Some of my favorite people in the world are those who offer no affect of their knowledge, even when you’re swimming through waters in which they are clearly expert. I aspire to that sort of demeanor myself, but I’ve got work to do. Something in me always wants to be helpful, teacherly, and before I know it, I find myself rambling on about this or that. Guess what kind of old man I’m going to be? The kind that tells the same stories over, and over, and over again.
I managed to sit through nearly an entire lunch of tasting and talking about Rhone-style wines with Rolf Binder without ever finding out that he was a winemaker, and a good one at that. It was only when he had to get up on stage at the Rhone Rangers Event to explain his lot of wine that was being auctioned off, and he asked me to take a photo of him, that I actually found out who he was.
Needless to say, the guy knows a thing or two about Rhone-style wines. He’s got photos of himself shoveling pomace and carry grapes starting at the age of four, planted vines at the age of twelve, started seriously being involved in vineyard operations at fifteen, and at age 18 was acting like he knew what he was doing. Just to make sure, however, he did a stint at a university for wine science, spent a year apprenticed to another experienced winemaker, and then in 1982 started making wine for the family winery and hasn’t quit since.
Rolf makes his eponymous wines at Veritas Winery. Or rather, Veritas makes Rolf Binder wines. Or actually, Rolf Binder Wines are the same thing as Veritas wines, just with a different name?
It’s all very confusing, but apparently once upon a time the family winery was just called Veritas Winery. But then when they actually started to distribute wines internationally, they ran into another Veritas winery that was understandably upset about having competition for the name, so the name of the winery has been changed to Rolf Binder. Sort of. In any case, the name on the label is Rolf Binder, and that happens to be the name of the guy that makes the wine, too, so it’s pretty much what you need to know.
Unless you’re looking for the winery’s web site, in which case you need to know that it’s Veritas Winery. Sigh. We live in such a complicated world.
Rolf Binder, by any other name, along with his family, farms dozens of select plots of grapes in the Barossa Valley in Southern Australia, many of which have been farmed by their family since the early 50’s. Rolf’s parents emigrated to Australia from Austria and Hungary in 1950 at the age of twenty, and quickly found work in the area’s vineyards. After only five years, they managed to purchase the winery they had been working in, and began building a family tradition that is now into its third generation, with Rolf’s children.
The winery came to prominence (under the Veritas name) in the late 1990s, in particular for its Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre from the Hanisch vineyard, which the family later purchased a portion of. Now the winery produces wine under three different labels: Rolf Binder as well as Magpie Estate, and J.J. Hahn, which are both joint ventures with other vineyard owners.
I am not clear on the total case production of the winery, but most of the single vineyard bottlings are made in quantities of a few hundred cases.
Full disclosure: I received these wines as press samples.
2006 Rolf Binder “Highness” Riesling, Eden Valley, Australia
Palest gold in color, this wine has a nose of pears and golden delicious apples with an undercurrent of wet slate. In the mouth it is bright with primary fruit flavors of apples, pears, and hints of citrus, all enclosed by a very subtle yeastiness, which I didn’t care for especially. A very pleasant wine. 8.5. $13. Where to Buy?
2005 Rolf Binder “Hovath” Viognier, Barossa, Australia
Light green-gold in the glass, this wine has a perfumed nose of peach, peach, and more ripe peach, with a hint of cold cream. In the mouth it is silky and weighty on the tongue, and thankful has good acidity to back up the lush fruit flavors of peach and lemon curd that wash over the palate. 9. $??
2005 Rolf Binder “Hales” Shiraz, Barossa, Australia
Dark purple in color, this wine has a nose of wet dirt after a rain, mixed with strong blackberry aromas. In the mouth it is an all-fruit, all-the-time dancing show with blackberry, blueberry, and lightly smoky aromas. While it has reasonable balance, it does not gain enough depth or complexity to be anything other than a fruit bomb of a wine. Having said that, anyone who enjoys a nice berry-driven Shiraz will probably like this one. 8.5/9. $23. Where to Buy?
2005 Rolf Binder “Heinrich” Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre Red Blend, Barossa, Australia
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a rich nose of black cherry and leather aromas. In the mouth it swirls with a taut balance between cherry fruit and a briary greenness that hovers near the edge of overpowering, but never crosses, giving the wine a nice poise, but not much more. 15% Grenache, 55% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre. 8.5/9. $20.
2004 Rolf Binder “Halliwell” Syrah/Grenache, Barossa, Australia
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a funky nose of wet dirt, green wood, and wet dog, none of which rise to the level of unpleasant, however with their undertones of red fruit. In the mouth the wine provides the unmistakable sensation of being from “the dirt” with earthy flavors of wet slate married to an elegant cherry core, and a moderate finish. 60% Syrah, 40% Grenache. 8.5/9. $15.Where to Buy?
2004 Rolf Binder “Hanisch” Shiraz, Barossa, Australia
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a sumptuous nose of chocolate, cherry, espresso, and just the tiniest hint of the briar that is more present in the other wines. In the mouth, ooh-la-la, it is just as rich, with a fantastic concoction of blueberry, cocoa powder, and other black fruits underwritten by a gorgeous acidity that keeps this wine from approaching anything jammy or cloying in nature. Muscled with very fine and subtle tannins, the wine finishes long and beautifully. Hot damn, this is what is good about Australian Shiraz. 9.5 $80. Where to Buy?
2004 Rolf Binder “Heysen” Shiraz, Barossa, Australia
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine has an earthy, blackberry briar nose, reminding me of the smells of the berry patch on summer vacation. In the mouth it is beautifully textured with a lovely satin weight on the tongue and flavors of blackberry and boysenberry knit together with fine tannins that betray an earthiness on a nice finish. 9/9.5. $36. Where to Buy?
2004 Rolf Binder “Heinrich” Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre Red Blend, Barossa, Australia
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a slightly more mineral nose than the others with prominent wet stone aromas mixed with blueberry and a bit of leather. On the tongue it offers earthy flavors of black cherry and leather dusted with grippy, sandpaper-like tannins that nicely play off the silky texture and acid balance of the wine. There’s a particularly lovely finish in this glass, and one other word in my notes that, sadly,is completely illegible. But I’m sure it was good. 9/9.5. $20.Where to Buy?