Two wines, one word: place – more from sommelier Rocco Esposito »

Convictions spilling from two of the most exciting reds drunk this year

By Rocco Esposito
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Cycle around Beechworth

Cycle around Beechworth

Pennyweight Cabernet
Rocco Esposito of Project Forty Nine, Beechworth, NE Victoria
Harvest at Pennyweight
Pennyweight wine barrels by Guy Evans photography


The more I drink wines from particular vineyard parcels, the more I try to dissect the wine itself, re-arrange the piece of the puzzle to then come up with theories.

But, are they grand enough to be called theories? “Convictions” is perhaps a better word.

Here are the most exciting bottles of red wines I have been lucky enough to drink during the first three months of 2014, and two of my convictions come spilling out of it, along with their splendidly vivid, arresting aromas and flavors.

My first conviction is that we, as wine drinkers, need to spend less time thinking about grape varieties, and pay more attention to the places wines come from and the cultures in which they came into being.

All that a grape variety does is present a spectrum of opportunities. The uniqueness of a wine, though, is found in the matrix between a place and its culture.

A falcon-eyed focus on varietal rectitude leads to the implicit sense that there is a perfect model out there somewhere for every variety, and that those that are different are in some way falling short.  In fact they are simply different, and perhaps beautifully so; the difference is the point. 

Wine producers in Beechworth, I suspect, are keenly aware of this. It is time to forget that their cabernet sauvignon [and its family peers] is actually produced from the same grapes that makes Bordeaux, and begin approaching those wines rather as expression of Beechworth as a place and of a distinctive wine culture.

What else can this place, and this culture, express?

My second conviction is that great terroirs around the world are often capable of producing fine wines from a range of different varieties. If a place sings in a glass, it can do so to different tunes, and in different styles.

Beechworth is a great terroir. The chardonnay results have confirmed it. And now, the 2012 and the 2005 Pennyweight Cabernet have confirmed it again.

Before I get to the wines… Pennyweight is one of the first vineyards established in Beechworth together with Giaconda and Sorrenberg.

I walked through many vineyards in the past few years, but every time I dash my way through the vines and driveway at Pennyweight it feels so good. The Morris family meticulously runs the place; they implemented organic farming from the start but the place now sings loudly of biodynamic.

Located just out of Beechworth town, you’ll be warmly welcomed in the cellar door, surrounded by massive gum-trees, rolling hills and well designed winery. You can also reach the winery via rail-trail, now used as bike track: a great pit stop for those who need a drink after a ride!

Stephen and Fred (father and son) are the winemaking team. Soon after picking, we chatted around the winery and spoke about the essence of place and how important it is to be able to show it through the wines. After the discussion, Fred pulled two bottles out of the cellar, which I tasted, but also enjoyed with dinner.

After tasting the two wines I emerged with a sunny frame of mind: I should be drinking more cabernet blends, as long as they reflect a place and a time.


2012 Pennyweight Cabernet

Saturated black-red. An aroma buzzing with action: pollen, honey, cooked cherry. Huge penetration and energy; but there is a subtler and more nuanced aromatic profiles in this tasting. It seems a little one-dimensional against the 2005 (time will be the judge here). The palate is magnificently dense, deep, resonant and allusive. It is astonishingly concentrated and rich-textured, long, bittersweet, mineral and diverting.

Its concentration and force of character command attention.

As a tannin-lover, I am in raptures – there is so much here and of such fine quality.

Aromatically – at this stage – the wine is not at its best, but it is only a matter of time.


2005 Pennyweight Cabernet

Mid-depth of black-red. Very fine bittersweet kirschy scents: the memory of the madman with the hammer in the cherry orchard. But time has healed all: smooth, subtle and refined; tapered and elegant.

This wine is right on the mark now, somewhat rustic in style but full of character. Considering its age and where what it shows at this moment, I rate this wine very highly indeed.

This is a very tightly-sewn palate of pristine focus and definition, with wonderful dry-ripe cherry and plum lurking at the back, but covered and massaged into secondary complexities finally revealed because of its age.  The point here is that the fresh fruit has not altogether been lost.

A magnificent wine.



About Rocco

The Hospitality Industry has been home to Rocco Esposito for more than twenty years, specializing in wine and service from the beginning.

Born and raised in Italy, Rocco moved to Melbourne, Australlia in 1998 to further develop his career and learn about new world wines. Working for the Bortolotto family at Cecconi’s, also consulting and wine buying for private enterprises.

In 2004 Rocco moved to his favored Australian wine regions ‘Beechworth’, North East Victoria and established his own Restaurant and Wine Bar ‘Wardens Food & Wine’. Wardens quickly become one of Country Victoria’s top food & wine destinations, awarded 1 Chefs Hat in 2007, 2008 & 2009 by ‘The Age Good Food Guide’. In 2009 Rocco was the recipient of the ‘Wine Service Award’ by ‘The Age Good Food Guide’, and rated in ‘The Age Melbourne Magazine’ as Top 100 most influential people.

In 2011 Rocco became the Wine Director for the Vue de Monde group. Wine buying, wine education and training were his focus. He extremely enjoyed working with a highly complex and professional group with challenges and diversity along the way.

Rocco was the Hospitality Manager for The All Saints Estate  & St Leonard’s group, set in historic Rutherglen, it is one of the elite food & wine destinations in North East Victoria.

Being exceptionally particular and selective about wine, Rocco also enjoys judging in the various wine shows, he recognizes and values the importance of the rigor which is applied to show judging methodology.

Rocco is particularly excited by his new project at home in Beechworth – PROJECT Forty Nine - where the main aim is to establish and run his own vineyard and make his own wine together with consulting and wine education.

Currently producing Chardonnay from one of Beechworth’s most characteristic sites: the Warner Vineyard. The future will also see Shiraz and Nebbiolo under this label.







  • Beechworth (VIC)

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May 18th, 2014
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