The sparkle in Dominique Portet’s rose wines

The Dominique Portet winery in Yarra Valley.The Dominique Portet winery in Yarra Valley.Dominique Portet makes wines to go with food, and his Brut Rose can be a lovely, sparkling start to any meal. It has very fine bubbles and gives a fresh mouth. It’s a blend of 50 per cent Pinot Noir, 30 per cent Chardonnay and 20 per cent Pinot Meuniere.

This French winemaker, originally from Bordeaux, but now settled at his winery in the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia, does not make any sparkling wines except the Dominique Portet Brut Rose. “I don’t make a lot of it but I can ask for more money for the rose,” said Portet who presided at a wine tasting at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral recently. “Besides, women love the rose.”

Portet spent six months in Epernay, France, learning to make champagne, and his Brut Rose is in this champagne style, with finesse, freshness and acidity. This sparkling rose can be kept for six to seven years while the normal rose has a shelf life of just two years.

We tasted the Dominique Portet Fontaine Rose 2012, a blend of Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and found it refreshing, with a great fruit intensity and a dry finish. “In France we drink a lot of rose at the table. It’s very friendly, not complicated and very trendy,” said Portet. “It goes with salads and tapas, and women like it.”

We went on to the Fontaine Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2007. “It’s fresh, flavourful and aromatic, with a backbone to it. It has soft and silky tannins,” said the winemaker.”You can enjoy the aging character. It will last till 2020 to 2025. “It goes with strong meat, especially the Chinese roast duck.”

The Dominique Portet Heathcote Shiraz 2009 was rich and powerful, with floral aromatics and hints of spice. It was so smooth.  “The Shiraz vines grow on volcanic soil in the east of Melbourne. The soil is loaded with rich clay that keeps the humidity in,” said Portet.

The only wine that we didn’t take to was the Fontaine Sauvignon Blanc 2008. “It’s done in a very different style from the New Zealand Sauuvignon Blanc.”

Winemaker Dominique Portet - from Bordeaux but has a winery now bearing his name in the Yarra Valley.Winemaker Dominique Portet - from Bordeaux but has a winery now bearing his name in the Yarra Valley.Portet is French by birth and education, and is the ninth generation in his family to be committed to winemaking.

Yet he is the first to establish a winery and label bearing his family name in Australia. “It was the start of viticulture in the country, at the same time as in the US,” he said.  He had arrived at the Yarra Valley, near Domaine Chandon in 1976. “I was in the group developing the wine property in Australia and was asked to take over. I was only 28 then.”

It had the Bordeaux DNA that he had set out in search of, and here he started his winery, and the Dominique Portet label in 2000.

His wine education and working experience stood him in good stead. He had qualified at the renowned Montpellier University of Oenology in France and during a compulsory year of military service, was the legion’s wine purchasing adviser.

Portet had spent vintages in the Medoc, Rhone Valley, Provence and champagne giant Moet et Chandon in Epernay, France. He had also worked at his brother Bernard’s winery Clos du Val in the Napa Valley of California.

Father and son - Dominique with his son Ben at the winery.Father and son - Dominique with his son Ben at the winery.His family in France has had links to the wine industry since 1720, and Portet has continued the tradition with his sons Ben (10th generation winemaker), Thomas and Henri. His father used to be in charge of the Chateau Lafite winery.

Portet explained his shift to the Yarra Valley. “We have a rigid way of doing things in France. Old traditions give you respect, history and class. But in a New World country it’s freedom. You work hard and succeed very well. In France you work but nothing happens.”

Dominique Portet wines have been selling in Malaysia for the past 20 years. “We have been with Asia- Euro (wine and liquor distributor) for 13 years. Business is good,” said Portet. “We sell 40 per cent of the wines in the Yarra Valley, with 30 per cent for export to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and the Middle East. – September 25, 2013.


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