I must confess, I am a little bit of a wine snob. I’m by no means an expert though, and I love any opportunity to develop my knowledge and treat my palate to something new. Naturally, I was very excited for Pilgrim Bar’s ‘Talk and Taste’ event with Andrew Marks, producer of Gembrook Hill & The Wanderer wines. Especially since Andrew is local.
The Gembrook Hill vineyard, which was established by his parents Ian and June Marks in 1983, is located in the picturesque Yarra Valley just an hour outside of Melbourne. This region is renowned for its world class cool climate wines and our session with Andrew on Saturday 20th August didn’t disappoint.
First on offer was a Gembrook Hill Blanc de Blanc, a type of wine made purely from white wine grapes, in this case Chardonnay. All Gembrook sparkling wines are made using the traditional champagne method, which involves mixing the wine with an active yeast culture and a specific quantity of sugar so that once bottled, it will ferment. Carbon dioxide is formed as a by-product of fermentation and this is trapped inside the bottles, producing bubbles.
Fresh from this year’s vintage, our Blanc de Blanc had been slowly fermenting for the last few weeks and this was the first time it was being opened, let alone tasted. We all watched with glee through the window as Andrew disgorged the bottle, which is kept upside down after fermentation to allow the yeast sediment to accumulate in the neck and be easily removed, and a gush of yeast showered the concrete outside the bar. While the disgorging method is usually much more precise, he assured us the wine was safe to drink, and while sugar is usually added to combat the dryness of the bubbles, the Blanc de Blanc had a crisp acidity that was quite lovely without any additional sweetness.
Onto the reds next and my plus one and I enjoyed the 2011 Gembrook Hill Pinot Noir, followed by a taste of The Wanderer’s 2014 varietal. Both were earthy and dry, featuring red fruit flavours, smooth tannins and a strong oak presence. While I couldn’t fault either, The Wanderer Pinot particularly stood out with its juicy plum and cherry notes and subtle hint of grapefruit. Both wines were made and bottled at the Gembrook vineyard, but the grapes for the 2014 The Wanderer Pinot come from a vineyard in Yellingbo, located north-east of Gembrook.
Not content with just making wine, Andrew is also the founder of the Melbourne Gin Company, recently established in 2012. Interested in the variety of botanicals that can be used to create gin, Andrew began by conducting a series of experiments, trialling different ingredients and blends and continuing to perfect the recipe until the ideal flavour combination was achieved. This precise fusion of twelve botanicals, including juniper berries, coriander seeds, macadamia, sandalwood and honey lemon myrtle, makes for a gin that is complex and confident in its offerings, with a rich spiciness and plenty of citrus zest.
Overall it was a fun and informative event in an intimate, relaxed setting with excellent hosts. I’d definitely go to another Talk and Taste at Pilgrim.
– Charlotte Pordage
Charlotte Pordage is a writer/editor from the UK. When she’s not attending events, she can be found riding her horse Oscar and exploring Melbourne’s eclectic nightlife. @charpordage
Pilgrim’s Talk and Taste events are held every month and the bar is open 7 days a week, 12pm till late. Visit their website to find out more.
Federation Wharf, Federation Square
Melbourne VIC 3000