Watching Australia develop over the last ten years has been fascinating. We have seen the emergence of a number of smaller producers zoning in on specific combinations of terroirs and varieties to great effect. The modern-day goals are less overt than in the past and we are seeing greater sophistication and elegance than perhaps ever before. To my mind, key amongst this group of producers is Bekkers.
Every time Simon tastes Toby Bekkers’ wines, he puzzles over just how his wines show restraint and elegance even in hotter McLaren Vale vintages. In 2016, mother nature gifted growers in the McLaren Vale a rare vintage, one with a warm, unproblematic spring and a cooler than usual summer with welcome and timely rainfall. When you read comments like the following one from James Halliday’s website, you should take note:
When you read vintage summaries such as, ‘2016 may well go down as one of the great McLaren Vale vintages in recent memory. Vines were well-balanced, crop levels were good, colour and flavour fantastic. Shiraz the pick’, you cannot help but wonder whether there is an edge of embellishment. However, all the reports were in agreement, throwing in grenache and cabernet sauvignon for particular praise.
There is perhaps no better exponent of Grenache in the McLaren than Bekkers, and their Syrah is an absolute standout.
Bekkers produce just a few hundred cases, most of which sells on allocation, but we were fortunate enough to secure Bekkers as an Atlas exclusivity before the 2012 vintage was released. Here, we offer the 2016s:
2016 Syrah/Grenache, Bekkers
£260 per 6 bottle case in bond
A common blend in Australia but few compare to this for sheer effortlessness. The fruit takes centre stage here, with notes of deep hedgerow fruit melding with notes of bright, juicy cherry. There is a seamlessness to this vintage; it takes a little coaxing to come forward, but this well-judged blend impresses with a fine, soft, layered character on the palate. The Syrah component asserts to the finish, with notes of cloves and spice coming through as well as hints of liquorice. Long and pure, in 2016 the harmony struck by this blend is seriously impressive. (SL) Drink 2021-2032
2016 Grenache, Bekkers
£260 per 6 bottle case in bond
Easily their best Grenache yet -- and that is saying something. Scented, aromatic – as the best Grenache are – with notes of ripe red cherry, aromatic herbs and mocha in the background. So sleek and refined on the palate, this possesses a lightness of touch, with a gently building intensity. The generous fruit captures notes of wild strawberry and morello cherry, with complexity coming from an almost garrigue, Rhône-like character. The broad swathe of fruit picks up subtle hints of mocha and milk chocolate on the finish, but the overriding impression is of freshness. This is very special. (SL) Drink 2020-2032
2016 Syrah, Bekkers
£340 per 6 bottle case in bond
Deep in the glass, with a restrained dark, juicy berry fruit on the nose. This Syrah captures a terrific freshness as ever and take just a little swirling for the admirable density of deep loganberry and blackberry fruit to come to the fore. Gently spicy, with notes of liquorice adding intrigue to the finish, this is such a well-crafted Syrah. Not overt but not shy, there is impeccable balance on show. The hint of background oak just lends a subtle toast and creaminess to the impeccable fruit. So complete and harmonious, this ranks with the best vintages so far from Bekkers. (SL) Drink 2023-2034.
Additionally, a mixed case of 12 bottles containing four bottles of each of the Syrah, Syrah/ Grenache and Grenache, repacked by Atlas, available at £590 per 12 bottles in bond.
By way of background, Toby is a hugely respected vineyard consultant and a pioneer of organic and biodynamic viticulture. His wife, Emanuelle, is a French winemaking consultant, who ended up in Australia by way of winemaking roles at Hardy’s. Together they have a near perfect blend of skills!
Toby’s vast knowledge of the growers, soils and vines provides Emma with the best fruit for the winemaking. A small, 6-hectare plot of grenache vines planted in the 1930s, for example, caught Toby’s eye nearly two decades ago and he’s fostered a strong relationship with the grower. Toby’s attention to detail is matched by Emma’s exacting standards in the winery. Fruit is handpicked and then meticulously sorted. It is then vinified at the neighbouring state-of-the-art winery Yangarra and then transferred to Bekkers’ own barrel room.
While their Syrah has garnered most of the plaudits to date, Grenache is experiencing something of a renaissance in the McLaren Vale. Often associated with very fruit forward, easy drinking wines in Australia, in deft hands Grenache can achieve complexity and a terrific silkiness to the fruit. On sandy soils at high elevations it retains it freshness. It is the sophistication of the Bekkers Grenache that impresses. ‘To get the best out of Grenache, you’ve got to put it in a bonsai pot’ says Toby with a smile – it hints at the attention that the Bekkers bring to bear on the wines.
A special, remarkably skilled producer, in a fascinating region, producing such precise, pure wines in a very fine vintage – now that is a head-turning combination.
Please let us know of your interest.