The Wanderer New Releases

It would've been easy for Andrew Marks to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his parents labour. After all, they had established Gembrook Hill as one of the best artisanal producers in the Yarra Valley, widely admired for their thoughtfully made stable of wines, so why not just get absorbed into the mix and live a comfortable life? Well, once you meet him you know he's not really that kind of guy. Intellectually restless, garrulous and eager to push his own boundaries, he created The Wanderer label.

The name reflects this hankering to fill in the gaps in his wine making knowledge and create his own journey toward his own style. That journey took him around the world making wine and oh yeah, along the way he founded the Melbourne Gin Company (long before the making a Gin became the fashion he was using native botanicals to create a unique spirit). These days the label is Yarra Valley based - a small set of wines from specific parcels of fruit from the Upper Yarra - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Marks has been working with two growers over the past 12 years aiming to, in his words, maximise the most intensity, flavour and balance in the vineyard and fruit.

I tasted through the range of new releases recently and it is a beautifully crafted and terroir expressive set of wines. The thing that strikes me is his ability to give you wines which have intensity of both aroma and flavour but without heft.

The Upper Yarra Chardonnay I loved - it gently holds your attention with a lovely mix of waxy florals, peach and a dusting of wood spice. Persistently, enticing. You could say that stylistically it falls somewhere between the early picked regime and the more worked examples but to be honest the style is refreshingly informed by the site.

The other Upper Yarra (the wines in the range bearing the Upper Yarra nomenclature comes off a specific ...site), Pinot is again a beautifully poised wine. Not huge and imposing but more a siren-song style where spice tinged aromatics informed by some subtle stem work, draw you in and get you hooked. The palate has more volume than you'd expect with red fruits and spice combine with a little nuanced earthen tones. There's no shortage of lingering drive in this wine either. This one has been a staple on our shelves for a few years now.

The other wines in the range of note are the "white label" Pinot Noir - a lighter bodied wine in colour and in it's dancing aromatic but again enough weight as well as light and shade to lend it drinkability with room for thought. A delicious mid-weeker.

Then, there are two Syrah/Shiraz wines. Both wines come off the same vineyard, picked at the same time but made with different methodologies The Upper Yarra version is made to reflect a Northern Rhone cooler styling (Syrah) and the whole bunch element in the ferment has afforded this wine nice spice which treads the tightrope of stems-to-fruit ratio but it does it, and the fruit and savoury share the bed pretty nicely. Food style for sure. The other wine is made in a Shiraz style and the differences revolve around a good deal less whole bunch (only 10%) and a cold soak. The two wines are super interesting given they come from the same fruit.

Final word. I just love the styling of these wines in general and I think the descriptor Campbell Mattinson uses below kind of sums them up - reliant on presence more than weight. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Marks operates outside the cool crowd and maybe doesn't get the coverage his wine richly deserve.