Great Southern winery’s new owner sees possibilities for reds, which he says are excellent examples of cool-climate wines.
For winemaker Ben Cane, the opportunity to own a small winery and do his own thing in the Porongurups of the Great Southern was too good to pass up.
So, early last year, he and wife Sarah bought Duke’s Vineyard, a brilliant little winery best known for its rieslings.
Mr Cane said while he had considered Margaret River, where he worked for a few years at Cape Mentelle, it was a crowded marketplace and the Duke’s purchase offered the potential to “do something in an up-and-coming area”.
“I think it is on the edge of bursting through to the next level, and we look forward to being part of that,” he said.
Duke’s was established in 1999 by 62-year-old Duke Ranson.
It was a remarkable accomplishment to set the place up and then start to make such outstanding wines almost from the get-go.
Over the years, Duke’s Magpie Hill riesling built a reputation among Australia’s very best, regularly winning plaudits from wine scribes, judges and consumers.
But Mr Cane also sees possibilities with the reds, which in good years are an excellent example of cool-climate wines.
“I had been making wine for other people for most of my winemaking life, and I always wanted to do my own thing and give it a shot,” he said.
“I saw it as a great opportunity to build on the work of Duke Ranson and his winemaker, Rob Diletti, in a region that has so many great possibilities.
“In the vineyard we might look at moving into organics and biodynamics, while in the winery I think it might simply be a matter of tweaking a few things.”
“I don’t see it as a reinvention of the wheel, and in fact the way things have been set up are pretty much as I would have done it anyway,” Mr Cane said.
“With reds we might do a few things, like more time on skins, a different pressing regime and perhaps different oak choices.
"We will follow the same approach with the rieslings in the winery because in the end it is about what I do in the vineyard with fruit selection and when I pick it.
“I really want to learn from Rob, because he has done so much for the region and has produced some brilliant wines over the years.”
Although a small producer, Duke’s has reached into other regions such as Frankland River and Margaret River to add point-of-difference wine to the portfolio.
For instance, if you get a chance, check out a beautiful slightly oaked sauvignon blanc from Margaret River and a distinctive, almost old world riesling from Frankland.
A couple of excellent chardonnays will be released later in the year.
Duke’s Single Vineyard rose 2022 ($25)
This is a shiraz-cabernet blend. I love the fruit texture and sweetness with its suggestion of watermelon and cranberry with nice palate creaminess. The natural acidity sits in the background to add precision and life through the palate. This is a lovely current drinking wine, previously only available at the cellar door, so check it out at your local.
Cellar: Two years
Duke’s Single Vineyard cabernet sauvignon 2021 ($29)
With its medium body, this wine fits right into the cool-climate groove. It’s smooth and effortlessly long with a graphite core and a touch of bay leaf. The blackcurrant fruit is evident with nice integrated oak. Bright with high-palate energy supported by firmish chalky tannins. It’s still a little tight and another year will see the fruit emerge.
Cellar: 10 years
Duke’s Magpie Hill shiraz 2021 ($46)
Ripe and generous with opulent generous fruit. It certainly is a step up from the very good Single Vineyard shiraz. Loaded with ripe, juicy, plummy fruit underpinned by a chalky tannin precision. The sweet fruit is given a little boost with the sprinkle of spices and dried herbs, while the French oak management has been right on the money. Smooth and seamless palate is a joy.
Cellar: Eight years
- Ray Jordan is one of Australia’s most experienced and respected wine journalists, contributing to newspapers and magazines over more than 40 years. In 2017 he co-authored The Way it Was: The History of the early years of the Margaret River Wine Region