SARAH AHMED – THE WINE DETECTIVE
I first came across Avani last September, when owner/winemaker Shashi Singh – a chemist by training – attended Wine Australia’s Women in Wine Tasting. Blown away by the 2015 vintage, I wrote up Avani Syrah in my October Wines of the Month post. The following month I headed down under to judge at the Limestone Coast Show and spent a few days in Mornington Peninsula doing groundwork for this November’s Arblaster & Clarke wine tour. It was the perfect excuse to visit Avani in Red Hill South.
THE INTREPID WINO – LET’S TASTE – AVANI SYRAH 2014:
THE INTREPID WINO PODCAST – LET’S TASTE – AVANI SYRAH 2014:
Avani Syrah Podcast
JAMES HALIDAY WINE COMPANION:
“2011 Avanisyrah Rating 91
It is full of sweet fruit, with savoury/spicy nuances running through the medium-bodied palate. There are no green characters despite the low alcohol; indeed there are fleeting glimpses of sweetness that could possibly be from a few g/l of residual sugar. Great achievement for ’11.
2010 Avanisyrah Rating 94
Destemmed grapes were cold-soaked for seven days, the wild yeast fermentation taking 7-10 days, with post-ferment maceration for 7-28 days; 18 months maturation in 2-3-year-old French oak. Deep, vivid crimson-purple; despite this protracted extraction and ageing, the wine is not the least bit heavy, the dark fruit flavours enhanced by soft tannins, oak more a vehicle for texture than flavour.
2009 Avanisyrah Rating 92
Medium red-purple, showing some development; a very complex bouquet with smoked meat overtones and allspice nuances to the striking palate; fine tannins are a major plus.”
THE AUSTRALIAN – MAX ALLEN:
“AVANI. Remember this name. It’s a Sanskrit word that means “mother earth”. It’s also the name of a new wine label from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Only one grape variety is grown in the Avani vineyard: shiraz. Only one wine is made: a syrah (the owner chose the grape’s French name for reasons that will become clear). And it’s one of the best new Australian wines I’ve tasted this year.
The winemaker is Shashi Singh. She and her chef husband, Devendra, own one of the Peninsula’s most-acclaimed Indian restaurants, Tulsi. Shashi discovered her passion for wine when the couple arrived in the region two decades ago. So when a small vineyard on Red Hill came on the market in 1998, they bought it.
Shashi, who had studied chemistry, enrolled in viticulture and oenology at Charles Sturt Uni and in 2000 a mutual friend introduced her to Phillip Jones, the legendary winemaker at Bass Phillip vineyard in Gippsland. He and Shashi hit it off immediately, and in 2004 she started working for him, eventually becoming his assistant winemaker as well as, initially with his guidance, making the wine from her vineyard in his cellar (the Singhs now have their own on-site winery).
The just-released 2009 Avani, from a low-yielding, hot vintage, is the first syrah Shashi made on her own, and it’s just magic: redolent of pure peppery spice and sinewy black fruit at first, it opens with some time in the glass to reveal lovely flesh and earthiness. The 2011, from a completely different, cool, wet vintage, is also available now and is a triumph, considering the challenge of the season: lighter bodied but still intense, it has gorgeous dark little country-hedgerow berries and a fine, almost silky texture.
The yet-to-be-released 2010 and still-in-barrel 2012 are bigger, more structured wines, although both are still very much in the medium-bodied, cool-climate, Rhone-like “syrah” mould: the 2010 grips on to your tongue and slowly oozes damson-plummy fruit; the 2012 is all seduction, draping folds of dark velvet across your palate.
Shashi Singh is heavily influenced by Phillip Jones’s minimal intervention approach in the winery: her syrah is made with zero additions (no cultured yeast, no acid, no tannin), no pumping or filtration, and very low levels of preservatives. Since 2005, the Singhs have also farmed their vineyard biodynamically, without synthetic fertilisers or herbicides or fungicides.
Biodynamics is controversial because it marries organic farming with spirituality. How does Shashi reconcile this with her science background?
“The philosophical side of biodynamics is very much what I grew up with in India,” she says. “And besides, I don’t need to have scientific proof to know things exist! I can see that biodynamics has made a huge difference in the vineyard, and the wines reflect that. The grapes ripen earlier, with better natural acidity, with more vibrant fruit flavour, which means I do not have to adjust the wine in the winery. Biodynamics enhances the expression of the vineyard in the wine.”
BROAD SHEET – SHASHI & SHIRAZ:
“A Mornington Peninsula winemaker has travelled her own path and gotten to know Mother Nature very well while creating her beautiful shiraz.” Click here for more….
THE SPICE ADVENTURESS – AN INDIAN FOOD AND WINE EXPERIENCE IN MORNINGTON PENINSULA, VICTORIA:
“We had a small wine tasting session, a very personal one as Shashi believes in small, intimate groups rather than large, commercial ones. I totally agree with her viewpoint especially after visiting a lot of wineries in Australia where sometimes the tasting session becomes so stuffy and formal. Shashi is happy to answer all your questions and she puts you instantly at easy that you would open up and ask the most basic things you want to know about win and pairing with food.” Click here for more….
KATE CHRISTENSEN – THE WINE PROJECT BLOG – MOTHER EARTH:
“If you are yet to try the exceptional wine from the small biodynamic, Mornington Peninsula poducer, Avani, you really must – it has truly left a lasting impression on me. It’s an Australian Shiraz, or as it’s called by the French name Syrah, with particulary uniqueness.” Click here for more….
THE WINE IDEALIST – AVANI – MAGIC ON THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA:
“The double rainbow continued to shine brilliantly out from the vineyard and over the hinterland beyond, as if nature was providing the metaphor for the entire magical wine tasting experience. I felt very privileged.” Click here for more….
RED AND BROWN WINE REVIEW – VISION REALISED: AVANI WINERY – MORNINGTON PENINSULA:
“As we both left the winery on the sunny spring morning, it was clear that the story of Avani was one that should appeal to the hearts, minds and palates of drinkers keen to try small output, hand-made, honest yet exciting wines.”Click here for more….