Little Brunswick Wine Co / Heathcote/Grampians

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Alex Croker and Robbie Lundberg met whilst working at Brunswick urban winery Noisy Ritual.  Keen on starting their own project, Alex rented a house on a hillside in Coburg due to its tiny under-house cellar, which served as their first makeshift winery space, complete with the workouts of pushing wheelbarrows full of grapes up the steep driveway.

Some swift sales early on saw the pair able to raise enough to rent a shed in Bacchus Marsh and establish a co-op winery, the space currently shared by Wilkie, Beyond the Glass and Meredith (formerly Good Clean Fun Wines).

Fruit is sourced from around Victoria (principally Heathcote and Grampians), with Alex and Robbie closely working with growers, balancing an interest in emerging varieties and winemaking techniques (per the skin contact Greco or flor raised Mataro rosé) against a firm respect for varieties already planted, keeping grounded against flash in the pan trends, hence Shiraz getting a strong showing in this stable.  They work with growers for several years before requesting changes (eg to cropping regimen) and pay higher prices for fruit than most at their price point.

Winemaking is as minimal as possible with wild primary and secondary ferments and no filtration or fining; the duo defend both the scope of winemaking knowledge required to craft proper minimally handled wines, as well as the quality of vineyard and fruit required to raise these styles.  Given Alex lectures wine styles and vineyard disease at Victoria’s only winemaking course at Melbourne Polytechnic, these are views we take with appropriate gravity.

The gorgeous labels are handled by artist Miranda Costa, coincidentally a long-time friend of ours who also created the Felixir branding, and the wines stylistically are fresh and lower in alcohol and while the contemporary sensibilities show, thoughtful winemaking and nuance are readily apparent here.

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  • Little Brunswick Wine Co Touriga Rosé 2022

    $ 29.00 incl. GST

    100% Touriga Nacional, grown in the Willougby Bridge vineyard in Colbinabbin, Heathcote GI.  A cool and wet vintage, not ideal for reds, it had the flipside effect of raising fantastic material for rosé here.  Left two hours on skins in the press to pick up additional colour and aroma, before barrel fermentation in old French barriques.  Following full malolactic fermentation the wine remained on light lees untopped until bottling.

    We love the contrast here to classic Provence.  Bone dry and showing the exotic and bright fruits of the variety of cherry, blueberries and rose water, with a slate edge and some fantastic texture from the barrel components.  Critically, delicious, refreshing and moreish.

  • Little Brunswick Wine Co Grampians Shiraz Cabernet 2022

    $ 34.00 incl. GST

    Grown in the Rice’s vineyard, Concongella, Grampians.  The marginal climate for these varieties sees alcohol at a modest 11.7%.  The blend is close to 50/50 with the grapes co-fermented, and raised in a mixture of large and small format seasoned oak.

    Ultra savoury and low-toned, reminiscent for us of Bordeaux against Languedoc/Cahors.  Graphite, black fruited with the Cabernet component speaking right up, stretching to rose petals, lavender, and an olive tapenade/saline component.  Inky and with fantastic length, thought provoking in being perhaps so contemporary it’s evoking the true old-school style of winemaking of old oak, low alcohols, fresh acid and clear potential for cellaring longevity.

  • Little Brunswick Wine Co Grampians Syrah 2022

    $ 34.00 incl. GST

    Rice’s vineyard here again, and its flavour density belying the low 11.4% ABV.  The cool season necessitated a longer hang time on the vine and picked over three harvest dates.  All parcels were treated similarly with 20-30% whole bunch, gentle punch-downs twice daily, and extended skin contact to allow better tannic integration and enhancement of flavours.  Aged nine months in large format old French oak and a small portion of second-fill French barriques.

