And now for something completely different…
It’s not everyday that a fruit wine makes its way across the tasting desk. And I’ll readily admit, my palate is very much calibrated to grape wines, beer, maybe a scotch or two and that’s about it. I don’t know anything about sake, I know even less about almost any spirit you care to mention and I can probably count on one hand (and missing a few digits) the number of fruit wines I’ve ever tried.
But hey, life’s about adventures, so on we go.
Ohana is the winery here and they are located in the very not winemaking capital of Queensland – Bundaberg. I met Josh Phillips what seems like eons ago back when we were both studying winemaking through the University of Southern Queensland and I remember a specific conversation about attempts to grow Tempranillo in the unforgiving, very humid, climate of Queensland’s Burnett Coast. If I remember correctly, they were specifically having issues with two aspects – disease thanks to the humidity, and the lack of a true dormant period thanks to the climate. Both of which make for far from ideal grape growing conditions.
They do allow for growing of a vast array of tropical fruits though, and some of those can (and are) used to make a vast array of fruit wines and styles.
Josh has since branched out into the craft cider scene as well – making a range of well received and highly regarded ciders under the Cheeky Tiki brand (see note).
This little ditty here is a blend of locally grown strawberries and muscat grapes, making for interesting bedfellows.
Straight up, a disclaimer: sweet wines, in fact almost sweet anything, are not my thing with a couple of exceptions – good quality port and fortified (grape) wines and high quality botrytis-style dessert wines. So take what comes next with as large a grain of salt as you wish.
The first thing to notice is the colour – it’s really striking. A lovely and deep pink to red – this is not a reverse engineered Provence rosé here. And frankly, that’s a good thing. A rant for another time, to be certain, and this is not a rosé by name or style, but I’m getting sick of looking at a bottle shop rosé rack and seeing the exact same colour from every bottle. I yearn for the days when rosés had meat on their bones, rather than dollar signs in the winemaker’s eyes…. but I digress…
The aroma is sweet, kinda medium intensity, and strawberries. I feel like that goes with saying, really. There is some depth to the aromas, most likely a product of the muscat grapes and perhaps less ‘grape-y’ than one might expect, but it gives it a level of concentration that I really wasn’t expecting.
The palate is where things get quite interesting indeed. Firstly, the bubbles. Cheap and inexpensive New World sparkling wines have this habit of really exploding in the mouth and it’s a sensation I hate – the bubbles should always complement the wine, not become the only thing about it. Look at high quality French fizz and you get what I mean – finesse is a word I always come back to when describing it.
And this is almost exactly like that. The bubbles are fine, and the bead is persistent, and it just dances along the palate. It’s not overpowering or explosive in any way. It’s just…. nice. Super pleasant, and totally in my wheelhouse.
Flavour concentration is good, with strawberries again to the fore and a bit of depth which I love. The palate is sweet – if I had to put a term to it, I’d say medium-sweet, far less sweet than I was expecting (again, a good thing), and in no way syrupy or like drinking a fist-full of sugar. Acidity I reckon I would be generous calling it medium and that, to my palate, is a negative. I want my mouth to water more, and reach for that second sip/glass/bottle(!?). The finish is a bit short and I’m left with that light touch acidity lingering on the palate – it’s citrus, but sweet, so not a lemon/lime aftertaste, more an ‘overripe mandarin’ kind of citrus acidity. I really want the flavours to hang around a bit longer.
All in all, this is an interesting take on the style and I can see Josh and Zoe selling bucketloads in a Bundaberg cellar door in a Queensland summer. It’s clean, refreshing, with a good clip of concentration to keep the mind engaged for tragics like me. Is it something that I’d go out of my to get again? Well, not really, but then again – I am definitely not the target market, and their target market will love this.
Food match: Befuddled is a word to describe how I’d approach matching this with food. Not quite aperitif, not quite dessert wine, I struggle with knowing where to put it. In the end, I think a baked NY cheesecake with a strawberry compote and maybe a dark chocolate ganache on the side would more than suffice. You don’t want something with too much sweetness, and the addition of acidity in the cheesecake is not going to go astray here at all.
Note: Turallo Wine Distribution, the wine distribution business I run, is the exclusive NSW distributor of Cheeky Tiki Cider.