By James Atkinson
There were plenty of lessons for young winemakers in this week's retrospective tasting of Saltram Mamre Brook and Metala White Label in the Barossa Valley, attended by the country's top wine critics including James Halliday and Huon Hooke.
With former Saltram winemaker Nigel Dolan and fifth generation Metala vineyard owner Guy Adams participating, the tasting at Saltram Wine Estate showcased more than 45 years of Saltram Mamre Brook, along with 50 vintages of Metala White Label Shiraz Cabernet.
The tasting revealed the rich heritage of the wines, which aside from vintage variation made noticeable shifts in style across the different eras of Saltram's management and winemaking teams, as well as being influenced by general winemaking trends.
Chris Hatcher, chief winemaker at Treasury Wine Estates' Wolf Blass brand business unit – which includes the Saltram and Metala brands – told TheShout the tasting illustrated the value of winemakers "passing the baton" to their successors. [continues below]
Chris Hatcher (centre) with Huon Hooke (left) and Ray Jordan (right)
"Young winemakers don't get an opportunity to see a lot of those [older] wines, and they don't have an appreciation of the history," he said.
"From a winemaking perspective and from a winery perspective, stylistically you have a responsibility to carry through the style and the heritage that you've got, but evolve the wines as you go forward."
The critics in attendance agreed that while the 1960s and 1970s era wines had held up remarkably well overall, the 1980s was largely a period to forget for Mamre Brook in particular.
But the tasting demonstrated that both Mamre Brook and Metala White Label have regained their consistency over the last two decades, first under Nigel Dolan and then current chief winemaker Shavaughn Wells (pictured right).
Hatcher said it was important to be honest and open about the wine label's heritage so that Treasury's current winemakers could learn from it.
"Certainly with Saltram you could see where a winemaker left, and a new winemaker started and tried to make their mark on things and the wines changed dramatically," he said.
"I think that's not a good thing for a winery, where consistency across winemaking [is crucial]."
"That doesn't mean wine should always be the same – you have to keep modern, but you also have to keep respectful of your history."