McLaren Vale Wines – Charlatan Wines


It is sometimes amazing the people you meet when you go wine tasting and it makes you realise how small the wine industry can be.  A number of months ago, I went to the cellar door of Lloyd Brothers Winery & Olive Grove, to review the cellar door and their wines (see my review on Lloyd Brothers).  When I discussed that I was going to review the winery on my blog,  the person working at the cellar door was very interested in what I was doing and it turned out that I was talking to a small scale winemaker who was interested in getting a write up in my blog as well.  I was also interested as the wine Chad had available was a Sangiovese and had some positive reviews.

Within a whisker Chad had organised for me to taste his wine  to review and I was impressed with the wine (see my video review).  Also check out Charlatan Wines web site.

Instead of me rehashing Chad’s information regarding his wine making journey please see below his supplied information of his venture……..

“I think I have one of the many McLaren Vale small winery winemaker to thank for getting me out of the rainwater tank industry and into the wine industry; back in 2005, although I think about it a lot I haven’t ever been able to drop a bottle into him and say thanks! I was working as a Sales Manager in the not so glamorous rainwater tank industry, starting my sixth year during the 2005 vintage. I think I became bored and dreamt of greater things… or something. During the vintage of 2005, I saw winemaker after winemaker from the Vale come through the showroom gates to buy our fermenting tanks and tubs. Every single day with dirty, red stained hands (and lips), purple stained jeans and crimson-soaked shoes. Tired, dirty and usually pretty unshaven! But always, without a fail, with smiles on their faces.

Wow, I thought, maybe it was possible to work your ass off, and love what you do?

This winery was small…very small in fact. Housed in a shed in the main street of the Vale, I quickly realized there was no work for me here.  The winemaker showed me around, apologized for not being able to give me anything.  But he mentioned, almost as an afterthought, that I might try a place called Redheads Studio, to see if they could keep me busy until this bizarre curiosity for winemaking subsided.  I said thanks and headed in their direction.  My first impression of Redheads was a mixture of excitement, action and a fair bit of chaos.  Actually, mostly just chaos.  There were around a dozen people here and there, all working and talking (or yelling) in different accents.  There were grapes and juice and must and mess everywhere.  I was quickly in the action with a pitchfork and suddenly I was helping to fork several ton of grapes into a tiny, rickety crusher.  Red juice splashed onto my clean jeans; my inadequate sneakers quickly became sticky, wet and cold.

Once the day’s crushing was complete, the guys asked me to hand plunge several 2 ton tubs of fermenting grapes.  This is the moment the skin on my hands first became stained a nice shade of pinkish-red with red wine juice, and they would stay this color for the next 3 weeks.  I think this might have been the time that I realized, ‘this is for me’. The smells of carbon dioxide, alcohol and yeast, all the different aromas of the different ferments, and the feel of warm must on my hands.  And that same day I was able to get my hands on some unsold fruit which I agreed to buy (somehow, with no money) my first half a ton of shiraz from a local grower who had filled his contract to Hardy’s and still had a few rows left over.  We hand picked it ourselves the next Saturday and I don’t think I spent many nights that month away from Redheads, watching my first Shiraz grow and evolve…

I purchased a ton of Shiraz in 2006 and made a cracker of a fruit driven purple 2006 Shiraz.  I wish I had made more now – it’s long gone.  I got licensed.  In 2007, I had some beloved Grenache fruit lined up, only to have it stolen from under my nose.  So I made no wine in 2007, and I missed it.

Then, later in 2007 my girlfriend and I visited a fairly newish cellar door run by a local wine nut, after a 90 minutes tasting of some amazing wines, we were both inspired by his passion, his honest, enthusiastic love of the game.  The very next day, I applied to study Oenology at the University of Adelaide.  I got accepted; and quit my job in October.  Now I balance full time study, a tiny wine label and 3 part time jobs at at different McLaren Vale wineries! Only once have I failed to arrive at the right job on the right day… so far.

2008 it was the Sangiovese.  I was working at as a cellar hand during vintage at a local winery on the crusher and weighbridge during vintage watching the infamous 2008 March heat wave desiccate anything with an ounce of moisture. I was still hanging around at Redheads waiting for a delivery of Sangiovese to arrive – my new favorite variety. One balmy 35 degree night my Sangiovese came in, and it was fresh, turgid and juicy! So I doubled my buy and took just over 2 ton. Still, might I add, without any money.  The Sangiovese was fermented cool, we tried to keep it under 15 degrees and we did chill it right down to under 8 degrees once it hit 2 or 3 Baume. I think that was the key to the cherry characters being preserved even though the must was at 35 degrees at the start of ferment! We used mostly 3 and 4 year old oak, and one new barrel for 8 months trying to keep those tannins at bay, although I think they crept in there more than I would have liked. They actually seemed to develop in bottle.

In 2009 I scored some sensational Merlot, and I made a ton of Cab Franc as well which is looking superb. Both will be bottled soon.

So, in a LONG nutshell… that’s the background! The 2006 Shiraz scored 92 points and the Sangiovese 93 in Halliday 2010. Bronze at the MVWS, bronze at the Australian Alternative Wine show and a Hottest 100 showing for the Sangiovese as well.”

Thanks Chad  but I suppose I should talk about the wine!

Charlatan Sangiovese on the Beach

2008 Charlatan Sangiovese ($A15)

This wine is all about cherries, cherries and more cherries.  The aromas also have some clove action and ever so slight cedar oak, which works so well with the cherries.  The fresh cherry flavors are mid weight (not your usual McLaren Vale full bodied wines here) with just a hint of tannins on the back of the palate.  Great as a lighter option for Pizza or pork dishes.  This wine just sings summer drinking when you do not want a rose or a heavy bodied style, but still something refreshing all the same.

The wine is sold via a 6 pack from the web site.

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About Lonely Grape

Passionate about wine - particularly McLaren Vale wines. Check out my blog on different winery reviews and my wine sales web site
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