Winemaker: Marco Cirillo
Marco Cirillo is a ninth Generation grape grower and winemaker, whose forebears hailed from Calabria in Italy’s deep south. In 1959, Marco’s father Vince purchased one of the oldest surviving patches of Grenache Noir in the Barossa, a vineyard planted in 1848. Since 2003, Marco has made what is now one of the most defining of Barossa wines, from a grape variety that for too long remained in the shadow of Shiraz. Especially since 2011, Marco has demonstrated that the Barossa can produce ethereal Grenache of subtlety and freshness.
Marco was originally keen to collaborate on an Otherness Grenache, but the first project, the 2015, ‘An Ill Wind’ Grenache Mataro blend was already resting in a Noblot Concrete Egg at Dan Standish’s. After Marco tasted that wine and indicated his enthusiasm, he turned to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Let’s make a Cabernet!”
Although I’m never a fan of pronounced methoxypyrazine characters in Sauvignon Blanc, I believe that the suppression of these characters in local Cabernets has resulted in a regional style that sometimes plays in the no-man’s land of aromatics and flavour. I often taste local Cabernets and long for less ripeness, more varietal definition, a bit more leaf, a bit more drive.
The best Cabernet Francs from Saumur, Chinon and Bourgueil tease the senses with aromatic freshness and lightness: they are wines that excite me, and despite the essential differences between these cool northern French appellations and the Barossa, these wines have influenced the flavour template of this 440 Cabernet.
Marco and I discussed different plans of attack and eventually decided to pick early and often. The Cabernet fruit-set in our vineyard was very patchy and the crop was tiny. Early March, we handpicked two rows at 11 Baume, then a two weeks later we picked two rows at 12. The last fruit came in a couple of weeks later at 13.5.
Partial whole bunch, a cool wild ferment and maturation in four-year-old hogsheads have resulted in a wine that is supple, perfumed, fresh, lifted and long. There’s additional power, courtesy of a classic vintage and Cabernet’s regional chocolate and Kalamata flavours are more immediately apparent. The signature silkiness and herbal complexities influence a wine that will please those who can’t resist opening a bottle tonight, as well as those who prefer to patiently await the development of tertiary characters over the next ten or more years.
Why 440? I spent much of my early working life working as a professional musician. I was often that guy who whacked a tuning fork against his knee, held it up to his ear before blowing a long penetrating note on his oboe, to which all members of the orchestra tuned their instruments.
That note is A440: 440 hertz, and the oboe purportedly gets to play it because of the piercing, penetrating nature of its timbre. The oboe player doesn’t need to play at all loudly: the oboe can be heard throughout even the biggest Wagnerian orchestras.
This was something of the quality I was seeking in this Cabernet: to enhance Cabernet’s ‘oboistic’ characteristics. Something of its penetrating, piercing line and length.
800 bottles produced