PRIDE & PASSION PAYS OFF
Article by Dan Traucki as published in Winestate Magazine, Special Edition 2014:
IT HAS only been in the last 30 years or so that wine lovers in Australia and overseas have became aware of McLaren Vale as a premium wine growing area. Since then, the “Vale” has burst on to the wine scene in big way and claimed it's rightful spot as one of the best shiraz wine growing districts, not only in Australia, but also in the Southern Hemisphere.
Over that timeframe the Vale’s baton has been carried by a number of different winemakers, as each has pushed the boundaries and achieved awesome results. Often it is more than one winemaker at a time leading the Vale’s charge. One of the current baton holders is Mollydooker Wines, and its “Carnival of Love” Shiraz is a truly outstanding wine.
Incidentally, the winery name “Mollydooker” comes from the Australian slang for a left-handed person (“Southpaw”, in the US) and was adopted because winery owners, Sarah and Sparky Marquis, are left-handers. Sparky was a professional photographer before the “wine bug” bit and he went to study winemaking, where he was Dux of his year and met Sarah. After working for other wineries they started their own business which has gone through several iterations to emerge as Mollydooker in 2005. Along the way, Sarah and Sparky have been crowned McLaren Vale Bushing King and Queen for an unprecedented three times, as well as winning a variety of national and international awards. Mollydooker is all about passion for making the very best wine possible.
They were among the early adopters of screwcaps, with trials starting in 2002, as this closure was seen as the best way to preserve the high quality of their wines. Today all the Mollydooker wines are sealed with screwcaps.
Apart from sourcing grapes from contracted vineyards, Mollydooker Wines owns three vineyards, covering 50ha on the fantastic Seaview Ridge in McLaren Vale. The Ridge, with its ancient soils and the cooling influence of the sea breeze, makes an ideal setting for growing premium quality grapes.
Like all great wines, the “Carnival of Love” quality starts in the vineyard. The grapes come from the Gateway Vineyard, which has been compartmented into 16 sub-sections, with each sub-section being treated separately based on fruit quality and maturation. This separation extends from pruning, through irrigation, to harvesting and vinification, where each parcel is treated individually. Picked when exactly ripe they are fermented separately, as well. Before harvest, each block is assessed not only on maturity levels but also on its “fruit weight” factor – a scale devised by Mollydooker.
When the parcels of fully ripened grapes enter the winery they are handled with “kid gloves” and given the “Rolls Royce” treatment, with a ferment that starts off at 25oC and is gradually cooled down as the alcohol levels rise in the wine. This is done according to an in-house formula in order to extract the maximum possible flavour and colour from the grapes. Each ferment is tasted and tested three times a day. Prior to the fermentation finishing, when the sugar level is still at around 5 Baume, the wine is pumped into brand new American oak barrels, for the rest of the fermentation to take place, as it is believed that the wine has a greater capacity to absorb oak flavours at this stage in its evolution. Each barrel is tasted and tested daily until the fermentation has ceased, at which time the wine is pumped into another new oak barrel for maturation, with a degree of vigorous oxygenation along the way which helps to enhance the fruit characters of the wine. Thus these wines have in effect 200 percent new American oak. The maturation oak barrels have specific flavour profiles selected so as to impart the characters desired in the finished wine. There are constant oak trials so as to best match the barrels to the flavours desired in the finished wines.
The attention to detail all the way through the process is mind blowing, with tasting and testing being part of a daily routine, to ensure the balance and flavours in the wine right up until the wines are bottled. Even when they go to bottle the wine, the filtration is a light “polish filtration” - gentle and designed to add a little sheen to the wine rather than remove impurities as is the case with many commercial wines. Once the wine is filtered it is allowed to rest for 24 hours before its final pre-bottling check to ensure that the filtration has not detracted from the wine.
This wine comes resplendent with an attractive, bright, lively and quirky cartoon label created by Sarah as part of the overall - “wine is fun” philosophy of this dynamic duo.
The 2012 Carnival of Love is massively deep in colour, with beautiful aromas of plums, fresh berries and a hint of chocolate. On the palate, it has mocha and chocolate flavours with lovely fine-grained tannins leading to a long, lingering finish that seems to go on forever. They certainly have achieved their aim of making the drinker go “wow” when they taste it. I did, then sat there and looked at Mollydooker through the glass.