The Nugan Group was founded by Spanish emigré Alfredo Nugan in Griffith, New South Wales, in 1940. Initially it was in the fruit packing business and then moved into premium fruit juice production in the 1970s. A further expansion in 1993 involved the planting of vineyards and selling the grapes – just another fruit, at that time. The natural progression was then into making wine, and now Nugan Estate has 590 hectares of vineyards in Riverina (NSW), King Valley (Victoria) and McLaren Vale (South Australia).
Nugan recently introduced the “Personality Range” – four single varietal wines that have been named after some of the larger-than-life people working at Nugan Estate. I think it’s a great idea, most people love a story and a bit of history behind a wine – even if they just have a glance at the bottle while having a glass on a Wednesday evening.
Nugan Estate King Valley “Bossy Boots” Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (12.5%, €12.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)
“Dedicated to my grandmother – I learned early on never to judge a book by its cover and never underestimate the women in my family! Take Bossy Boots, she might look soft and feminine but don’t be fooled! After the world wars, Australia became home to many immigrants from Europe. They settled in the rugged outback where our vineyards are today. My grandmother was one of them. She was strong and spoke her mind, determined to build a new life for her family no matter what it took. She was a determined woman – so much admired by everyone.”
The King Valley is in North-East Victoria – and when looking up its location I found I have actually been there when dropping into Brown Brothers in Milawa! It’s a fairly hilly area which makes it a good location for cooler climate wines. Australia isn’t known for varietal Savvy – it’s more commonly seen in a blend with Semillon or even Chardonnay – so I was very interested to find out how this tasted.
This would never be mistaken for a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but then why should it? On tasting there’s a tropical fruit explosion in the mouth – pineapple, mango and passionfruit. The wine still has plenty of acidity but it’s not tart or sharp. In fact, if Kiwi SB isn’t for you then I would recommend giving this a try.
Nugan Estate Riverina “Dreamers” Chardonnay 2013 (13.5%, €12.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)
“My mother has this uncanny knack of dreaming big then making her dreams come true. Like when she decided she wanted to start our winery over twenty five years ago. She came in one day and said we are going to plant vineyards. Large ones, all over Australia! We all thought the old girl is really going too far this time. But turns out she was spot on. We planted our vineyards from scratch and you’re drinking the fruits of our hard yakka right now. I always hated that saying ‘your mother’s always right’ but perhaps there’s something in it.”
It’s very rare to see “Riverina” on a wine label – a lot of bulk wine is made there so producers often prefer to use the more generic “South-Eastern Australia” instead (and that also lets them include fruit from other states as well). Of course Nugan are based in Griffith which is the capital of the Riverina agricultural area, so they proudly declare their origins on the label. Wine fans should note that Australia’s most celebrated sweet wine – De Bortoli’s Noble One – is made just round the corner!
The Dreamers Chardonnay sees no new oak – as is the current vogue for Chardonnay in Australia – just two and three year old barrels which provide added roundness and texture. It does spend six to eight weeks on the lees, with daily stirring to give some yeasty characters and interesting texture. It’s fresh and tangy – and far more moreish than Aussie Chardonnays of old!
Nugan Estate Riverina “Scruffy’s” Shiraz 2014 (14.0%, €12.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)
“Scruffy is our Shiraz vineyard manager – he’s a mountain of a man and always looks like he’s been wrestling the local wildlife. Despite constantly looking untidy and in desperate need of a shave, he’s a real charmer with the ladies. We excuse him for being so rough around the edges as that’s his style and the world would be so boring if everyone was the same and he really knows what he’s doing in our vineyards.”
Another Riverina wine, this is partially matured in oak – both French and American – 25% of which is new. Winemaker Daren Owens keeps vineyard yields low to help intensify flavours and insists on careful fruit selection to maintain quality.
Scruffy by name, but not by nature – this wine is full of juicy berries, blackberry and blackcurrant in particular. There’s just a lick of vanilla from the oak which adds complexity. Probably the most drinkable wine at this price point!
Nugan Estate Riverina “Stompers” Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (14.0%, €12.99 down to €10.00 at SuperValu)
“My mother can be an intimidating person and there’s a few blokes that still wish they’d never given her a hard time. That said, our one vineyard manager named Stomper seems to have found a way to sidestep her wrath with his seemingly carefree attitude. We call him Stomper because the whole building shakes when he walks in – a gentle giant!”
Whereas the Shiraz has both American and French oak, the Cabernet Sauvignon’s more reserved character is better suited to just French oak – though again only a quarter of it is new.
Stomper’s wine is more about cassis and chocolate, with some noticeable Cabernet graphite and cedarwood characters. It’s a little more serious, but would pair very well with red meat.
To be honest I’d be very happy to pay €12.99 for each of these wines, but at €10.00 they are an absolute steal. The choice between the whites depends on whether you prefer a little more subtlety (the Chardonnay) or a little more expressiveness (the Sauvignon). I’d probably pick the former two out of three times. Between the reds I’d have a preference for the Shiraz (as does my wife!).
Disclosure: wines were kindly provided for review