Is there life after working for the big names of wine making, after all the trophies and media about your big name wines?
You bet there is, and unsurprisingly it involves making more trophy winning wines.
John Duval had a stellar career at Penfolds, including a 16 year long stint as the Chief Winemaker, responsible for the crafting of Penfolds world renowned Grange. Under his guidance, Penfolds were propelled to world-wide fame taking out Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 1989, Red Winemaker of the Year in 1991 and 2000 at the International Wine Challenge, and had his 1990 Penfolds Grange named Wine of the Year by the prestigious magazine Wine Spectator in 1995.
John left the then Southcorp owned Penfolds in 2002 and settled down in the Barossa Valley to start his own wine venture, John Duval Wines. Not surprisingly, given his reputation and proven experience, he soon had people knocking on his door from all parts of the world; Europe, Chile, the US and here at home, asking him to come on as a consultant wine maker, creating wines over three continents, creating wines that are representative of the country and climate of the vineyards. His consulting job at Songlines Estates in Tanunda, South Australia saw him creating wines that wowed the world, he crafted wines that had the intensity of fruit you would expect from 100 year old vines, but without the heaviness you could expect from those big, fruit driven red’s. And again, unsurprisingly, wines that went on to wine a lot of trophies and awards and press.
John’s first wine under his own label was the 2003 Plexus, a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre, a wine that went on to score 93 points from Robert Parker Jr in The Wine Advocate, and 94 points from Philip White in The Adelaide Advertiser who called it a “near perfect example”. It put the John Duval Wines label on a lot of cork-dorks radars, people that were looking for something different, something that will hold age but still something that was going to be year-in and year-out an excellent drinking wine.
He released his “Entity” Shiraz in 2006, which went on to garner more acclaim and awards for the winery, taking a 99pt rating for his 2017 vintage from Halliday just a few months ago. It’s worth pointing out here that the Entity $45 at the major bottleshops, it’s probably the cheapest 99pt wine in my recent memory. Over the years Duval has added several more labels to his range, including two made exclusively for Cellarmasters, still under the John Duval Wines label, and a single white wine blended from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.
Duval has no intentions to make oceans of his own wines or creating another juggernaut like Penfolds. In his own words “it is simply my chance to express my 40 plus years of premium winemaking knowledge using some of the best fruit in the world”.
And very good wines they are.
A few to try:
John Duval Wines Plexus White MRV 2017 – you know a white wine has something serious going on when you keep coming back to it whilst tasting the all the other red labels. A blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. It’s bright, and fruit driven, textural and smoky all the same time. Vibrant stone fruits, citrus, honeysuckle and roasted nuts on the nose, in the mouth it there is an interplay between the fruit characters and a savouriness that simply makes this wine work in climate. It should carry some short term age too. Available online or independent bottleshops. RRP $30. Bloody great wine this, and definitely worth grbabing some now for the Xmas.
John Duval Wines Spiritus SGM 2016 – 65% Shiraz, 25% Grenache from old bush vines and 10% Mataro from old bush vines, and although the shiraz has the spine of the wine here it’s the Grenache that does the heavy lifting on the nose, and the Mataro drives the savouriness on the tongue. There’s rich black cherry and red fruits with white pepper and spices on the nose, light touch of tarry notes. Surprisingly intense and rich despite its $16 price tag, driven by those same fruits with a good savoury finish on it. Available exclusively at Cellarmasters.
John Duval Wines Entity Shiraz 2017 – one of those rich and complex “sit on the couch, contemplating your place in the world and how good is what’s in you glass” type of wines. Blended from fruit from five districts, and instant appeal as soon as your nose hits the glass. Big and rich, driven by oak and fleshy fruit notes, on the tongue it’s so plush and smooth, olive tapenade, and dark fruits hum along nicely with the oak and spice notes. Incredibly well balanced and oozes class. Available everywhere about $45.
John Duval Wines Eligo Shiraz 2016 – ok so at $120rrp bottle, it’s not something you will drink every day or buy a lot of, but if you’re looking for a wine to celebrate something very special, or impress the hell out of the father-in-law to be, then this will be your new friend. The sheer power and intensity of the wine is incredible, tarry and smoky, with black fruit and spice, all wrapped around a core of sweet fruit. Superb wine. Available independents and online.
John Duval Wines Annexus Grenache 2016 – when done well, a straight Grenache (known as Garnacha in Spain) can be one of the great wine drinking pleasures. Definitely not one of those Turkish Delight styled Grenaches, this is a blockbuster of power and elegance, flavour with finesse, driven by dark berry and raspberry fruit, some dark jube notes and throws out spice and herb notes as it trickles down your throat. Very long and vibrant finish. Very special drop. About $50 available everywhere.