Sarah Ahmed – The Wine Detective

November 17th, 2013 by

Snake & Herring: an exciting addition to the Western Australian wine scene

Redmond Sweeney (l), Tony Davis (r)
Redmond Sweeney (l), Tony Davis (r)

And here they are – a.k.a winemaker Tony Davis (Snake) and marketeer Redmond Sweeney (Herring).

I did (somewhat hesitatingly) ask why Snake and Herring?  There was an explanation, but I forget.  But more importantly, this is what the duo say their (speaking of snakes somewhat Monty Pythonesque) label is about – “Snake and Herring is a wine obsessed road trip searching for remarkable grapes from Western Australian vineyards.”  ”Fifteen wines and still going” says Sweeney.

While they’re clearly having fun, there’s no doubting the serious intent either, which Davis defines as, “taking a very scalpel approach to the vineyards and sourcing small parcels – a few rows even – for small volume wines.” And the previous incumbent at Howard Park ( where we first met in 2007) and before that Millbrook, is very well placed to hunt out top notch fruit.

As for the winemaking, the emphasis is on “drinkability – engaging wines to enjoy with food which keep changing the subject and bringing you back to the glass”enthuses Davis. “Not too expensive either.” Three cheers for that!

Here are my highlights from Snake & Herring, whose wines I was delighted at last to catch up with at the Savour Australia wine forum last month.

Snake & Herring High & Dry Riesling 2012 (Porongurups)

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The bone dry, searingly mineral and intense Rieslings from this elevated, rocky sub-region of Great Southern totally float my boat, especially with local, fresh-shucked Albany rock oysters. This wine, so-called because the rain shadow on the north facing slopes allows for the later ripening on the more elevated (High and Dry) sites, is no exception.  Lovely perfume, with sweet talc which follows through on a firm, taut, pithy palate with very well-focused limey, grapefruity acidity.  Very good.

Snake & Herring Hallelujah Chardonnay 2012 (Porongurups)

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From the same vineyard as the Chardonnay this confirms that the Porongurups is far from a one trick (Riesling) pony.  The Chardonnay is, however, from an east-facing parcel.  It’s very mineral – so far so Porongurups.  Apple and grapefruit flavours wash over the palate in a lovely unforced (by oak or acidity) very natural, balanced way.  And linger  – great limpidity and length to this.  Just lovely.  No additions here (acid/yeast).  Hallelujah indeed!  12.5% abv.

Snake & Herring Business Time Shiraz 2011 (Mount Barker)

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Bright (blackcurrant and berry) fruited with fine tannins, lingering, persistent acidity and a distinct whiff of gravel this is a very attractive mid-weight Shiraz.  It’s a touch meaty as it opens up.  Yep, drinkability sums it up very well.  Shiraz is, as we know a terrific performer right across the country.  No need for pushy parents, so it thrives at Snake & Herring. 13.5%

Snake & Herring The Distance Higher Ground Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Porongurups)

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And here, the Porogurups really did surprise me.  For reds it’s best known (by me at least!) for Pinot Noir.  But this Cabernet certainly puts the “p” into perfume with its heady blueberry and cassis fruit.  Having spent 51 days (yes 51 days!) on skins its uber-polymerised and supple, with an attractive, complexing balsamic note.  Long, very primary – a fresh-faced babe as yet.