Since we first offered the wines of Toby and Emmanuelle Bekkers four years ago, we have been dreading the moment when we would have to say that it is not the Atlas way to take vintage upon vintage of any given wine. But each time we taste the new releases we find ourselves compelled, once again, to offer these astonishing expressions of Australia’s McLaren Vale. The wines continue to impress with their poise, precision and clarity of fruit. These are not the more heady styles so often associated with this part of Australia. While they have unmistakable ripeness and richness of fruit, there is here an elegance and harmony that is startling and enthralling. Moreover, the 2015 vintage in the McLaren Vale was dry, mild and one of the earliest on record, leading to fruit that had excellent natural acidity and thus wines with excellent freshness and ageability.
We are pleased to offer as an Atlas exclusivity:
2015 McLaren Vale Syrah, Bekkers at £340 per 6 bottle case in bond
2015 McLaren Vale Syrah Grenache, Bekkers at £270 per 6 bottle case in bond
2015 McLaren Vale Grenache, Bekkers at £240 per 6 bottle case in bond
The Bekkers wines are made by husband and wife team Toby and Emmanuelle Bekkers. He is a hugely respected vineyard consultant and a pioneer of organic and biodynamic viticulture, working in the Margaret River and Barossa as well as in his birthplace of the McLaren. She, meanwhile, is a revered winemaking consultant, multiply qualified and a native of Bandol in the south of France, who came to Australia through winemaking roles with Hardy’s. After many years working in Australia, Toby and Emmanuelle relocated to southern France, a move which only served to further highlight to them the huge potential of the McLaren Vale. They returned to Australia and established Bekkers. 'We want to take the mid-palate generosity of the McLaren Vale,' says Toby. 'It's a huge asset but only if we avoid letting the wines become big, syrupy and porty. The key to fine wine is texture.'
This textural aspect is certainly what has repeatedly grabbed our attention and each year there has been increased refinement – and let’s not forget that 2015 is only their fifth vintage. Toby and Emmanuelle continue to access and add new plots, which are already contributing to an increased elegance across the range. In the Grenache 2015, for example, fruit from the more inland, higher altitude sub-region of Blewitt Springs brings the fragrance and floral aromatics that give a lift and lightness of touch, a perfect counterpoint to the greater density expressed by the fruit from the main valley floor. Yet, despite the evolution of the estate, production is still a mere 1,000 cases per year – hardly a generous allocation for the world. This may explain why the current wealth of praise and plaudits is from principally Australian-based wine critics; so little of this wine makes it out of the country. Matthew Jukes, a leading UK wine critic with an expertise in Australian wine, recently wrote, clearly unaware of Atlas’ relationship with the Bekkers: 'I hope that these wines secure representation in the UK soon. If not, you will just have to jump on a plane to Adelaide and drink them in situ – now that’s a plan.'
Quality continues to rise and the style is becoming increasingly finessed. The wines are also increasingly and ubiquitously lauded. Deservedly so. We include a few notes below but do let us know of your interest – before Matthew Jukes finds out we have them.
2015 McLaren Vale Syrah, Bekkers @ £340/6bts in bond
Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective
Probably the best modern-style McLaren Vale Syrah I’ve tasted. It’s intensely fragrant and complex with a rasp of black pepper to nose and palate, liquorice, five spice, peonies and inky florals, a gentle savouriness and a touch of mocha oak. As for the fruit, supple, concentrated but juicy blackberry and plum is sumptuous, yet vivid and fresh – very persistent. Tasted at home, I lingered over this sensual Syrah for three days and it never stopped giving. I loved, loved the tannins – fine spun, but mineral (iron filing) and present, as if interwoven with the fruit. With terrific perfume, depth, length and detail, it is a seemingly bottomless pit of delights. Bet it ages really well (if you can resist it now!)
Huon Hooke, Huanhooke.com, 96 pts
Deep, dark red/purple colour, youthfully deep and bright. There are very ripe blackberry, dark plum aromas, with earthy and sooty notes, fresh and bright with vitality and intensity. A full-bodied, marvellously concentrated, deeply-flavoured shiraz with real gravitas, persistence, and ageing ability. Outstanding. 3/10/2017 Drink 2017 to 2040 (Top rated 2015 McLaren Vale shiraz from 75 tasted to date.)
2015 McLaren Vale Syrah Grenache, Bekkers @ £270/6bts in bond
Campell Mattinson, Wine Front, 95 pts
It’s a word I rarely if ever use but here it is: detailed. This is a finely stitched wine. It’s light but exact, sure, every flavour and texture carefully placed. Or that’s how it feels. It’s all cherry-plum-anise-spice-earth but it’s more than that as a package. It’s crusty and dry and yet it remains succulent. It pops and crackles. It’s not an in-your-face wine by any stretch but the quality is terrific. It deserves a large-bowled glass for its various flavours and feels to stretch their legs. It’s a pearler. Drink: 2017 – 2025+
Halliday Australian Wine Companion 2018, 95 pts
70/30% blend; Blewitt Springs grenache, open-fermented and matured separately, 15-20% whole bunches, the remainder destemmed, aged on fine lees in used French oak. The wine repays the complex time-consuming vinification. The bouquet is fragrant with delicate red fruits and haunting spices, followed by an enchanting mouthfeel as red fruits flow serenely across the mouth, the deeper tones of plum and blackberry ex the shiraz adding complexity, but not impinging on the main message.
2015 McLaren Vale Grenache, Bekkers @ £240/6bts in bond
Halliday Australian Wine Companion 2018, 98 pts
Hand-picked from three vineyards on 17 Feb, 6 and 25 Mar, the parcels open-fermented with 20% whole bunches, 5-6 days cold soak before wild yeast fermentation, matured on fine lees in used French puncheons. As close to perfection as you are likely to come with McLaren Vale grenache. The perfumed bouquet sets the scene for the silky, supple red-fruited palate, superfine tannins always present, oak flavour absent. Has many of the characteristics of a great pinot noir.
Matthew Jukes, matthewjukes.com
This is a ravishing wine, which continues to celebrate the world-class Grenache being made in South Australia. I could spend hours sniffing this wine – for a mono-variety, with a completely hands-off winemaking recipe, this is a magnificently perfumed creature. It is clear that layering fruit from Kangarilla, Blewitt Springs and McLaren Vale is one of the factors behind this wine’s success, but it is perhaps more complicated than that. This regal wine layers site, soil, sub-soil, rocks, minerals and local flora, too. It is the non-fruit elements which grab me as much as the obviously stunning red fruit notes.
Please let us know of your interest.