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Great adventures often begin unexpectedly and the tale of how Smith & Hooper came to be is no exception.
A long time ago, in the days when a Global Positioning System was nothing more than the stars and a sextant, two friends, Messrs Smith and Hooper, set out on an adventure that would in turn expose one of the most naturally developed wine growing regions in South Australia.
However, they had no idea of the richness of their discovery.
They were simply in search of a tranquil hillside environment to graze their cattle, away from the hustle and bustle of the ever-expanding Adelaide, South Australia.
The very last thing they had in mind was the quality of the soil their muddy boots squelched atop or that they had inadvertently stumbled across the perfect climate for growing the grapes of a world-class variety.
It wasn’t until decades later that a second set of “modern day” adventurers, set out in search of what had been for so many years, over looked by Smith and Hooper.
Two heroes, who quite purposefully played a tremendous role in our adventure and without whom our story would have ended.
They are winemaker Natalie Cleghorn and unassuming local lad turned vigneron, James Freckleton.
These two custodians knew exactly what they were looking for and exactly where they’d find it. Wrattonbully.
And the story of Smith & Hooper truly began.
Situated approximately 350 km South East of Adelaide, and merely a stone’s throw from the famed Coonawarra, lies “Wrattonbully”, the home of Smith & Hooper.
A 2600-hectare region, that not only boasts terra rossa soil (the secret beneath some of Australia’s most celebrated wines) but also a maritime climate, 1° warmer than that of the neighbouring Coonawarra.
This not only allows the fruit time to ripen abundantly; it also prevents plants bushing too quickly.
However, while Wrattonbully has its ups, it also has its downs. In fact, due to the undulating landscape, often the simplest things require a vastly different plan of attack.
So needless to say, this is a land where innovation is king and while the predominant planting is merlot, there are numerous other varieties and clones continually tried and tested throughout the vineyards.
Wrattonbully is a true collaboration between Mother Nature, Vigneron and Winemaker.
It’s a tricky journey off the main road to find, but that’s what makes it exciting.
And excitement is what adventure is all about.
A wet winter replenished the soils of the vineyard. Cool temperatures from August until mid summer, with late December rain, was ideal for the vines to grow their protective canopies. The cool summer weather allowed the Pinot Grigio grapes to slowly ripen on the vine, producing berries that are full of flavour.
Pale straw in colour with green hues. Lovely aromas of fresh pear, nashi and wild strawberry. The palate is a compote of custard apple, anise and crunchy green apple with rich fruit sweetness and length. The wine finishes with lingering talcy acidity and a hint of musk. Chicken saltimbocca, baked eggplant, or an avocado and green apple salad match well with this wine. 100% hand picked and wild fermented.
Late spring frosts in Wrattonbully reduced the amount of fruit which set, giving a natural balance to the vines. The Merlot bunches had ample leaf cover and protection from the heat experienced in January and February, allowing an even ripening with full development of flavour and plush tannin.
Deep red in colour with a crimson hue. Lovely aromas of satsuma plum and cassis. The aromatics are lively and bold with the oak providing an inviting warmth. A bold and robust palate with savoury fruits combine seamlessly with the tannins. This structured wine also shows generosity, it is both serious and inviting. This is a wine
A wet winter replenished the soil’s moisture levels. Spring and summer were warm and mild, encouraging healthy vine growth. Dry conditions throughout December and January kept the bunch and berry sizes small, with excellent concentration of colour, flavour and tannin.
Dark cherry red in colour. This aromatic Merlot opens with notes of morello cherry and blue fruits, followed by violets and dark chocolate aromas. The palate is bursting with dark cherry and plum flavours, sweeping along into savoury notes from the French oak. Lovely natural acidity combines well with the tannins and fruit to keep the wine enticing and structural. This wine is blended to be enjoyed now and for five years.
Smith & Hooper Reserve Merlot aromas are composed of briar, savoury and cedar spice characters and a rose petal highlight. The palate is medium to full weight showing red fruits, cedar spice and sweet oak tones. Smith and Hooper Reserve Merlot will cellar for ten years and be drinking at its best in five years. This is a wine to contemplate and enjoy with a vintaged cheddar style cheese.
Reserve Merlot 2013 – 94 Points
"Has far greater intensity and length than its lesser sibling, setting the pace with the expressive bouquet and long, persistent palate, where cassis meets an unexpected twist of chocolate before savoury tannins take command on the finish. Cork. 14% alc. To 2028."
James Halliday, James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion, 27 July 2015