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Mt.Jagged Red Sparkling Wine,
A gem for all-seasons
from South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula

By Simone Zarmati Diament

"It takes a Canadian who immigrated to Australia to have the audacity to create a sparkling red wine, as sleek and sophisticated as it is refreshing and unpretentious. The Mt. Jagged NV Sparkling Red, a non-vintage blend from Mt. Jagged vineyards in the Fleurieu Peninsula in Southern Australia, is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet, Shiraz and Grenache, and has more substance and character than any rosť I've tasted so far. The taste is complex: berries, pomegranate and coffee with hints of pepper and mint, but the fizz makes it is easy to drink on its own or with just about everything you can think of. "All parcels are kept separate until the final blend after aging in oak for various lengths of time," explained owner Jerry White, at a recent Australian wine tasting at Quinn's in South Beach, for Australian winemakers in search of distributors.

Jerry White, owner of Mt. Jagged Wines, immigrated to Australia from Canada in 1970. In 1976 he started his own business, manufacturing neon lamps and sale of incandescent lights to the Australian Railways. When in 1988 he purchased 250 acres at Mt. Jagged with the intention of planting a vineyard, he was one of the first to buy into the Yankalilla district - or Southern Fleurieu as it is now officially known, without even knowing what he didn't know about winemaking.

Today, the area has about 32 vineyards and the geographical indication of the Southern Fleurieu has been entered into the Register of Protected Names.

Mr. White learned fast: in 1989, he planted 50 acres with Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon. The soil helped: Southern Fleurieu's sandy, loam-over-clay soil is ideal for white grapes, and its grainy topsoil with deep under the surface clay and a reef of ironstone in the middle couldn't be more favorable to red grapes. The area's classical cool climate -- strong maritime influences with humidity and moderate temperature fluctuations - also helps with the full ripening of the fruit.

Mr. White's first crop was wiped out by hail in 1992, but he recovered, and in 1994 the vines produced the first productive crop. At first, he sold the bulk of the fruit to Southcorp/Penfolds, but in 1996, he plunged into serious winemaking under the Mt. Jagged label after his first success with an estate-bottled Semillon.

Today, Mt. Jagged Wines' winemaker, Mike Farmilo, who worked with Southcorp/Penfolds for many years, produces a mellow, deep and plush 2001 Mt. Jagged Fleurieu Peninsula Shiraz with a long and supple finish; and a Bordeaux-like 2001 Mt Jagged Fleurieu Peninsula Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, with a delicate nose, soft mushroom tones into the deep blackcurrant and blueberry of the blend, and is no coarse intrusion from oak. He also produces whites which are smooth, intense, yet crisp and complex, at reasonable prices, and outstanding novelties such as the NV Sparkling Red, a match to serious bubblies worlwide.

Mt. Jagged Fleurieu NV Sparkling Red ($14.99)
This sparkling wine is non-vintage blend from Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet, Shiraz and Grenache. All parcels are kept separate until the final blend after aging in oak for various lengths of time. The final blend produces a wine with spiciness, chewy tannins and sweet fruit flavor which combines beautifully with roast turkey, duck, meats and grilled fish, as well as with pastas, mushrooms and vegetables.

2003 Mt. Jagged Fleurieu Unwooded Chardonnay ($16)
Yellow straw in color with a nose of tropical fruit mixed in with some peachy/herbaceous characteristics with a hint of lemon and vanilla.
On the palate it has beautiful citrus flavors of fresh green apples and peaches with a touch of honeydew melon. The acidity is well balanced and will support a lot of further time development for the wine. The finish is nice long and lingering without any trace of bitterness.

2003 Mt. Jagged Fleurieu Unwooded Dry White ($12.99)
The blend is 70% Semillon and 30% Chardonnay. The wine's is pale straw in color with a tinge of green about it. The nose is filled with intense Semillon characteristics of citrus, lemons, green apples with underlying aromas of herbaceous snow peas and slight floral tones.
The palate is solid in green apples with traces of lemon and snow pea with an underlying tone of a tropical fruit salad. It is quite intense with a solid acid structure. The finish is beautiful and long with the taste of limes running all the way through.

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