Nick Spencer, Gruner Veltliner 2018
Back in the 1920’s when Jack O’Hagan penned his famed Australian folk song, there was an old-fashioned shack on the track, winding back along the Road to Gundagai. But if you take a journey to the rural town these days, you’ll find that the track is sealed, the shacks are now farmhouses and the paddocks are lined with rows of grapevines. And there’s even a few cellar doors to visit if you have time to make the detour!
The Gundagai district is situated in regional New South Wales, about two hours from Canberra on the way to Wagga Wagga. Apart from its fame from the song that Slim Dusty made into a quasi-Australian anthem, the town has a rich heritage in Australian pioneering history and is home to the iconic Dog on the Tuckerbox which has become synonymous with the region. But for all of the history, famous sites and Riverina charm, it is viticulture which seems most likely to make the township a household name internationally. In recent years, the quality of wines from Gundagai and neighbouring Tumbarumba have taken a big step forward in quality and acclaim; thanks in no small way to the craftsmanship of winemakers like Nick Spencer.
Nick rose to prominence in the industry after winning the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy in 2009, followed by the National Wine Show Trophy for Best Shiraz in 2011. Since 2017, Nick’s had his own gig making handcrafted wines of quality and finesse from fruit sourced from the high country of southern NSW. His wines are only made in small volumes, so they tend to sell out rather quickly, but the range includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Pinot Gris and a Rose. The understated label belies the quality of the wine inside the bottle and it’s unsurprising that even James Halliday awarded the Nick Spencer Winery 5 stars and rated it in the top 10 new wineries in 2018.
Perhaps the most interesting of Nick’s wines is his Gruner Veltliner 2018. The grape is, perhaps, best known in places like Austria where it is the most widely planted varietal. It seems to thrive in climates where days are warm but the nights cool and crisp - so logic would suggest that it should do very well on the western edge of the Snowy Mountains where it benefits from an altitude of 700 metres or more. On the nose there are hints of guava, pink lady apple and pear, but once on the palate, Granny Smith flavours emerge from a spicy loquat middle and it finishes with a nice balance of fruit and zest. The weight of the wine might take you a little by surprise at first as there’s a definite viscosity that makes it quite mouth-filling. I’d love to see what it looks like in five or 10 years’ time; if only I could be that patient!
The Nick Spencer range are highly impressive, not expensive, and if I’m any judge, seem likely to raise the profile of the southern NSW high country where “the blue gums are growin’ and the Murrumbidgee’s flowin’…”.
$30 - $35
Drinking very well
Winery Website: www.nickspencerwines.com.au
Travis Schultz is a wine reviewer for the Sunshine Coast Daily and The Grape Hunter extend their thanks to the Sunshine Coast Daily for allowing re-publication of his reviews