The Orange wine region in NSW is a new one for Australia and as a higher-altitude, cooler-climate district is a welcome foil for the well-established Mudgee, Upper and Lower Hunter Valley vignobles. The modern pioneers date from the early 1980s, with Stephen and Rhonda Doyle planting their Bloodwood vineyard in Griffin Road in 1983. The Doyles are the doyens of the Orange wine scene with some of the oldest vines across a broad range of varieties covering just over 8 ha.
The Doyles are truly remarkable and inspirational people, solely and independently establishing their vineyard and making the Bloodwood wines with unwavering determination, and to their high ideals. Tiny volumes of fine, elegant, varietally-pure wines that must be food-compatible are hand-crafted here, and the styles, no doubt, have been ahead of their time. The Doyles prefer a quiet profile in marketing terms, but they have a strong following of wine enthusiasts and food lovers who appreciate their exceptional wines. Stephen and Rhonda’s friendliness, passion, intellect and humour have made them Orange personalities. This and the inevitable process of word of mouth recommendation has seen the Bloodwood wines become something of a cult.
We were admitted to the Bloodwood cult, being introduced by Mike de Garis, the Sydney-based wine consultant who is well-known in New Zealand as well as Australia. Stephen showed some newly-fermented 2011 wines in tank, and these impressed with their fruit clarity. The Riesling with delicate lime and minerals, the Chardonnay softly textured, the ‘Schubert’ Chardonnay from barrel more weighty and already showing wood enrichening influences in flavour and mouthfeel. Pinot Noir just taken off the skins had explicit and striking dark berry flavours and fine tannin extract. There may only be 3-4 barrels of this, so act quickly on ts release. Still to be picked, in the middle of the week were the Bordeaux-varietals with Shiraz to follow. The vines, planted on frost-free slopes are under ‘environmentally relaxed’ management, show maturity and balance, which must contribute to the harmony and ultimately the quality of the resultant wines.
Rhonda took us through a selection of their currently available Bloodwood wines. The Riesling 2010 startling in its steely purity of limes, florals and stones. The ‘Maurice’ 2006, a Bordeaux-blend in honour of Maurice O’Shea, showed cooler currant aromatics and exquisite, fine and integrated textures, and a pepper, spice and tar imbued Rhone-like Shiraz 2008. The tight, appley ‘Silk Purse’ 2009 Riesling-based sweet wine accompanied Rhonda’s freshly baked apple cake the fruit sourced from trees on the southern boundary of their property.
It is heartening to see an endeavour such as Bloodwood find a place in today’s world of slick marketing and ‘products’ designed and made for a market. From a Kiwi perspective, the Doyle’s Bloodwood Wines is like a combination of the pragmatism of Alan Limmer’s Stonecroft, attention to detail and intellectual approach of Dry River and welcoming family ideals of Ata Rangi – cult wines in New Zealand! Real people and real wines will always have a following.