Some eighty odd years ago, my grandfather, armed with only his cricket bat, snuck into the change-rooms at the Adelaide oval at the close of play on the hunt for signatures of the Test teams. For the young boy, who later became a proficient cricketer himself, it was a formative experience and the bat, with twenty or so of his heroes’ signatures, including that of Sir Donald Bradman, is still in the family.
Unfortunately, with an American father my own experience with cricket as a lad was rather more limited. And by limited I mean virtually non-existent. So when I received an email asking if I’d like to taste Ricky Ponting’s new range of wines, my first question was, ‘Ricky who?’
I jest, but I was perhaps unaware of how significant the man’s contribution was to Australian cricket, and international sport in general.
Right now though, I’m interested in his contribution to Australian wine.
The label is called Ponting, a collaboration between Ricky, his wife Rianna and Ben Riggs who you probably know best from his time as chief winemaker at Wirra Wirra and now his own Mr. Riggs Wine Co.
A self confessed beer-lover, Ricky found his footing in the wine world through the simple act of sharing a glass of red with his teammates at the end of a match. Married to Rianna, a self-confessed oenophile also helped.
Not locked into a specific region the aim is pretty simply to make good wine from good fruit.
Ignore the celebrity thing. I know sommeliers and wine writers who won’t touch a wine that is endorsed by someone famous and I know they have their reasons: you hear little good said about wines by Drew Barrymore and Kylie Minogue and the Trump thing probably just goes best un-tasted.
Then again Brad and Angelina’s label is by all reports quite good and Bon Jovi and son even managed to get their rosé into Wine Spectator’s Top 100.
All wines should be judged on their own merit, and it’s admirable when, having excelled in one chapter of your life, you throw yourself into another.
Ben Riggs said it best: ‘Just because people know who Ricky is, doesn’t mean he can’t get involved in wine’.
And he is involved. This isn’t just a name slapped on a label. Listening to Ricky and Rianna talk about the wines over Zoom, tasting along with them (using a 1982 Ashes Centenary Tankard that I swiped from my stepdad as a decanter – I thought it apt), one feels the earnestness and passion for the project. It’s the first time the couple has worked together on a business venture. They’re on the phone to Riggs every day and plan to get more and more involved in the winemaking process as time goes on. Says Ricky of his five year old son – ‘I’d like him to be here in twenty or thirty years talking about the Ponting brand’.
And the wines are good. Straight-forward, exceptionally pleasing to drink and affordable. Each wine is named for a phase of Ricky’s cricket career and the bottles are topped with green screwcaps. Whether an intentional reference to the ‘baggy green’ or not, the effect is rather good.
I’ll be honest, for just a moment I considered writing my tasting notes with a reliance on cricket nomenclature. ‘Acid ran straight down the pitch of the palate!’ or ‘Surprised me like a googly from Warnie!’ but I think these wines deserve more than a few puns. They certainly deserve a look. While you’re doing that I’ll be brushing up on my cricket history.
Ponting ‘First Session’ Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills 2020 $23
Not a lot of good has come out of 2020 so it’s immensely pleasing that the first releases of Ponting wines from The Hills are looking great. Gooseberry, lime marmalade and apricot on the nose, this is a softer, fleshy style of sauvignon blanc. Plenty of peach, pear and nectarine on the palate and building texture plays with the acid – the result of a bit of time in old oak. It’s balanced, ripe and fresh. Fruit is sourced from Woodside.
Ponting ‘Mowbray Boy’ Pinot Noir, Tasmania 2019 $33
One of two Tassie wines in the range (there’s a chardonnay yet to be released) and the first time Ben Riggs has had anything to do with the island state. Super pretty blue and red fruits on the nose with pressed petals and an earthy edge. Clean lines of tannin down the palate with deeper fruits springing from under the tongue along with playful acid. Fruit is from the Tamar Valley, some 20 mins from where the ‘Mowbray Boy’ grew up.
Ponting ‘Close of Play’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Langhorne Creek 2018 $25
Dusty spice and a lift of eucalyptus on the nose play alongside ripe blackberry and something a little tarter, cranberry and ripe cherry maybe. Tannins are soft and the fruit flows effortlessly. Juicy acid complements the structural elegance of the wine. Immensely drinkable and excellent for winding down.
Ponting ‘The Pinnacle’ Shiraz, Mclaren Vale 2017 $25
A reference to The Ashes and the peak they represent, The Pinnacle Shiraz is a pretty tidy offering. Pepper and baking spice, chocolate power and blue fruit perfumes waft from the glass. The palate is juicy and firm, with that lovely mid-palate sweetness of fruit so indicative of the region. Holds its 14.5% alcohol well.