When Steve thought about buying Protero vineyard, one wine really sealed the deal: S.C. Pannell 2016 Nebbiolo. “Some winemakers make a pet nat but they don’t drink it. The truth is the 16 Nebbiolo is a wine I drink at home a lot. When I’m relaxed and not thinking and walk into my cellar and stick my hand out and pull a bottle out, it’s that.”
Steve Pannell has a list of achievements that is longer than the line currently outside your local supermarket. He has been awarded winemaker of the year by Gourmet Traveller, voted in the top three winemakers in the country by his peers, has two Jimmy Watson trophies, a Max Schubert award and won the Decanter Magazine top red winemaker of the year. We could list more gongs, though we’d rather talk about why is so successful and revered and will provide some links to where you can read on some of his achievements at the end of the text.
It is Steve’s combination of experience, skill, approach to wine, respect for climate and connection to place that make his wines so thoughtful and drinkable. You can find his cellar door in McLaren Vale (winter road trip), though he sources fruit from the neighbouring Adelaide Hills for many of his wines. This includes his personal favourite the Nebbiolo. He has sourced his Nebbiolo from the Protero vineyard since the first vintage in 2005 and had so much affection for the vineyard that he purchased it from owners Frank and Rosemary Baldasso in December 2019 (following the release of the 2016 version). The vineyard is farmed along organic and biodynamic principles and is certified for both. Unfortunately for Steve, the Cudlee Creek fire roared through the area a week after his purchase, taking out some vines on the vineyard before he had a chance to get insurance. There will likely be no wine produced off the vineyard in the 2020 vintage, though Steve will use the opportunity to turn the vineyards other varieties over to more Nebbiolo vines.
Nebbiolo, originally from Italy’s famous Barolo and Barbaresco, is an incredible and unique variety that is making inroads when in the right hands in Australia. We shouldn’t expect the wines to look and taste just like the Italian versions, but the best, like Steve’s 2016, have a lightness, tartness and structure to them, with an alluring perfume of red fruit, spice and floral, that pay respect to the fickle variety. Steve has worked vintages in Barolo with GD Vajra and believes “there really aren’t many places in the world outside of Piedmont where you can coax Nebbiolo into something that is both fine and varietal... I think this vineyard in Gumeracha is one of the very few places in Australia if not the world that this project could work.” Tannins and savouriness are the hallmark of this varietal and Steve expresses both in this wine with skill.
Steve thinks the 2016 vintage is the best he’s made, with a pure red fruit core, a kick of bay leaf, leather and a graphite earthiness. However, the winemaker describes is best here, with the following notes; the wine is highly perfumed with notes of red cherry, rosewater, fennel bulb, cassis, chestnut purée and marjoram along with echoes of terracotta tiles and cedar. It’s medium-bodied and flavoursome. Unashamedly tannic with an almost unrivalled balance of acid and flavour, perfect weight and a tremendously long finish.”
Media agree with Italian aficionado James Suckling awarding 96 points and putting it in his top 100 Australian wines for 2019. It is a perfect autumn wine for simple pastas loaded with mushrooms and cheese or a ravioli in butter sauce. It will cellar a decade at least.
If you’re interested in other SC Pannell or GD Vajra Piedmonte wines, please get in touch.
Jancis Robinson – SC Pannell wines to admire and drink
Huon Hooke – Pannell’s passion for Nebbiolo
Wine Business Monthly – Nebbiolo at the heart of Steve Pannell’s bold new adventure in the Adelaide Hills
Max Allen – Why Nebbiolo wines from the Adelaide Hills make drinkers misty-eyed with emotion