Rob Gherardi’s is a small operation, the winemaking aspect of which extends barely outside of his own family. And so the same question inevitably comes up, from where is the silhouetted character in film noir garb in front of the the white alps on their label? Who is Mr. Barval?
Mr. Barval wines join Rob’s experience in Margaret River in famous wineries including Moss Wood and Cullens, his winemaking tenure in Barolo and discovery of old world winemaking, and his Italian heritage, growing up in Valtellina. Mr. Barval represents, in both name and winemaking, these three influences, creating the amalgamation of Margaret River, BARolo and VALtellina.
Rob was immediately likeable and incredibly down to earth. When I met him, after a brief introduction that I would be writing about him, he immediately began asking me about the blog, photographs, and writing. It was only through conscious effort that I was able to turn the tables and get Rob to talk about himself.
But once I did get Rob talking about himself he proved himself a fascinating wealth of both information and stories from his wine journey to his surprising year, which involves an endless summer between winemaking in Margaret River and guiding Day Tours of Wineries in Italy:
While working as a winemaker in Italy for a low wage despite a prestigious position, Rob and his wife brainstormed ideas to supplement their income. Realising that, as Rob said, "the children from the winery I worked for were all friends with the children from other prestigious wineries", Rob was able to capitalise on this wealth of contacts to start a company for personal, intimate wine tours. Rob credits this job with supplementing his family’s late summers in Italy for between one and three months a year. It is not all as romantic as it appears, as Rob suggests, “Being a tour guide, much like a winemaker, sounds a lot more luxurious than the reality of the job really is.”
The hands on approach, use of small batches, and wild ferment with no additives could very easily place Mr. Barval wines amongst the Natural Wines camp which has generated a lot of buzz of late, but whilst his motivation is similar, Rob finds his approach sits much more comfortable under the banner of ‘Old World’ winemaking, and the difference, whilst subtle, is readily apparent in his wines which Rob describes as “Acid focused, elegance over power, delicacy over forcefulness” and "I want my wines to get you salivating, making you want to eat food with them, which, in turn, further enhances the drinking experience”
Mr. Barval are certainly the most ‘traditional’ wines we have seen thus far in the Grape To Glass series, but this is in no way to say that they’re not incredible wines. We begun the night tasting the Mistral, a Rhone Valley Blend in style comprised of Viognier and Marsanne, and named Mistral after the cold breeze which runs through the Rhone valleys. The Mistral was incredibly easy drinking whilst still complex and fascinating. The Chardonnay which followed was delicate and lovely. Chardonnay is a divisive variety, but Rob said that his care, delicacy and use of amazing fruit has been enough to change some people's minds.
Onto reds, we drank the Rosso blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Rosso was our favourite, with bold, rich, intense flavours, but enough balance to be easy drinking without feeling ‘short’. Onto the Cabernet Merlot, a surprisingly subtle Bordeaux blend owed to Rob’s old world, European winemaking sensibilities. Rob mentioned that he wanted to combat the tendency for West Australian Cabernets to get "bigger and bigger” and this wine is testament to his philosophy. Rob brought along some of his extremely popular, and entirely sold out Nebbiolo. The Nebbiolo is also a deviation from Australian winemaking tendencies, rather than try to replicate the prestigious Barolo style of Italian wine, Rob decided he “Couldn’t make Barolo out of Karridale” but he could create a wine in the style of Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba. The wine is a labour of love, having been hand plunged every four hours for five days, and the simplicity and dedication has resonated with a lot of people, resulting in a very popular wine.
Grape To Glass
Budburst were excellent hosts and the crowd once again upheld wonderful and fascinating conversation. We loved matching the wines with provided cheese and antipasto.The event space this week was more open, which made for a convivial and exciting atmosphere, and beautiful wines were just the trick to get everyone in a great mood.
Pours in Grape To Glass are just a little over 75ml, which is a great amount to be able to get familiar with each wine without having your palette overwhelmed before the tastings are over. We’ve loved being able to compare wines across a winemakers range without feeling rushed as you often can in a wine tour. Giving us enough time to fall in love with the wine, which we think is great.