Winemaker in the House - Massena (round 2)
Jaysen Collins from Massena is in the Artisans house this weekend. (And because winemakers are real people too, he’ll be a little late on Saturday as he heads back from Adelaide after watching the kids play soccer.) Catch him from 2-4pm Saturday, and 12-4pm Sunday.
A Massena tasting can be best described as an adventure – the wines once described by Lisa Perotti-Brown of The Wine Advocate as “…exciting departures from the status quo.” This weekend’s tasting will definitely have you venturing off the high street – the Eleventh Hour Barossa Shiraz surrounded by a bedazzling collection of diverse varietals including Saperavi and Primitivo, and red and white blends that reflect the eternal willingness of the Massena winemakers to take a path less travelled in the pursuit of making wines that are a sheer pleasure to drink. If you happen to make the journey to Artisans this weekend, you’ll also be treated to a sneak pre-release tasting of the first edition 2017 Massena ‘Stonegarden’ Grenache. Jaysen has smuggled a few bottles out of the winery ahead of the official release (which is on June 6 at Rockpool in Sydney) making it well worth a drive to the top end of Magnolia Road over the weekend.
Massena celebrates 20 years of winemaking next year, and I sense it’s a coming of age moment for founders Jaysen Collins and Dan Standish, along with their new collaborator - vigneron Glen Monaghan. Jaysen and Dan were young blokes in their early 20’s when they thought it might be ‘a bit of fun’ to partner up to make ‘a bit of wine’ – an opportunity to express some artistic licence free of the restraints of their respective day jobs at Turkey Flat and Torbreck. With the benefit of hindsight, those founding ideals of ‘a bit of fun’ and ‘a bit of wine’ now appear to be equally gross understatements. Plenty of wine has been made (albeit in small batches), and plenty of fun has been had… some would suggest fun on a scale previously unimaginable in the business of making wine.
2017 was a watershed year for Jaysen and Dan’s, bought about by the decision to head out in search of a peerless Barossa vineyard to produce a new range of top tier wines for Massena. They say fortune favours the brave, and an introduction to Glen Monaghan who’d only recently purchased the Stonegarden Vineyard in Eden Valley saw a partnership of two winemakers grow to include a vigneron. The platform for Massena ‘Stonegarden’ wines was in place and the first wines are now released. The 2017 Riesling was an impressive debut, as was the 2017 Fruit Salad Block White – a brilliant example of the power of collaboration between committed grape grower and innovative winemaker. Few would think to hang onto a vineyard block containing 20 something grape varieties – and I suspect only Massena would think to have a go at making a wine by blending the lot! The 2017 Stonegarden Grenache is next on the release schedule, followed by a 2017 GSM blend, then a second vintage of Riesling and a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon. And there is talk of a Mataro and a Malbec made in tiny quantities from fruit picked from individual vines found here and there amongst plantings of other varieties at Stonegarden. All exciting examples of extreme and rare Barossa provenance.
For 20 years, Massena has lived and celebrated the Artisan ideal of individual expression in Barossa winemaking. And whilst the Stonegarden wines might represent (dare I say it) a ‘maturing’ for Massena, the determination to keep making sure it’s fun has not diminished. To prove the point, Jaysen tells me they’re testing a new Shiraz-Tannat blend from the 2018 vintage – apparently it’s going to be called “Shitnat”.