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Rusden Wines – Barossa Valley

By Alex Russell on November 17, 2010 in Food

In the 1980s Cabernet Sauvignon was the big seller, with Shiraz and Grenache falling out of favour. With many old, gnarled vines producing grapes in low quantities, the Government actually paid producers to pull up their old Shiraz vines and replace them with new plantings of more popular varieties to meet demand. Fortunately, Dennis and Christine Canute managed to secure an old vineyard as a hobby farm and held on to their old vines in the Barossa, doing it tough through the 80s until in 1992, when Dennis and his mate Russell started making wines from this awesome old fruit.

Things took off towards the end of the 90s when Christian, son of Dennis and Christine, joined the team. Christian managed to wangle his way into making wines at Rockford, giving him a real feel for Barossa fruit from different regions, particularly from Vine Vale.

In 2007 I was touring around the Barossa meeting some of my favourite winemakers. All of them told me I should meet the Rusden team, so I met Christian and Ben ‘Chippy’ Chipman (Rusden Sales and Marketing Manager). They opened up their wines and I was blown away.

The current line-up includes only one white wine, the ‘Christian’ Chenin Blanc. It’s a bit of a niche style in that it’s oak-aged, viscous and round in taste, not the zingy acidic styles that seem to be in vogue at the moment.

But the reds are what really work for me here. They have this amazing quality about them that literally makes your mouth water as you drink them. They’re not cheap, but the quality is there so why should they skimp on price?

The ‘Black Guts’ Shiraz is a dark, bold style that is becoming a sought after item. It’s the kind of wine that you’ll find in the cellars of most serious wine drinkers and should eventually end up in the Langton’s Classifications of Australian Wine alongside the most collectable Australian wines. It’s around $100 per bottle.

My personal favourite though was the Chookshed Zinfandel. Most people who have heard of Zinfandel think of the sweet rosé Zins from the US, but this is a big, rich red with awesome oak complexity. I had my 30th birthday recently and of all the wines that I have access to, this is the wine I chose to drink that day. Around $90 and well worth it.

The Ripper Creek Cabernet Shiraz blend is around $40, which is about $30 cheaper than Penfolds Bin 389. As far as I’m concerned, this beats 389 easily.  Last Father’s Day I sold a bottle to a bloke for his dad. The father bolted out of the family lunch and told me it was the best wine he’d ever tasted and has been buying it since. It’s our biggest seller from these guys.

The Driftsand GSM at around $30 is a great drop too. You’ll find a few other wines in the range, including a sensational Mataro, a brilliant Grenache and a Cabernet that rivals the best from the region, but the wines above are the ones that really stand out for me.

When Chippy was last in town, he introduced me to their latest creation, the SANDSCRUB Shiraz. It’s barrel aged for four years, then spends another four years in bottle. The last price I heard for this wine was $600, up in Grange territory. Is it worth it? It depends who you are.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, try the Ripper Creek and go from there. It’s the perfect wine for Christmas lunch.