Top Note launches red and rare sweet drop

Kuitpo couple Nick and Cate Foskett have backgrounds as far from winemaking as you can get – opera singing and IT – but their latest winemaking pursuit has struck a rare chord.

The Fosketts, who are behind Top Note Vineyard, are pouring a new release of a dessert wine made from the rare red semillon (also known as semillon rose) grape.

Top Note is one of the few places where the pink-berried variety is planted separately, as it’s usually scattered among one in every 30 or so white semillon vines.

The 2017 Noble Rose dessert wine is “less sweet” than past vintages due to a later than average harvest last year.

The Fosketts say the drop shows “orange blossom, jasmine and white tea on the nose with touches of lime”.

“The wine is delicate and has a good balance between acidity and sweetness with honey, citrus and nougat flavours on the palate,” says Cate, who has built a career in opera singing both in South Australia and overseas.

The 2017 Noble Rose.

The new release is named Noble Rose in reference to both the semillon rose variety and the ‘noble rot’, botrytis.

Botrytis is a bunch rot that can occur in grapes and is responsible for making dessert wine so sweet.

The rot draws moisture from the berry, concentrating sugars and therefore increasing sweetness and flavour of the fruit.

“Semillon is the queen of dessert wine grapes and we wanted to do something special with these gorgeous, fat, pink grapes,” Cate says.

“We thought we’d try to cane cut it and raisin the grapes on the vine, while allowing any natural botrytis development to add complexity to the wine.”

The Fosketts first released a red semillon drop in 2013.

Prominent five-star Sydney restaurant Aria bought 25% of the vintage and matched it to desserts on their degustation menu for six months.

Other fancy establishments also took a liking to it, including Restaurant Orana, Mount Lofty House and Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island.

So what makes red semillon so special?

Nick and Cate Foskett. PHOTO: Brian Kowald Photography.

A occurring mutation of the white semillon variety, red semillon is widely found in France and South Africa and was first planted in the Barossa Valley in the 1930s.

In 1995, prominent SA viticulturist and winemaker Neville Falkenberg transplanted canes from the red berry vines to three cool climate vineyards.

“He planted these canes as rows of just the pink on our vineyard, with white semillon right next to it,” Cate says.

Cate and Nick Foskett bought the Kuitpo property in 2011.

Cate had been based in London for more than a decade before returning to Adelaide to perform in State Opera of SA shows, among others.

She met Nick, a computer chip designer who had worked in Silicon Valley.

A curiosity for winemaking took charge, with the pair studying the craft at university.

The 2017 Noble Rose will officially launch at a sold out garden party on February 11.

Top Note’s cellar door is at 558 Peters Creek Road, Kuitpo, and is open on weekends and public holidays from 11am­–4pm.

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