James McLaurin, The man with Golden Ball

Word was it takes brass balls to do real estates, so I am certain one would need something better to make wines. After all, one only makes a small fortune with a big fortune. I met the man with Golden Ball, James McLaurin. Instinctive pun got the better side of me, I couldn’t resist asking if it was ball or balls.

Victoria had my curiosity. Now Victoria has my attention. In the far end of north-east Victoria state, Beechworth region is the home ground for small production, good quality wines at premium prices. Compare with the warm flat Rutherglen in the North and cool mountainous Alpine Valley in the south, Beechworth has the best of both worlds. Hilly, mineral rich, hot days and cool nights. Despite these factors, Beechworth is not perfect and met its share of bushfire, dry spell and disastrous harvests.

Today’s Beechworth still resembles its former-self two centuries ago. An era of gold-rush, outlawed gunslinging bushranger and colonial-style buildings. Ned Kelly, an immortal icon of Beechworth, was an outlaw who was hurriedly trialled and hanged by the judicial system. His story reminds us how misjudgement and corrupted law enforcement can place a man on to a life of crime.

Alas, such is life.

The history of Golden Ball started in the same era as Ned Kelly when Issac Phillips bought the land for hotel development. In 1980, the McLaurin family moved in. It took another 16 years, after James returned from his culinary profession in United Kingdom, before Golden Ball became what it is today. A top-notch vineyard recognised by James Halliday as one of the “Ten Dark Horses 2014“, with merely four hectares.

James is, without doubt, a ballsy man.

In a modernised Australia wine industry, James opted to use wild yeast and bacteria for fermentation. He believes that authentic flavour involves both fruits and living organisms. To make sure his wines remain unaltered, filtration avoided, minimal egg whites for fining and only uses sulphur to remove microbes before bottling. The vibrant fruit notes and fine sediments that can be seen suspended in the glass are evidences of his decision. In his words, don’t expect polished wines.

Shiraz 2009Golden Ball Wines

The initial gentle whiff of black fruit paired with red berries and light sweet spices and no sign of the signature alcohol punch. Fine firm tannins, creamy and supported by lively acidity. Sufficiently ripen without excessive extraction. A very unusual style of Shiraz from Australia.

In other words, a bloody good wine.

Gallice 2009

The word Gallice originated from the word Gallic. Chosen for its association with French produce, this wine is a classic Bordeaux blend using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a small dose of Malbec. Future vintage will feature Petit Verdot as the new supporting actor alongside the veteran Malbec. Fresh jovial black plums with a touch of Juniper berries. Juicy palate and a soft powdery body with gradually pronounce tannins after a minute, or two.

Gallice 2008

2008, a significantly better vintage compared to 2009, yielded a wine of extraordinary finesse. While having the same proportion, Malbec was seemingly more pronounced over the quiet Cabernet and Merlot. Balance, integrated and elegance were call of the day.

I mentioned in the opening that Beechworth wines don’t come cheap. Approximately S$100 a bottle, these wines are available at Merchant Wine Cellar & Store.

the author

One fine day, Wai Xin woke up and decided to throw Java coding out of window in exchange for a career in wine. Believing strongly that wine is for enjoyment and not a trading commodity, he encourages sensible, affordable drinking and the exploration of individual preferences.