    “Big dashes of white pepper and smoky paprika on preserved plum and choc-cherry scents. Flavours lean into this spectrum, very bright in that regard, a touch of game meat with paprika seasoning again, squishy mulberry in there too. Some minty herbal lift present, a twiggy tannin profile and some more pepper through the lingering finish. I see this chilled over drunk at room temp, but hey, that’s most red wines for me. Nice drink.”  91 points, Mike Bennie, Winefront

  • Little Brunswick Wine Co Greco skin contact 2022

    $ 37.00 incl. GST

    Willoughby Bridge vineyard here again.  100% crushed and destemmed to open fermenters and left on skins for 3 ½ weeks.  Free run juice and pressings were separated before élevage in stainless steel on gross lees for eight months, before being blended back to add more mouthfeel and texture to the lighter free run component.

    For the style, feels proper.  Ultra orange in colour, with flavours of oranges and orange marmalate, mandarin, orchard fruits and amaro.  Some digestif and herbal tea vibes kick through on the finish for further interest, and a decent spread of tannins, Cabernet-esque we thought.  Will be a hit for skin contact fans, and a decent place to try and convert folk still discovering skinsy styles.

  • Little Brunswick Wine Co Heathcote Shiraz 2022

    $ 37.00 incl. GST

    Grown by young vigneron Gerrard Kennedy.  Almost entirely destemmed, fermented in open stainless tanks, and aged nine months in a combination of second fill French barriques, seasoned hogsheads and seasoned puncheons, allowing a greater breadth of blending material.

    “Great drinking here and verity to the region in the bolder scents and flavours and yet the wine holds medium weight, and does it well. Sweet spices in perfume, lots of that, some violet floral lift, black olive, black jellybean, dark cherry and raspberry, game meat in the mix also. It’s lovely to sit with and sniff, the palate delivers all those characters wrapped up in grunty, earthy tannin with a good sense of balance and tension. It’s a big yes.” 93 points, Mike Bennie, Winefront

  • Little Brunswick Wine Co Mataro Rosé 2022

    $ 42.00 incl. GST

    Grown in the same vineyard as the Touriga (Colbinabbin). Barrel fermented and left on light lees though allowed to develop a gentle flor.  In the summer of 2022 the flor fell and the wine was left to oxidatively age for another 12 months.  Only made when conditions permit, this was the wine which drew us in to the stable.  If the tech specs sound a little funky and confrontational, we can put that to rest, this is delicious, accessible, supremely well integrated and offers exactly what a textural rosé should – awesome refreshment and food friendliness.

    “Great, rosy but slightly ferrous looking colour. Scents of sour cherry, raspberry, fennel, a bit of green almond and faint toast. Lovely stuff. Serious stuff! Sappy and succulent in the palate, a kind of juiciness perhaps but there’s a distinct web of slaty tannin wrapping it all up, though the finish titters on with its splashes of tangy, blood orange zing amongst the red berry fruit and faint nuttiness. Feels serious. Feels very good.”  94 points, Mike Bennie, Winefront

  • Little Brunswick Wine Co In Shade We Won’t Ever Sit Grampians Vine Dried Shiraz 2021

    $ 48.00 incl. GST

    From Rice’s vineyard – a cooler season allowing the opportunity to cut the canes and allow the Shiraz to concentrate on the vine for around three weeks.  This whole-bunch dried fruit was combined with last pick Shiraz to lift the richness, and was fermented dry before being pressed into predominantly neutral French oak, remaining on light lees for 20 months.  Possibly the only vine-dried Shiraz made in the Grampians, a style the boys are immensely proud of.

    While we include the Winefront review below we dissent slightly in considering this surprisingly savoury considering the winemaking.  A dense wine of blue fruits, quite poised, its texture clearly shows the dried component and although there’s some glossiness it’s dry, elegant, sharply defined and has a lovely balancing balsamic lick.  One perhaps best experienced first-hand.

    “‘A society grows great, when old men plant trees, the shade of which they know they will never sit in’. From Grampians.

    “Has the strong imprint of that vine drying, raspberry jam scents uplifting and sweet with pepper and cinnamon around it all. A bit like one of those biscuits with jam in the middle, perhaps, too. Fleshy and jammy in the palate likewise, more of the same, a robust imprint of that jam biscuit thing with clove licks through the finish. While bold in its feel, it also feels a bit one speed, despite the lift of tangy acidity in there. The fan base for more opulent, sweeter reds should be well served.”  89 points, Mike Bennie, Winefront