Family owned d’Arenberg is located in the breath-taking McLaren Vale in South Australia and produces an enviable range of wines. From humble beginnings, these wines quickly gained cult status amongst imbibers and judges alike – it’s a deft combination of winemaking tradition and vinous innovation. A tall order for some, but one that d’Arenberg takes in their stride as they continue to push the boundaries and get under the skin of each individual vineyard in order to get the best from the vines. This is backed up by an engaging consumer-friendly approach to the ‘deadly serious fun’ of wine.
Many of McLaren Vale's vineyards are on free-draining soils underlain with limestone, formed by the calcareous remains of the local marine fauna. One such creature was the Hermit Crab, a reclusive little crustacean that inhabits the cast-off shells of others. The Osborn family thought the name appropriate for this, McLaren Vale's first ever blend of Viognier and Marsanne. "Hermit" is also an abbreviation for the French appellation of Hermitage, where the Marsanne grape variety dominates.
Small batches of grapes are crushed gently and transferred to stainless steel basket presses. Fermentation is long and moderately cool to retain fresh fruit characters. About 4% underwent wild fermentation for extra complexity. 14% of the Viognier is fermented in aged French and American Oak to add mouth feel and support the subtle Viognier tannins. The Viognier and Marsanne components received similar treatment, but are not blended until the final stages of the winemaking process.
A wine that really does offer something for a large array of individuals, from someone purely interested in a nice drink to those seeking to explore the nuances of these “alternate” varieties. The Viognier certainly takes centre stage on the nose in the guise of stone fruits, candied ginger and florals. In the background for those keen on honing their senses, Marsanne adds slightly more exotic notes of green mango, hay and almond. The palate has a lovely medium bodied weight to it, without any of that oiliness that over ripe Viognier can deliver. Precise acid throughout and a mild pithy texture on the finish ensure freshness and spice to keep the sweetness of the fruit in check. Fruity and spicy yet dry make this an all occasions wine.