As with all their wine projects, Anthony Terlato and Michel Chapoutier are pursuing their Australian venture with zeal. Their goal of making “one of Australia’s most important wines” may strike some as impossibly lofty, but for them it is par for the course. It is what they do. Not interested in bringing just another brand to the market, they have set out to create an authentic, evocative expression of a carefully chosen vineyard site. In practice, this means every vineyard and winemaking question that arises can be answered easily: Do what will result in a better wine. It’s not the best way to gain a quick return on an investment, but it is the path to quality. And in the words of Terlato, “Only quality endures.”
The Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier emblem depicts the Terlato and Chapoutier family shields, representing the partnership of both families in this wine venture. The Braille label is consistent with Michel Chapoutier’s humanitarian values and fosters his belief that everyone, including those who are blind, should be able to enjoy every aspect of the wine tasting experience.
The Malakoff Vineyard
For as long as Australia has been known for Shiraz, the Barossa and McLaren Vale have been the country’s areas of viticulture concentrations. In recent years, however, ambitious vintners have moved beyond these two South Australia regions, eager to explore the possibilities elsewhere and unafraid to test the world’s perception of what Australian Shiraz can be. Malakoff Vineyard – 46 acres of vines on an eastern-facing slope on the southern edge of the Pyrenees Hills in Western Central Victoria – is an example of just that kind of adventure and is proving to be an outstanding success.
A number of elements caught Michel Chapoutier’s attention when he was introduced to the undeveloped site nearly a decade ago. He first recognized that it is a region that receives ample sunshine; Malakoff has remarkable exposure, which allows for maximum fruit development and ripeness. Also, the upland territory benefits from cool breezes that stream through the vineyard. The result is an ideal temperate climate that lends the lieu dit Malakoff Shiraz its distinctive and intriguing flavor profiles, particularly its peppery taste.
Doug Fletcher, Vice President of Winemaking for Terlato Wine Group explains, “Soils in the region are mostly red podzolic earth over parent schists, shales, midstones and some quartz from sedimentary marine deposits more than 500 million years old. In these ancient soils, low yields of small, concentrated fruit are produced. Maturing slowly, the tiny berries are intensely flavorful. The Malakoff soil is also permeable and well structured, providing good aeration and drainage. These vineyards are harvested late so that the grape tannins are fully ripened.”
Malakoff is farmed based on the broad philosophy for which Michel Chapoutier is famous – emphasizing soil health. The focus is on maintaining good balance in the vineyard’s natural environment while working where appropriate and necessary to improve soil and vineyard conditions.
Identified as a phylloxera-free zone, the Malakoff vineyard is not threatened by any of the feared phylloxera pests. Thus, the vines can be planted on their own roots, a desirable rarity among the world’s great vineyards. Perhaps due to the absence of rootstock planting, the Malakoff vines have proved to be more vigorous in their ability to better tolerate drought conditions.
Assessing the Malakoff vineyard, which was planted in 1998, Chapoutier reveals enthusiasm and optimism mixed with the circumspection of a man whose origins are in the comparatively ancient winemaking regions of the Northern Rhône. “The vineyard is young, but greatness is possible,” he says.