On the winemaking process of this very limited wine, the following says it all, really. Except for the fact that Zibibbo, or Muscat of Alexandria, is also known as Fruity Lexia in Australia. Only 660 bottles made.
The BH ‘ZBO’ was one of the surprises of 2013. Grower, friend and viticulturist, Ashley Ratcliff, planted the seed about perhaps using some of his 70-year-old bush vine zibibbo from his Ricca Terra Farms in the sunny Riverland. Making a white in amphora, it was vital to use grapes that showed promise to create intrigue with longer skin contact, and this fragrant member of the Muscat family definitely fit the bill.
A 12-hour trip from HQ in the Vale in early March to collect one and a half tons of handpicked grapes in the town of Barmera set the tone for the wild adventure to come. After collecting the fruit and swerving down the M20 in an exhilarating white knuckle drive, I arrived back at base at night and quickly destemmed the golf ball sized, bronze fruit into waiting amphorae. A wild ferment ensued, and as the grapes broke down, I hand plunged the caps twice daily until the skins sank 16 days later.
The skins, seeds and juice remained covered in situ for five months. We siphoned the ‘free run’ off and combined it with the pressings for a further four months ageing in four-year-old French barriques, racked only before bottling. No fining or filtration was used, 20ppm of free SO2 was added at bottling.
Please, drink this at a temperature just colder than you’d serve a Pinot Noir, i.e maybe 30 minutes in the fridge from room temperature. It’s yellow and not as cloudy or orange as you’d anticipate from the winemaking. Very aromatic, but not floral like I expected it to be. Instead, aromas of peach and apricot nectar are quite assertive, and there’s a note of lemongrass, almost citronella, combined with some macadamia and an unexpected flinty reductive smell that seemed to dissipate with air. You get salinity straight away on the palate, without it being a salty, faulty wine. Works in its favour completely. Some more apricot and perhaps some lime to taste. It’s dry and textural, but the key point is that the phenolics are perfectly judged and it’s not at all bitter.
When do you drink it? Well, it’s probably best suited to be consumed as an aperitif. Food is not really needed, but in saying that, it’s probably more versatile than you’d expect from a Fruity Lexia. It’s certainly got a Fino like umami quality and moreishness, but plenty of fruit and tang as well. Without doubt, it’s one of Australia’s best in its class. It must be said that it’s still not going to please everyone. My partner hated it and described it as medicinal. There you go. One of those wines again. I’d really just suggest that if natural, orange/skin contact whites are your thing, then you’ll love it.
Outstanding / 94 points