Raquel and Hugh Jones of Weathercraft in Beechworth both came to wine from property-related industries, realising they wanted to do more than just drink the stuff and instead wanted to try making it from scratch.
Raquel, winemaker and viticulturist, is currently completing a Bachelor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University, and she partly credits her Spanish heritage for her desire to make Beechworth a new haven for Tempranillo; Albariño is also offered, both as a varietal and in a blend with Chardonnay.
Weathercraft wines feature a serious-looking gent on the bottle, who isn’t (as many might think) Raquel’s dad, but is a farmer in NSW, who “has a few good stories to tell and his face brings “weather” and “craft” to life”, reminding her of her dad – especially his amazing head of hair.
2022 Weathercraft Beechworth Amphora Blanco
91 points – $41.00
‘Hand-picked fruit is whole-bunch pressed directly to vessel. The chardonnay and albariño fruit are fermented separately and blended after alcoholic fermentation. Vintage dependent, the blend is about 60/40 in favour of albariño. Wild yeast fermentation in vessel. After blending, wine is then left on its own with only a few gentle stirs in the months following fermentation. Time in vessel: ~6 months.‘
This was my first Albariño/Chardonnay fermented in amphora, and I have to say I’m a fan. It’s incredibly pronounced on the nose, with strong notes of lemon, wax, straw, sea spray and blossom. The palate is silky and salty – feeling quite reminiscent of the sea – with a brightness of fruit that is enhanced by food.
2022 Weathercraft Beechworth Amphora Ambar
93 points – $41.00
‘Hand-picked fruit is placed into amphora as whole bunches. Fruit is layered with carbon dioxide and the vessel is then sealed. Wild fermentation. Hand plunging to submerge the fruit as it ferments. Left for 45 days on skins before pressing off within a basket press and wine is then returned to vessel where it is left alone for ~ 4 more months. Lees from Amphora Blanco added for further complexity and to drop colour naturally.’
I’m a big fan of skin-contact Pinot Gris due to the flavours and textures made possible, and the Amphora Àmbar straddles the line between white, orange and rosé. With its delightful aromas of rose, strawberry and spice, it gives the impression of being a rosé, while capsicum, asparagus and grass pull it more towards white and orange. It has loads of mineral zing, saltiness, silkiness and brightness, going really well with spicy food, or even just by itself. Chilled or room temp, it’s a lovely drop.
2021 Weathercraft Beechworth Estate Second Release Chardonnay
94 points – $45.00
‘Hand-harvested fruit is whole-bunch pressed to tank for an overnight settling. Chilled juice transferred to a mix of barriques and puncheons (30% new, all French cooperage – Sirugue). Spontaneous, wild yeast fermentation in barrel. For this wine, vessels saw only partial MLF. A couple of gentle stirs of lees over winter. 17 months in oak.’
While not as aromatically assertive as the Albariño/Chardonnay, this varietal Chardonnay is a touch more refined and has loads of energy. Despite its late release and increased time in oak compared to the first release of the wine, it still presents as youthful, showing lemon, lime, blossom, apricot and struck match, with a touch of coconut from the wood. The fruit and acid are mouth-wateringly bright, making for a really satisfying drop. As it was even better on the second night, I gave it an extra point.