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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

WBW: Wacky Wine Names

Ten Minutes By Tractor Wine Company
What a great theme for a wine blogging event. Here in Australia, we are rife with wacky wine names. Sometimes it seems that the wineries deliberately find something crazy to name their wine in a belief that it'll attract the consumer. I guess it works to the extent that the names certainly are noticed! As it is Australia Day today, I decided to try an Australian wine, in a style that isn't too widely grown: pinot noir. Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow, and only done so in a few areas here in the cooler-climates of Victoria and further south in Tasmania, therefore what pinot noir is made here, is usually expensive. If it's not $$$, it's not good. With some wines, that doesn't hold true (you can buy great, everyday shiraz in Australia for less than $10), but this is not the case with pinot noir.
This wine is made by a winery owned by the parents of a friend of mine who sings in my vocal ensemble and the great Pablo boyband. His parents decided to have a sea change and buy a vineyard down on the Mornington Peninsula. It's taken a while, but is now a great success. As my friend has just moved to Cambridge to do a PhD in Latin (as you do), I thought it was a perfect time to open the bottle and think of him.

So, the name....?

Well, I think it certainly fits the wacky criteria. Ten Minutes By Tractor?? Here's the story:
The company belongs to the Judd, McCutcheon and Wallis families, each of which established a six-hectare vineyard a decade ago, but decided to merge the operations in 1999, realising that each of the three properties are only ten minutes by tractor distant from each other. While most of the grapes were and are sold to other winemakers, in 2000 they began making limited quantities of wines under the 10X label (drawing on all three properties) and individual vineyard selection wines from each of the three properties. A number of Melbourne restaurants list the wines, and exports to Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York and London are being developed.
Product Range: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Botrytised Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir Chardonnay, Pinot Noir;

Basically, they realised pretty early on that it was damn hard work, and there wasn't much they could do on their individual vineyards but sell wine to bigger companies, so they formed their own company. I'm not too sure if they spend much time travelling by tractor to each other's property! They produce wines made from combinations of grapes from the three vineyards, and a selection of single-estate wines. The other interesting thing about this company is that I used to sing in a few groups with their winemaker's daughter!! Small world. Both that winemaker and my friend's father used to be surgeons, which seems to indicate the type of precision to detail required for this work!
I had a single-estate pinot noir from my friend's vineyard, which costs about $40-odd dollars in the shops. It has been reviewed well:
James Halliday Mar 20 2002 Rating: 91 out of 100
Light to medium purple-red, bright and clear; the bouquet is clean, the most concentrated of the three individual vineyard pinot noirs, not particularly aromatic. The palate is firm and long, sustained by good tannins; the least immediately attractive of the three wines, but may well develop better than the others. Gold medal Concours du Vin Victoria 2000.

That's a pretty damn high score for an Australian pinot noir, incidentally. We drank it with a duck risotto I made with leftover Peking duck and fresh green beans. The pairing of duck with pinot noir is legendary (at least it is over here. There are even "duck and pinot" walks during the food festival), as the flavours complement each other well. I chilled the wine slightly, as pinot is one the few reds that can benefit from this, especially on a hot summer's evening. I didn't entirely enjoy my first mouthful of it; I found it a bit insubstantial and light and had to remind myself that it was not a big Australian shiraz, which I'm used to drinking. We decided it was probably better with food, which, happily, we can report is certainly the case. The duck risotto complemented and brought out the flavours wonderfully, and they were a perfect pairing; the strong flavours of the duck and the lightness of the wine. Great for summer. Ten Minutes By Tractor, good on you!


  • I believe the company has recently been sold? It will be interesting to see what direction the new owner takes. I'm going to see if I can get along to their stand at the Victorian Winemaker Expo next month in Sydney and ask them directly about what changes they have in store.

    I find Aussie Pinot in general is a bit hit-and-miss and often overpriced for what you are getting. Of course there are exceptions to this, but there are some wineries (not talking specifically about Ten Minutes here) that seem to be taking advantage of the newly aquired cult-status of Mornington and charging $50+ for pretty average Pinot Noir and others.

    Mornington Peninsula does have a number of things going for it, such as its close proximity to Melbourne, but it's still a resonably new region and I'll be interested to see what happens over the next ten years or so. What do you think?

    Cam Wheeler

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/28/2005 02:41:00 am  

  • I recently tasted the T'Gallant 2000 Pinot and was impressed. Here is my write-up:


    By Blogger jens at cincinnati wine, at 1/28/2005 11:55:00 am  

  • Yes, I know T'Gallant. It has a great restaurant too. The Mornington Peninsula is quite small, so most wineries are within an easy few minutes of driving from one another. I've posted a comment to your blog, but you might like to check out this website for info on Australian wines. I find it very useful:

    By Blogger Niki, at 1/28/2005 12:36:00 pm  

  • Hi Cam - I do agree with you. I really *want* to like pinot noir. I feel it's something that I would enjoy and I would *like* to enjoy it, but I just haven't got there yet. I think it's easy to be bashed into submission with the huge tasting, affordable shiraz that is so easy to buy here. But I want to persevere and keep trying, and I think the Mornington Peninsula is a good place to focus that attention (when I'm feeling flush). I'm not sure, as a region, that it has the same consistency as others - especially my favourite region here in Victoria of The Pyrenees (Dalwhinnie, Taltarni, Warrenmang, Redbank, Mt Avoca, Blue Pyrenees etc. - fantastic shiraz!)
    That's very interesting about Ten Minutes being sold - I haven't heard anything about it, but my friend and I very rarely spoke about his parent's business. I'd be really interested to hear more about it. Would you be able to report back after you visit their stall in Sydney?

    By Blogger Niki, at 1/28/2005 12:51:00 pm  

  • Happy to do my best to try and remember to report back once I visit them in Sydney.

    I'm hoping that Australia can pick up it's game in regards to Pinot, we have some amazing producers like Curlweis and Paringa Estate that I feel make Pinot that competes with the very best new world examples, but at the moment it seems like New Zealand has the upper hand and is producing exceptional Pinot Noir that the majority of Australian producers can only dream of making at the moment.

    Cam Wheeler

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/28/2005 05:18:00 pm  

  • Hi Esurient,

    Well I couldn't really get close to the Ten Minutes by Tractor stand at the event, it was evidentally quite popular.

    I did manage to find out that the company is now owned by Martin Spedding, with the vineyards still owned by the respective families who will still be involved in the business. Seems as though it was decided in order to expand the business, outside involvement was required. Will be interesting to see what happens.

    On the subject of Pinot Noir, I tried a mix of brilliant, mundane and truly dreadful Pinot Noir at the event, confiming my fears about Australian Pinot Noir, too hit and miss at the moment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/12/2005 01:25:00 pm  

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