)
Both these wines need to be pre-ordered from the winery (The Vine Agency does it for you) and delivery takes 12-14 weeks.