Number 6. Julian’s lucky number, though you’d be forgiven for thinking the world and large parts of Australia are not all that lucky at present. However, the seasons inexorably roll on, and in making these wines and continuing to put together a body of work that resonates so strongly makes us, at least, feel very lucky. Chin up, Australia – get vaccinated and generally be awesome to one another.
As you know, Nocturne is now comprised of two wine ranges. The Single-Vineyard or ‘SV’ range and the Sub-Regional (‘SR’) range. Our SV Sheoak Cabernet Sauvignon and SV Tassell Park Chardonnay remain as ever awesomely epic expressions of the best sites in Margaret River. These wines are so mouth-wateringly good it will make your pants tight, but alas they remain in tiny allocations. The SR range, well it’s very cool and getting cooler by the minute. We think this suite of wines is our very best yet.
As a side note for all you clever people who are sitting on some of last year’s releases, the one and only James Halliday and the ever-lovely and talented Erin Larkin awarded all of our releases between 95 and 97 points… not bad, to say the least. To quote Erin on the 97-point SV Cabernet: “No wonder this sells out in a nanosecond. Ridiculous price for the quality. Supple, pristine and densely packed with sweet fruit from every angle, this is long and dark and layered and awesome.”
The SR Chardonnay and Cabernet releases this year are from 2020, which was a weird grape-growing year. It was warmer than 2019 or 2017, which were cool, but the 2020 wines retain great elegance and class with beautifully expressive fruit characters and ripe tannins.
Being a totally essential industry, we just cracked through the first lockdown. It was a weird time but these wines, while unique, are definitely wonderful. Not weird… – Julian & Alana Langworthy
SUB-REGIONAL (SR) WINES
2021 Nocturne ‘SR’ Sangiovese Nebbiolo Rosé Carbunup, Margaret River RRP $32
2021. It rained a lot, it upset Julian a lot at the time! However, what’s not upsetting is how this wine has turned out. Light, fine and expressive but with phenolic crunch and freshness which is very grown up. At 74% Sangiovese is the hero of this wine, backed up with 17% barrel-fermented Nebbiolo. Then we chucked in 9% Tempranillo, too. Not sure why – just had it and it worked – and, as in the past, don’t tell anyone as it hasn’t made the label but it helped make the wine!
This wine is fine, ethereally light and delicious – so much so that you need to remind yourself it’s not just exceptionally tasty spring water.
The fruit comes from the sub-region of Carbunup in Margaret River, with the sites being relatively flat and warm with fertile, red sandy soils. The Sangiovese was harvested on 7th March and the Nebbiolo just behind it on 11th – a couple of weeks earlier than the previous year.
The Sangiovese was simply destemmed, chilled and pressed using only the free-run fraction of the juice. It was then fermented at moderate temperatures using, as always, indigenous yeasts only. It was then matured on gross lees for three months post-fermentation to add additional texture. The Nebbiolo was handpicked and, after chilling, the fruit was whole bunch-pressed directly to old oak for fermentation. Fermentation took close to six weeks and the wine received a further eight weeks’ maturation in barrel. At this stage the final blend between Sangiovese and Nebbiolo was decided, and the wine was emptied from tank/barrel, settled, filtered, sulphured and bottled on 1st July.
This wine is, in keeping with the theme of SR3, epic. The texture and acid structure are impeccable but it’s all about extreme drinkability. Those who miss out on a magnum of this for their summer “A” list super yacht regattas hold their vinous credentials cheap. It is, as always, a pale salmon dream. xxx – Julian & Alana Langworthy
Spicy, peppery, dried herb and floral perfume, white cherry and pink grapefruit. It’s dry with a grainy and chalky grip, subtle but engaging flavour profile, a coolness to acidity, and a dusty finish of crunch and excellent length, a little amaro tang in the aftertaste. Texture is a highlight in this high cheekboned style of rosato. 93 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front August 2021
2020 Nocturne ‘SR’ Chardonnay Treeton, Margaret River RRP $36
Treeton: It’s a weird little area full of hillbillies, dairy cows and, interestingly, some great Chardonnay vineyards. Cold at night, warm in the day with deep silver-grey sands that we think produce special Chardonnay. This wine is a combination of three awesome Treeton vineyards: the original and favourite Tassell Park; plus Grace & White and Victory Point.
I know you’re all sick of hearing it, but it was again a very good vintage. It was warmer than 2019 with a couple of rain events, there was some disease pressure but not too much and, as such, it all worked out pretty damn fine. The season was earlyish in terms of picking dates. But as always, these vineyards were some of the last picked, on 5th and 12th March. But still, that was almost a month earlier than 2019.
The grapes were harvested by hand and whole bunch-pressed directly to new, one- and two-year-old puncheons, with a smattering of barriques for good measure. We did no settling or fining. This juice was then very carefully neglected and allowed to undergo spontaneous fermentation, which kicked off on day five after pressing. After a four-week ferment the wine remained on gross lees unsulphured until August of that year. In November it was emptied from barrel, settled, filtered and bottled.
This wine is, unsurprisingly, super cool. It’s pale green, redolent of white stone fruits and the suggestion of flint and funk. Expressive and quite generous in comparison to 2019 – but the texture and length of flavour are to die for. Chardonnay is what Jesus made when he turned water into wine; it’s also why we winemakers have a God complex. Epicness unchained. – Julian & Alana Langworthy
2020 Nocturne ‘SR’ Cabernets Yallingup, Margaret River RRP $36
Yallingup is our stomping ground and where the world’s greatest Cabernet and Cabernet blends are being grown! It’s deliciously warm but never hot, with the amazing dual influence of the Indian Ocean and Geographe Bay. For this year’s Cabernets we have again used our own beloved Sheoak Cabernet and added some of our neighbour’s Merlot from the Simpson property, with which we’re lucky enough to share the amazing valley. The final player again is a slinky little parcel of Malbec.
In the throes of a global pandemic, sometimes shit still goes right. My opinion of the 2020 vintage for Margaret River Cabernet is a little mixed – and that’s because (in my opinion) some people rushed to pick vineyards somewhat early. In the Yallingup Hills we enjoyed a lovely warm March – not too hot, not too cold and importantly largely dry – allowing fruit to be picked at its zenith.
We started picking Sheoak Cabernet on 27th March and from the moment the fruit hit the fermenter it looked destined to be a classic. Instantly perfumed and richly coloured, the wine spent 14 days on skins with a peak fermentation temperature around 28˚C. The wine was pressed to tank and settled briefly, before being transferred to a combination of new (25%) and two and three-year-old barrels to undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine was only racked once in this time and, after 14 months in oak, was emptied from barrel. At this juncture we decided the final makeup, which is 72% Cabernet Sauvignon 15 % Merlot and 13% Malbec. These wines were then settled together clarified and bottled.
Cabernet is King and long will it reign in our eyes. This is our favourite Nocturne Cabernets yet with epic drinkability yet huge complexity and verve. If Ernest Hemingway were still alive, he’d be pouring this in by the bucketful. A cassis-laden dream if you will. – Julian & Alana Langworthy
Blackberry, blueberry, cherry pie with a spicy crust, polished cedar and menthol. Medium-bodied, dark chocolate and baking spice, dried herbs and black olive, supple tannin, a brine and nori savoury aspect, dense feel to it, though not heavy, and a silty tannin and baked raspberry finish of good length. Typical maritime feel of 2020 MR Cabernet here, and good drinking. 92 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front August 2021