Katherine Brown was in Wellington to announce the launch of Brown Brothers’ flagship wines named ‘Patricia’, after her grandmother. While the ‘Patricia’ wines have been made for several vintages now, there wasn’t the complete recognition of the range accorded, and this has now been rectified by the instigation of an annual release date of 17 March, St Patrick’s Day, the day that Patricia celebrated her birthday. As with anything historical, there may be some confusion as to the real birth date, and granddaughter Katherine has information that it is really 18 March!
Whatever the date, there is no confusion or debate about the quality of the Brown Brothers ‘Patricia’ wines. Earlier releases have performed with distinction in wine judgings and among the cognoscenti they are highly regarded. All is there for the ‘Patricia’ wines to hit the limelight, limited only by their scarcity. While Brown Brothers is indeed a large winegrowing business, handling around 16,000 tonnes of fruit annually, the volumes of the ‘Patricia’ wines measures a few thousand bottles of each. In fact, only 200 bottles of each are allocated to New Zealand. Small production runs are not unfamiliar to Brown Brothers, who have had a history of crafting limited release wines for decades. For the ‘Patricia’ wines, only the best, befitting the respect for her, will do, hence the tiny amount made. This fits in with Brown Brothers mantra of making the best they can, and also only what needs to be made.
Katherine poured the three 2012 releases of the ‘Patricia’ range. First was the ‘Patricia’ Pinot Noir & Chardonnay Brut 2006 methode traditionnelle wine, 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay from the ‘Whitlands’ vineyard, with approx. 11 g/L dosage, spending 36 months on lees. This is sheer class and concentrated, refined complexity, clearly showing Pinot Noir presence with wonderful intensity of yeasty autolysis character. The elegance slowly yields a building depth, the tightness demanding time to reveal more. Then the ‘Patricia’ Shiraz 2008, made from cooler sites including Central Victoria and the King Valley. Black in colour and black in fruit profile, with bound aromas and flavours, this is a seriously extracted wine, but showing restraint and stylishness, with nothing excessive. Pepper, spice and oak flavours slowly emerge in the glass, indicating that this will live for a decade or two without any reservation. The third and final wine of the release is the ‘Patricia’ Late Harvest Noble Riesling 2008. 11% alc. and 215 g/L rs. Deep golden yellow, this is full-on marmalade, apricot, caramel and barley sugar ‘in the most delightful way’, on bouquet and palate. Layers of richness and unctuous decadence unfold, yet the wine is not overbearing nor too sweet, as the acidity provides poise. I felt this vintage a little less concentrated and more forward than the astounding 2006, but the comparison is pointless really, as this is just as seductive. Brown Brother first made the botrytised Riesling style in 1962 and is the Australian pioneer, now with half a century of experience.
Just to show that Brown Brother are looking forward, Katherine discussed the acquisition of Tasmanian producer Tamar Ridge in August 2010. With around one-quarter of the plantings in Tasmania, this is a significant purchase. Even with Brown Brothers experience with cool-climate winegrowing, a lot of learning is on the cards. No doubt the threat of global warming is a consideration, but in the meantime, the new resource of cool-grown fruit will be another tool for them. With proven results with sparkling wines and Pinot Noir from Tasmania, maybe the ‘Patricia’ range will feature Tasmanian fruit in the future? www.brownbrothers.com.au