W I N E - M A X A L L E N
The Australian Magazine January 29 - 30 2000
From obscure Berrys Bridge, big things come.
Sometimes you have to travel halfway across the country to
discover something wonderful in your own backyard. There I was,
late last year, scrabbling around in the glorious clutter of
East End Cellars in Adelaide, passing time before my flight home
Melbourne, when I stumbled across this box marked Berrys Bridge.
"Whassthis, then?" I muttered to myself. It was a new shiraz
from the Pyrenees wine region, in western Victoria. Berrys who?
Never 'eard of 'em.
A couple of weeks later and I'm staring into a glass of
pretty impressive purple liquid, thinking to myself, "Gee, this
is good." It turns out that there is a 1998 cabernet sauvignon
as well as a 1998 shiraz on offer from Berrys Bridge, both about
$28 a bottle. And now, having tasted them in all their youthful,
vibrant, gutsy glory (the wines nudge 15.5 per cent alcohol),
I'm keen to find out more.
Berrys Bridge is a 7ha vineyard and fully operational stone
winery right up in the northern reaches of the Pyrenees wine
region, near the town of St Arnaud (about 10 km east of Kara
Kara, if you're familiar with the area). It has been open for
about a year and the '98s are the second vintage offered for
The winery was built and the vineyard planted a decade ago by
Roger Milner and his partner, Jane Holt. The pair had worked in
mineral exploration, but spending four vintages at Chateau
Reynella in the early 1970s and knocking around with people like
Graham Leith at Passing Clouds (a vineyard in Bendigo) had left
Milner with a passion for wine. According to Milner, setting up
so far north of the established vineyards and cellar door route
felt a bit dauntingly pioneering at times. So the pair was
overjoyed to discover that in 1894 a Mr Berry was growing grapes
and making wine - "hermitage (shiraz) ... second to none" - from
a 30 year-old vineyard on almost the same spot.
Milner and Holt weren't sure when they started how well their
grapes would go. They knew they wanted to make "biggish red
wines", but other than that they have let the fruit dictate
style. And what a style. These wines are very big and destined
for the very long haul. The shiraz is rich, smoky, full of bold
young berry fruit and substantial - if supple - tannin. The
cabernet is earthier, gutsier, with almost over-ripe and hot
pruney berry flavours held in check by grippy tannin and some
juicy acidity. I left both wines open for a few days and they
both developed a noticeable (perhaps regional) minty streak.
As is so often the case, of course, the wines from this new
operation aren't exactly failing off the shelves at your local
pub bottle shop. Although production is predicted to top 3000
cases within two years, the 1998 vintage yielded just a few
hundred dozen bottles for the Berrys Bridge label (the rest was
sold to other wineries).
The best I can do, then, nis point you in the direction of
those shops that have bought the wines from the distributors
over the last few weeks.
In Melbourne, try Armadale Cellars, Quaffers, Phillip Murphy,
Chaucer Cellars, Burwood Cellars, Fred Young's and Nick's. In
Adelaide, as I've said, try East End Cellars. Some of the wine
has gone to Sydney recently, so phone the distributors,
Winestock, on 1300 308 338 for stockists there. You may also be
lucky in Liquorland and Vintage Cellars stores in Victoria and