In 2000, Marty Edwards’ wine making father, John Edwards invited Marty to join him on a journey to France, to visit a range of historic vineyards across a number of classic wine regions, in the hope of luring his adventure seeking son into a role at the family winery in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.
Marty Edwards had other ideas. As an Australian Navy Special Forces officer responsible for clearing marine mines and participating in international Special Forces training, life on the land seemed pretty dull in comparison to handling underwater security for the Sydney Olympics, or mixing it with special forces from other nations in security training exercises.
Or so it seemed. After turning his father down, Marty flew to Guam for a joint training exercise with the American special forces. With 600 pounds of gear lashed to the floor between them, the Australian and American Navy Seals secured themselves in their harnesses in their attack helicopter as the pilots undertook a series of near vertical climbs to simulate real combat conditions. As his helicopter climbed vertically, the loadmaster system securing the 600 pounds of equipment failed and the entire load shot out the back of the helicopter, secured only by a long rope. Marty recalled thinking: “That’s not good”.
The rope snapped under the huge pressure of the load flying through space, with the broken section of the rope whiplashing back up directly into the tail rotor of the helicopter, which broke and careened into the main rotors, which catastrophically snapped. Spinning out of control at 800 feet above the ground without a parachute, again Marty thought: “That’s not good! ” Perhaps we can trace this chain of events to his formative notions of how drinking fine Burgundy in a restaurant in Beaune with his dad was infinitely preferable to what came next.
Spinning out of control, Marty’s helicopter crash landed in a baseball field in Guam, then burst into flames just as the last men got out of the wreckage. Allegedly the American Navy Seals needed 6 weeks of counselling before flying again, while the Australian navy Seals went to a local Guam pub for a spot of deep liquid therapy, before resuming their training mission in a new helicopter the next day.
Nonetheless fate had intervened and Marty called his father after returning from Guam and took that flight to Europe. His Damascene conversion came at the Alphonse Mellot vineyards in the Loire, when he heard of how the property had been handed from father to son for over 500 years. He suddenly understood that this was about more than his own plans. He was part of a winegrowing family and he resolved to become part of the family business in 2001.
I recall first meeting Marty Edwards in 2005, in South London at a tasting of the first wines made by the Lane. Marty was a jocular and knockabout character, but this was no bush boy, as he had a bright head on his shoulders. I recall how elegantly crisp, nuanced and very good their white wines were. There was an early touch of European class about these wines that was memorable. Of the reds, I recall the Lane Shiraz had a cool climate clarity, with a touch of white pepper which I found very agreeable. They stood apart from the bigger framed red wines typical of the Adelaide Hills in those days and I thought to myself, if they keep this standard up they will definitely be worth watching. I saw Marty occasionally in passing over the intervening 9 years, but hadn’t followed what he had been up to recently, so when Will Hargrove of Corney & Barrow invited me to a dinner hosted by Marty Edwards showcasing the Lane range, I thought “why not find out how they are shaping up today?”
Otto’s Restaurant in Grays Inn Road, London was our destination. The basement room of this modern French restaurant was pleasantly dressed with a long rectangular table for us to sup at. Marty Edwards stepped into his hosting role with ease, as he is a natural raconteur; working the audience with his laconic wit, amusing recollections and thoughtful observations.
Located high in the Adelaide Hills at up to 500 meters, the Lane vineyards experience a high degree of diurnal temperature variation, with hot sunny days up to 35+ degrees celcius, quickly followed by cold evenings of 7-8 degrees, which imparts a tension, mineral freshness, well balanced acidity and semi European clarity to their grapes. Married to a bright fruit expression and a restrained style of wine making which feels unforced and nuanced, these are high quality wines that age very agreeably. By yield, sixty percent of the Lane’s production is white wine, with forty percent red and the wines are segmented into heritage wines, occasion wines and their single vineyard series. Further details can be found on The Lane website.
