France, Italy, Germany, and California represent the core of the 2,000 + selections on the site, and that's unlikely to ever change. However, being open-minded and continually tasting wines from outside this realm is crucial.
Much like California has gone through a transformative period recently Australia is also in the midst of a shift towards emphasizing balance in their wines. The jammy, overly-extracted, and raisinated characteristics that plagued many are slowly falling out of fashion. There's one producer that really typifies this more contemporary terroir-driven focus. A tasting with the Wines of Australia in New York four years ago put Ochota Barrels on the map for me. Today we go down under and look close at the single most exciting producer from a country whose sky is the only limit for potential.
Tara Ochota graduated with a degree in Oenology from Adelaide University and moved to work with wineries throughout California, Italy, and his homeland. Amber Ochota, after working with wineries in Italy, selected to focus on vineyard development at home. The two knew the landscape intimately and their wealth of experiences set their eyes on showing a different side to McLaren Vale Grenache and Barrossa Valley Shiraz (Syrah). Through old vines and single vineyard bottlings Ochota Barrels was born with aspirations of telling the true story of place. And they're now the worldwide ambassadors of the ever-changing terrain of Australian wine.
Concentration of flavor and silken texture is not alway easy to achieve at 12.8% alcohol and neutral oak aging, but their Green Room bottling (the first I tasted) was a massive revelation for me. This was not just mimicking a Cru Beaujolais or a carbonic fermented Southern Rhone Grenache/Syrah blend. This was completely unique and spoke to a place that was seemingly being unveiled for the first time in front of my eyes. There were no rough edges, everything was it its right place. This was seamless in the way that top sites in Burgundy convey with ease. And ease is the most appropriate word to describe the wines from Tara and Amber. They are each integrated and composed in complete harmony without sacrificing an ounce of power. Their wines immediately conjure the old adage of the iron fist in the velvet glove.
2016 Ochota Barrels "The Green Room"
(McLaren Vale - Onkaparinga Ridge Sub-Zone)
88% Grenache, 12% Syrah. 100% whole cluster. Neutral French oak. 12.8% alc.
$41 per bottle
2014 Ochota Barrels "The Shellac Vineyard" Syrah
(Barossa Valley - Maranang Subzone)
100% Syrah. 30% whole cluster. Aged in 20% new French oak. 13.2% alc.
$66 per bottle.
2014 Ochota Barrels "The Fugazi Vineyard" Grenache
(McLaren Vale - Blewitt Springs Subzone)
100% Grenache. 80% whole cluster. Aged in neutral French oak barrique. 13.8% alc.
$69 per bottle.