2017 Best Value Winery of the Year: Larry Cherubino Wines

James Halliday by James Halliday for Kennards Wines Storage

3 Aug, 2016

I have an unpublished and non-binding principle that no person or winery can win the same award twice in an indefinite period. But as our Prime Minister would say, it is an exciting time for Australian wine, and opportunities are unlimited. New varieties, new wineries and new regions are popping up all over the place.

Natural wines are basking in a small square of sun. If they are (when young) yellow, brown or simply muddy to look at, or sparkling when they aren’t meant to be, I don’t want to taste them. I get irritated, if not downright angry, when it is implied that a wine that has not been filtered and/or fined is somehow superior to a wine that has been so treated, when in the vast majority of cases, the opposite is true.

But when I taste a pale straw-green white wine that has been fermented on its skins and that has an electric freshness to its mouthfeel and flavours, or a red wine fermented and matured on its skins, pips and lees in an amphora that is supple and full of fruit, I applaud.
Truth is a moving target. I had been making red wine for 17 years before I became seriously interested in wild/indigenous/natural (the three names are interchangeable) yeast fermentation of red wines, and it was almost 30 years before I thought that some white wines might benefit from primary fermentation at warm temperatures well outside my comfort zone.

What, I hear you say, has all this got to do with Larry Cherubino? 

First up, in 2011 his eponymous winery was honoured as Winery of the Year. Second, in 15 years he has traversed all the challenges and practices of the issues I discuss above.

And he has done it in style. In this year’s Wine Companion, 15 of the 17 wines scoring 95 points or above had the red value star, these days determined by a mathematical formula applying to all wines in the Wine Companion. All up, 35 of Larry Cherubino’s wines appear, 28 (80%) of which have the value rosette: those 28 include fiano, pinot gris, riesling, sauvignon blanc, semillon sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, a field blend of four white varieties, syrah grenache, grenache, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet merlot and cabernet malbec.

His Laissez Faire wines have no additions or adjustments of any kind other than SO2, itself normally added not long before the wine is bottled. A six-week fermentation/maceration for Margaret River cabernet sauvignon isn’t unprecedented, but it’s at the outer limit of a normal envelope.

And he’s got a sense of humour. Franklin Tate has a virtual winery, which he established in 2007, called Miles from Nowhere (all the grapes come from Margaret River), met, as it were, by Cherubino’s Ad Hoc Middle of Everywhere Shiraz.