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Tuesday 4 April 2023

Accidental winemaker makes a big impact

Tim Pelquest-Hunt is the accidental winemaker who made good. 

He was a classically trained singer working in a wine store for extra cash when his employer discovered he had a great palate for both whisky and wine. 

Fast forward a few years and the science-minded musician is in charge of the Orlando wine brand that is owned by global giant Pernod-Ricard. 

After studying viticulture and oeonology at Lincoln University in New Zealand, Pelquest-Hunt roamed the globe making wine, including in Germany and California, with two stints at sparkling house Nyetimber in the UK and in roles across the length and breadth of Australia from Tasmania to the Hunter Valley. 

"Being a travelling winemaker really appealed to me back then," he said. "I really wanted to get as much global experience as I could.

"It was important to get experience across a range of regions and climates and that has stood me in good stead given the breadth and depth of regions that we source fruit from. The learning never stops."  

Pelquest-Hunt joined Orlando a decade ago, when Bernard Hickin was in charge, and filled a range of roles before being appointed chief winemaker just over 12 months ago. 

Orlando has released the first wines finished under his  custodianship, many of which he had a role in making. "I'm fortunate to be making wines that I really love," he said.

Some are familiar favourites, others evolutions of wine styles that respect Orlando’s 176-year-old winemaking history. 

"With beginnings dating back to the founding families of South Australian wine, it is an honour to take the reins on these legendary wines, and a brand that has been synonymous with innovation and leadership," Pelquest-Hunt says. 

"Alongside a talented team in the vineyard and winery, we are working to pay respect to regionality and terroir, whilst continuing the evolution of style to create modern expressions on classics that will excite palates everywhere. 

"Whether it’s selectively harvested whole berries or carbonic maceration to drive brightness and freshness in our grenache, cold-soaking and extended maceration to add depth and power to our cabernets, or whole-bunch pressing to promote purity and freshness in our chardonnays, we are seeking to drive thought provoking wines of impeccable quality that display a sense of place."

I did a recent Zoom tasting with Tim, taking a look at some of his favourites among the new releases, which are divided into two brackets: The Legends range and the New Heoes. 

The Legends range includes some of Australia's benchmarke wines: the 2020 release of Steingarten riesling and the 2018 iteration of the Jacaranda Ridge 2018 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The New Heroes range features "modern interpretations" of wines including a the Hillary Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills, and a grenache, shiraz, and cabernet sauvignon from the Barossa Valley - all priced at under $35. 

The 2020 Steingarten, deliberately released at three years of age, is beautifully pale and delicate with a core strength and intense acidity. It will reward several more years in the cellar for those who like their rieslings mature.

The 2018 Jacaranda Ridge is absolutely outstanding - an excellent value given the price of some of Australia's top reds. Pelquest-Hunt describes it as "a stunning regional expression from a near-perfect vintage". I noted that it was super stylish with an impressive combination of power and grace".

The New Heroes are designed to "modernise the interpretation of regional classics". 

A shining light here is the Cellar 13 Barossa Valley Grenache, joyous, supple and charming. It is medium bodied and could even handle a few minutes in the fridge on a warm day. 

"We want to challenge the status quo and evolve our stylistic interpretations to stimulate palates," Pelquest-Hunt says. 

Here are the two ranges: 

Legends: 2020 Orlando Steingarten Eden Valley Riesling RRP $49.99; 2021 Orlando Lyndale Adelaide Hills Chardonnay $49.99; Orlando Lawson’s Padthaway Shiraz $74.99; 2015 Orlando Centenary Hill Barossa Valley Shiraz $74.99; 2018 Orlando Jacaranda Ridge Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon $74.99.

New Heroes: 2021 Orlando Hillary Adelaide Hills Chardonnay; 2020 Orlando Printz Shed Northern Barossa Shiraz $34.99; 2019 Orlando Bungalow Lane Barossa Valley Cabernet $34.99 and  2020 Orlando Cellar 13 Barossa Valley Grenache - all are $34.99 RRP. 

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