Nepenthe Wines was set up in 1994 by the Tweddell family who, I’m told, had always dreamed of owning a vineyard and winery. Since launching their first vintage in 1997, it has grown to become one of the more significant producers in the Adelaide Hills – a region gaining recognition worldwide for its excellent wines. The combinations of cool climate, high altitude, clean air and good soil is said to have established the Adelaide Hills as one of the prime winemaking regions in Australia. The name Nepenthe is drawn from one of the most famous works of historic Greek poet, Homer. In the Odyssey Homer described Nepenthe as an ancient herbal drink so powerful that it eases grief and banishes sorrow from the mind. I tasted two of the Nepenthe wines recently, the Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and the Pinot Noir 2008.
Sauvignon Blanc is usually a reliable grape variety, making wine that is good for quaffing while you enjoy an evening relaxing with friends. The Nepenthe 2010 is no exception. On the nose it gave me a fresh grassiness, apple, gooseberry and hints of tropical fruits. This is a very pale wine that has a good tangy acidity and a hint of effervescence on the tongue. Sharp green fruits come through on the palate together with hints of pineapple and peach and these flavours grow and develop as the wine’s temperature rises in the glass. It has good length on the palate leaving a tingly fresh fruitiness in the mouth. This is a light, clean, fresh Sauvignon Blanc that is, and was, good to drink on its own. It would also work with lighter foods such as salads, lighter starter dishes like shellfish and seafood more generally.
Nepenthe Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is available at branches of Waitrose, Majestic Wines, Booths and the Co-op at a RRP of £8.49 a bottle.
The Nepenthe Pinot Noir 2008 is a bright crystal clear ruby colour in the glass, as you lift it to your nose you get clean fresh red summer fruits, some blackberry and a hint of blackcurrant. This is a medium bodied red, as you would expect, which gives you fresh acidic edgy red berries and some cherry on the palate as you let it caress your mouth and then a hint of blackcurrant comes through in its finish. There are medium tannins to the wine which give you that slight drying feel in the mouth; it’s fruity, with good length on the palate. Having tasted it on its own, we drank the remainder with what we were eating that evening, a pasta dish with vegetable and pork in the sauce, and the tannins softened with the food. The fruit flavours in the wine also developed, that blackcurrant hint in particular becoming much stronger. This Pinot Noir would work well with other lighter meats like veal and meatier fish, like tuna.
Nepenthe Pinot Noir 2008 can be found in Majestic Wines and at the Co-op at a RRP of £9.99 a bottle.
So, do these Nepenthe wines have magical qualities that raise the spirits? I’m not sure, but what I can say is that they are great quality and absolutely worth seeking out.
To find out more about Nepenthe wines go to www.nepenthe.com.au