The wines from Toby and Emmanuelle Bekkers deserve greater attention. I say this, as every time I taste through the range, I am struck at just how impressive they are.
We have developed a steady following since we started raving about these McClaren Vale wines over seven years ago. They possess a rare sense of balance, precision and elegance that is uncommon for the majority of Australian Syrah or Grenache. If you haven’t yet tried these wines, you are urged to do so - the 2020s truly shone at our recent tasting.
If you aren’t already familiar with these wines, Toby Bekkers is a hugely respected vineyard consultant and a pioneer of organic and biodynamic viticulture. His wife Emmanuelle - nicknamed Emma - is a French winemaking consultant, who ended up in Australia with a background of winemaking at Hardy’s. Together, they have a near perfect blend of skills which speaks volumes to the quality and provenance of these wines.
Toby’s vast knowledge of the growers, soils and vines provides Emma with the best fruit for the winemaking. A noteworthy example is a small, 6-hectare plot of Grenache vines planted in the 1930s that caught Toby’s eye nearly two decades ago; he has since fostered a strong relationship with the grower, from whom they purchase the fruit. Toby’s attention to detail is matched by Emma’s exacting standards in the winery. Fruit is handpicked and then meticulously sorted.
McLaren Vale 2020 vintage report
The 2020 vintage in the McClaren Vale has shown very good potential. The year was slightly drier than average – matching the conditions experienced in the preceding two years, all of which have been relatively low yielding. December was the hottest month on record, yet was relieved by noticeably cooler temperatures in January, which compensated by being over a degree below average. Rains in February served to freshen up the vineyards and had no negative effects. February, which is invariably the hottest month, continued in a cooler vein leading up to an uncomplicated harvest in March. The cooler later-season conditions have led to a fine sense of freshness in the 2020s, which beautifully offsets the generous, ripe fruit.
As ever, I am struck by the outstanding clarity of these wines and the exquisite balance. They are ripe and generous without being extravagant or heady. You gain the sense that fruit was picked at optimal ripeness as you taste across the wines. They are characterised by wonderfully pure layers of fruit and are clearly the product of skilled winemaking.
I will leave the space below to some critics’ notes and scores, but to give my view, I would say the Grenache possesses an effortless, creamy core of vibrant spiced raspberry. You may be surprised by the translucence of this wine, and its sense of restraint – the fruit is glorious, unhampered as it is by any overt oak or hefty extraction.
The Syrah/Grenache must rank as one of the finest I have tasted from Bekkers. Somehow this blend is knitting in a better way than in the early days, revealing dark, macerated fruits, notes of liquorice, pepper and spice and the merest hint of fresh coffee bean. The juiciness of the dusky fruit that dominates is striking.
And then, we come to the Syrah. Much inkier in the glass, with a nose that suggests small dark berries, blackberry, and blackcurrant even. There is a coolness about this Syrah, which, despite its abundant fruit, remains fresh and poised, with pepper, mint and five-spice notes emerging to the finish. This is such a beautiful expression of Syrah – it is a sophisticated rather than a hedonistic style, and so much the better for it.
I could wax lyrical about these wines with ease, but I think it is important to continue to highlight the reviews from notable critics. If you won’t take it from this Larkin, perhaps you might from Erin Larkin at robertparker.com