Hub is named after jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and is my favourite in the Pedro Parra range. The 80-year-old vines here are at 300 metres and face north-west on very poor granitic soils, yielding a wine with more colour than the rest of the line up, wonderful, sappy vivacity and intensity, a spicy undertone and vibrant red cherry, blackberry and raspberry coulis flavours. Fresh, long and satisfying, it’s a Grand Cru expression of Itata Valley Cinsault.
Imaginador comes from four different sites in the coastal-influenced sub-region of Guarilihue and encapsulates everything that is most appealing about Itata Valley Cinsault. Spicy, fresh and stony, with classic granitic focus and tannins, it has a hint of Asian spices from partial whole cluster fermentation and a core of raspberry and summer pudding fruit sustained by acidity and zip.
Monk – a tribute to jazz pianist Thelonius Monk – is a superb varietal Cinsault from a 70-year-old vineyard at 300 metres in Guarilihue. Fermented with natural yeasts and one-third whole clusters, it’s a dense, slightly smoky red from granitic clay soils, showing impressive depth and richness, notes of gunflint, red plum and wild strawberry and a long, balanced finish. Chilean Cinsault at its best.
A Pencopolitano is a native of Pedro Parra’s native city of Concepción, where it is surprisingly difficult to find examples of the local wines in restaurants. (I know, I’ve tried.) This is a blend of Cinsault with 33% País and has more structure and acidity than the pure Cinsaults in which Parra specialises. Dry-farmed vineyards in Guarilihue and Portezuelo supply the grapes here, with 30% whole bunches adding some spice and structure to the raspberry, redcurrant and red plum flavours. The finish has some sinewy grip.
Trane, named after jazz legend John Coltrane, comes from a 70-year-old vineyard at 300 metres on shallow granite soils with silt and stones. Fermented with 30% whole bunches, it has medium colour, aromas of wild strawberry and Turkish Delight, juicy red berry fruit of raspberry and bramble, subtle reduction and classic Itata grip and understated intensity.
The list of impressive Nebbiolo producers outside north-west Italy isn’t a long one, but Steve Pannell, who has worked in Piedmont to familiarise himself with the grape, would definitely be on it. Suitably pale in colour, with the variety’s unique combination of austerity and voluptuousness, firm tannins and sweet, savoury autumnal fruit, this wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of Barolos.
Steve Pannell was making great Grenache in McLaren Vale before the variety began to enjoy its modern renaissance as the so-called “Pinot of the south”. This combines plum and raspberry fruit sweetness with a backbone of tannin and refreshing acidity, supporting the concentration of the old vine fruit. The oaking is almost imperceptible here.
This is my kind of wine. In fact, I could drink a bottle of this almost every day and never get bored. Classic, perfumed Crozes, with violet and rose petal aromas, textured tannins and lovely, gluggable flavours of blackberry, black olive and liquorice. The tannins are silky smooth, the oak beautifully integrated and there’s enough tannin to add some backbone.
This is only the “entry point” Dolcetto from the Vajra family, but it’s still a deliciously aromatic example of Piedmont’s everyday red. Aromatic and fruity, showing flavours of plum and black cherry, as well as aromas of violets, it’s at its best when lightly chilled. Aren’t we all? Long and refreshing with chalky acidity.
So appealing now that you are almost tempted to pull the cork, but give this superlative Barolo some time. Old vines, marl soils, a top vintage and brilliant winemaking all combine beautifully here. Elegant, minerally and poised, this has a red fruits sweetness that is almost reminiscent of Pinot Noir, but with a firmer backbone of acidity and tannin. Fine, silky and very long.
The straight Barbera d’Alba is mostly fermented in stainless steel, but sees a small percentage of new oak for extra complexity. Savoury, sweet and refreshing, it has a little more acidity and tannin than the Dolcetto, but is still deliciously approachable as a young wine. Pure, tranpsarent and appealing, this shows the elegance that is to typical of this producer’s wines.
Slightly higher in alcohol than the regular Barbera, this is mostly sourced from the Bricco delle Viole vineyard, where the vines are 40 years old. Aged in neutral Slavonian oak, it’s creamy, smooth and savoury, with impressive texture, notes of liquorice and dried herbs, polished tannins and a warm, full-bodied finish. A Barbera that’s definitely worth keeping for a few years.