2007 “Gathering” Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon The Lane
The glass set before us to commence battle showed the cool freshness and limpidity that I remembered as a signature of their white wines from nearly a decade before. 75 percent of the wine is barrel fermented in French oak sourced from Burgundy, with the balance fermented in steel. A classic blend of 75 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 25 percent Semillon, it had a very agreeable nose and palate of cool green fruits, pink grapefruit pith, nashi pear, honeycomb wax, balanced acidity and a touch of flint on the finish. Drinking very nicely at 8 years of age, it was still very fresh and could easily enjoy another 5 years in bottle. Very good: 89/100
2010 “Beginning Chardonnay” The Lane
Served with a fine plate of scallops, boudin noir, pancetta and a cauliflower puree and lemon sauce, it took this dish in its stride, with its cool, persistent and elegant nose of pear, mint, pink grapefruit, green fig and tarragon, setting the appetite up for the translucent satin textured palate, gently cradled with 30% new French oak. It displayed a very crystalline elegance, with refined fruit, mineral freshness and real class across the dynamic finish. Only 500 cases made. This fine wine has the capacity to age nicely over the next 8 years, but it is already showing so very well that I wouldn’t wait too long, as it is simply beautiful now. Excellent. 92/100.
2009 RG Chardonnay, The Lane
The signature white wine of the Lane, the RG Chardonnay comes from a single vineyard of Chardonnay vines, cropped at only 2 tonnes per hectare and is raised in 100% new French oak barrels. The 2009 RG Chardonnay sadly had a touch of maderisation due to an issue with the corks and was rendered out of condition on the evening. All of the Lane’s wines are bottled under screwcap and this was a small cork production run for a UK client. Interestingly, my glass of RG Chardonnay started to freshen up towards the latter part of the evening but it never shook off its maderisation and it would be unfair to review it in this lessened state.
2007 Viognier, The Lane.
The final white wine of the evening displays a cool and engaging nose of apricots, wildflowers, mint and dark green olives, with a frame of nutty bran oak spice. There is plenty to enjoy before dipping your beak. The palate showed cool precision, very good depth and fresh as a daisy bright acidity, with a polished fine texture and a subtly polished lingering finish. This is a very decent Viognier and at 8 years on, this is developing nicely and should age well for another 5-7 years. Very smart. 90/100
The Lane Red wines
2005 Shiraz Viognier The Lane
Originally designed as a pleasing wine bar drop for Corney & Barrow, this has evolved into a surprisingly good little wine. The 5 percent of Viognier added to the Shiraz fruit selected from 4 different parcels adds a floral and lifted note and helps in fixing the colour of the Shiraz when the two varieties are co-fermented. With an array of ripe blackberries, apricot flowers, graphite and black peppercorns across the nose and palate, it has a harmonious structure and soft tannins. It isn’t overly complex, but it is toothsome and the savoury finish calls for a nice slice of roast beef as an accompaniment. A very nice surprise. 87/100
2010 Reunion Shiraz The Lane
This east facing vineyard next to the Lane house is planted with 2,200 vines and is normally harvested two weeks after all the other Shiraz blocks are bought into the winery. After a period of cool fermentation, when the wine rests on its skins for up to 43 days, the wine is barrel aged in French oak. The result is a smooth and seamless Shiraz with refined tannins, redolent with blackberry pastille, damson plums, musk and black pepper. Showing good depth and clarity of expression, it will continue to develop handsomely over the next 10 years. You stay classy Adelaide Hills. 91/100
2010 19th Meeting Cabernet Sauvignon The Lane
After an epic battle between John Edwards and his wife as to the naming rights for this block of Cabernet Sauvignon, at the 19th naming meeting, they both surrendered the fight and its title was born of happenstance. With an appealingly pliant and savoury nose of blood plums, damsons, dusky black fruits and loamy earth, the palate has a feline structure, silky tannins and a rewarding savory finish. Drinking well now. 90/100
2007 JC Shiraz Cabernet The Lane
A blend of 80 percent Shiraz and 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon selected from the best barrels of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon on the estate. Only produced in the best years , namely 2007/ 2009/2010 & 2012, production is limited to 3 barrels, aka 100 cases. The 2007 vintage of the John Creighton ( JC ) Shiraz Cabernet displays beautiful purity with a stunning fruit profile that marries together intensity, precision and vibrancy. I started to smile when I raised it to my face as it exuded a wonderfully rewarding array of blackberries, blackcurrants, red cherries, fresh cigar leaf tobacco and dark ground spices. It has clearly benefitted from a few extra years in bottle to knit the blend together as the palate is fresh and vivid with pepper dusted red and black fruits, refined depth, and satin etched ripe tannins which give the wine a handsome energy from tip to tail. Give it some time in the decanter and you will enjoy this very fine wine all the more. Excellent 92/100.
As a wine writer specializing in the wines of Burgundy and Piedmont, I would like to extend my thanks to Corney & Barrow for an enjoyable evening and for inviting me to a very pleasant reunion with The Lane.