The 2014 Genesis. You ready?
It doesn't smell so blue. Not violet, anyway: maybe deeper. The dark edge of it, where the ships fall off. And that pirate bit of it is the first thing requiring addressing: like once you're aboard you gotta look 'em in the eye.
It has that deep mahogany and dried kelp sea captain's cabin reek: more cognac than Royal Navy rum; more Flinders in Baudin's cabin than Baudin visiting the bay-rummed Englishman. Or maybe he dug out his powdered wig especially for it. I can smell that, too, but I reckon it's the Frenchman's.
Wig powder was the beautifully-scented product of the ground roots of irises, just by the way.
Then the currants begin to ooze through the starch and dressed leather, and that prickle of cordite from the powder-keen cannon lads seething belowdecks seems to go quiet when somebody opens the oven with the panforte and dumplings with the blueberries, blackberries and blackcurrants –even some juniper – and it all comes wafting up from the galley.
After half an hour there's a shy zephyr of confectioner's sugar perfumed with musk and lavender and these fresh ethereals gradually bloom and you realise the whole cornucopia's about to spill all over you and the charts table and everywhere and a lot of that fruit's not cooked at all...
You're much closer to land than you thought. You can smell Australia in the summer coming over the ocean. And you've gotta get there because it turns out your hull's full of fresh fruit.
I like the way this vineyard has spent fifteen vintages morphing from extra-terrestrial, like that UFO 1999, through a maritime approach then back to shore after this new vintage takes a night emptying its sails of gust, nudges its rubbing strakes against the bar and starts unloading fruit on the wharf where the fresh flowers, herbs and spices are stacked up to the galvo…
And the maritime stuff? The square-riggers? That's what happens when you know too much. A fortnight back, before these Castagnas arrived, I was with another brilliant winemaker, McLaren Vale's Stephen Pannell. As we drove around his vineyards, I remembered the old Jones Block, a legendary patch of Shiraz there on Oliver's Road.
"That's it next door," he said, nodding to the south. That's the vineyard he introduced Julian Castagna to, nearly twenty years before. That's where Julian chose to take most of the Castagna Shiraz cuttings. You can stand in those vines and look west to the Gulf St Vincent, just around the Cape from Encounter Bay, where those rival French and British sea captains just happened to bump into each other in 1802.
I wonder whether the wine would smell like sailing ships if I'd not known that.
Located in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, Beechworth is a small cool climate region with high continentality. The vineyards enjoy a large number of sunshine hours and are generally planted at altitudes of 400m. A variety of soil types are found with the two dominant ones being ancient sandstone gravel and clay and granitic loams over decomposed gravels and clays. While north or north-easterly slopes are generally favoured, the best sites are located away from higher altitude, cold-air drainage channels, with the risk of frost high in both spring and autumn. Restricted water availability means most vineyards are dry-grown. A region of small boutique producers, Beechworth is best known for premium Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Noir, although plantings of Italian varieties including Sangiovese and Nebbiolo also show great promise.