Mount Langi Ghiran

by Vic Harradine

On the way back to Canada we stopped in Melbourne, Victoria and couldn’t pass up visiting a couple of top-tier, family-owned wineries. Whenever you meet a truly switched-on team of successful people, the first suspect for whom may be responsible for bringing this about is always the person at the top. In the case of both Yering Station (reviewed in next issue of winecurrent) and Mount Langi Ghiran, that would be Darren Rathbone. 


Darren Rathbone - CEO and Group Winemaker - Rathbone Wine Group

Winecurrent had the pleasure of making our 2nd visit to Yering Station in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, the first in 2010. Darren is a passionate oenophile, having planted a vineyard in the Yarra, spending time in Champagne working with the house of Devaux learning the Champagne method of making wine. He then returned to Australia, making sparkling wine in that traditional method and overseeing the launch of a new brand at Yering Station – Yarrabank – a joint venture with Devaux. He also traveled to Burgundy working the 2001 vintage at Domain Moreau in Chassagne Montrachet. Darren’s an academic—a graduate of Chemical Engineering at Melbourne Uni., a grad of UC Davis with a Masters of Food and Science, and an MBA graduate from Melbourne Business School. He and his father Doug developed the strategy to acquire and develop premium, complementary wineries—Mount Langi Ghiran was the first with Xanadu in West Australia purchased three years later.

Mount Langi Ghiran

Mount Langi Ghiran winery is nestled in a valley between two mountains and this is the penultimate factor for the amazing success of this cool-climate Australian winery. The vineyards are found at approximately 350 m at the base of Mount Langi Ghiran.

Over millennia, gradual erosion has caused granite sand to filter down the mountain and into the vineyards and we observed this as it’s quite visible to the naked eye in some parts—this rare feature ameliorates the natural vigour of Shiraz vines. Not four kilometers away is Mount Cole and cool air falls down both mountains making its way through the valley and vineyards. It’s demonstrably cooler in these vineyards than parts of even Tasmania where it’s commonly thought of as Australia’s coolest wine region. During the ripening season, especially the fall, the shadow of Mount Langi Ghiran shortens sunshine hours on vineyards providing longer ripening cycles, aka ‘hang time’ for the fruit. These are always among the last Shiraz vines in Australia to be harvested. 

left to right - Ben Haines - Chief Winemaker, Jess Robertson - Winemaker, Damien Sheehan - Viticulturist

With soil and vineyards the penultimate factor, it’s time for ‘ultimate factor’ for the success of Mount Langhi Ghiran winery—the people with their feet on that ground. It was a glorious day and the middle of harvest the day we visited Mount Langi Ghiran vineyards, cellar door and winery, an easy drive NW up the M8 highway and a scant two hours from Melbourne. We were greeted and hosted by viticulturist Damien Sheehan and chief winemaker, Ben Haines. We later caught up with winemaker Jess Robertson whose infectious smile, ability to multi-task and purple-stained hands had kept everything running smoothly that morning. Ben was quick, and demonstrably proud, to take us on an extended journey through the vineyards—observing the varied ripening patterns due to slope, aspect, soils, and tasting grapes for physiological ripeness as we went. He and Damien are familiar with every inch of ground, as well as its history, and give proof to their mantra, ‘Idyllic location, Iconic Shiraz’.

After tasting a carefully curated selection of their wine with Ben (reviewed below) we had a fabulous home-cooked, home-baked lunch with Damien, Ben and winemaker Jess Robertson and the entire crew. The enthusiasm they had for their work and the pride they took in their time nurturing grapes and wine through these critical stages was palpable. Jess has dreamed of doing what she is doing now since paying a high school visit. Ben has been here only short time, but has immersed himself completely and made great strides learning the intricacies of this multi-faceted site while Darren has been here twenty years and has invaluable history in his memory bank.

• Fruit for the following 2015 Cliff Edge Riesling was sourced from 2 prime sites—mainly from the cooler ‘Langi Old Plot Riesling’ with its 35-year-old vines and also from the ‘Hollows Vineyard’, a slightly warmer spot with north-facing slopes.

****1/2 drink now
Mount Langi Ghiran ‘Cliff Edge’ Riesling 2015
Grampians, Victoria $20.00 13.5% alcohol
Piquant spice, racy lemon-lime and mineral aromas introduce a persistent stream of Riesling ambrosia. It bathes the palate with ripe orchard fruit—pear, apple, yellow plum—beautifully balanced with lip-smacking acidity—lemon curd and lime zest producing a clean, crisp and refreshing experience from twist top to last drop. This is well paced, well priced and well… delicious. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2015 Pinot Gris was 15% barrel and 85% stainless steel tank fermented by wild and cultured yeast strains with the 15% barrel-fermented portion left on lees with stirring for two months then another five months resting. The 100% estate fruit was sourced from vines planted in the late 1990s.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Mount Langi Ghiran ‘Cliff Edge’ Pinot Gris 2015
Grampians, Victoria $25.00 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of citrus, floral and honey notes abound on the nose of this mid-weight, gorgeously textured Gris. A surge of sweet and tang envelop the palate with ripe fruit—white peach and ripe pear—meeting their match from a solid line of racy tang delivered from Meyer lemon and Key lime. This is balanced and beautiful, fully expressing itself on the lengthy refreshing finish and aftertaste. Think of this as a life preserver thrown to a wine-world drowning in watery Pinot Grigio. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2015 ‘Spinoff’ Riesling is a feather in the cap of winemaker extraordinaire, Ben Haines. Hand-picked grapes were harvested at peak of physiological ripeness, de-stemmed into a well-seasoned 500 L barrel stood upright, minus the head where it was ‘open-top’ wild-yeast fermented. Sealed with palate wrap and left on lees for 14 months, with occasional lees stirring, skins were basket pressed resting on lees a further two months when it was racked to bottle with no additions or filtration. In Ben’s words, “Pure. Riesling.”

***** drink or cellar
Mount Langi Ghiran ‘Spinoff’ Riesling 2015
Grampians, Victoria $35.00 11.0% alcohol
Mineral notes, racy citrus and sprigs of savory herb plus sharp spice aromas dominate the nose of this spectacular Riesling. It’s structured, boasts purity of fruit with generous mouthfeel and delivers bracing acidity with flavour and crunchy tang—passionfruit and gooseberry—interweaving with ripe fruit—nectarine and apricot. It glides across the palate, infusing the lingering finish, creamy smooth, balanced and full of style and grandeur. Kudos to Chief winemaker Ben Haines and his experienced team. (Vic Harradine)

**** cellar
Mount Langi Ghiran ‘Cliff Edge’ Shiraz 2014
Grampians, Victoria $30.00 14.0% alcohol
A profusion of dark black fruit, earthy notes and savory herbs leap from the glass of this cellar-dweller—twist tops in 2018 and hopefully be rewarded for your patience and short-term cellaring. A broad-shouldered swath of black currant, black plum, ripe mulberry and dark Bing cherry cuts across the palate intertwined with a bucket-load of spice then muscles its way through the firmly structured finish and aftertaste encountering traces of tomato leaf. This may have the bones to mature into something special. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 cellar
Mount Langi Ghiran ‘Mast’ Shiraz 2014
Grampians, Victoria $65.00 14.6% alcohol
Highly perfumed, savory herbs, cedar, toasty oak and peppery spice aromas make way for a medium-full bodied, nicely textured wave of savory herbs interlaced with quivering acidity and tang. The palate’s treated to a wash of pie cherry, red currant, notions of Campari and replay of herbs with wisps of green tomato leaf. This is all underpinned by still-evolving tannin. Give this a go starting 2020 and pour with grilled-rare, well-seasoned striploin. (Vic Harradine)

• Unsurprisingly, the following Mount Langi Ghiran ‘Langi’ Shiraz is considered by many to be one of the best cool-climate Shiraz in Australia. It’s also found in the vaunted Langton’s Classification of Fine Australian Wine because of its fabulous track record.

***** cellar
Mount Langi Ghiran ‘Langi’ Shiraz 2014
Grampians, Victoria $120.00 14.0% alcohol
Perfumed aromas redolent of red cherry/berry fruit waft easily from this full-bodied, fully textured iconic red. There are plenty of those red fruit flavours on the palate and they’re nicely garnished with peppery spice, savory herbs and flecks of blueberry. Excellent tang frames the experience for now, but another few years will allow this to mature and broaden out—tuck away until 2022 and on to 2030, if you wish—this will certainly mature gracefully and reward your patience. (Vic Harradine)