Tabula Rasa red (50 cl) from £6.74
Tabula Rasa white (50 cl) from AU$14, £8.99
In a craft-beer-style 50-cl bottle, with a hashtag as a cuvée name, this Australian pair is clearly aimed at the #non-#traditional #wine #drinker. Perhaps the choice of a Latin brand name is rather incongruous in this context – I can't help thinking that 'blank slate' would have been better – but even so, it's a well-marketed product that offers something original for a sector frequently accused of being backward.
Wine lovers might claim to care more about what's in the bottle than what's on it, but the importance of marketing and presentation shouldn't be underestimated. After all, we are all guilty of making presumptions about quality and style when we see labels, whether they say La Tâche, Latour or Latrine. (If you must know, that's another name for toilet wine, which is made in prisons. I will spare you the technical sheet.)
The design and packaging of Tabula Rasa red and white suggest informal, easy-drinking, unpretentious wines, and so it proves. Choosing a 50-cl bottle serves a segment of the market that is chronically under-represented while keeping the price safely under £10 per bottle. And, thankfully, the quality of the wine itself is very good too.
At the recent Australia Trade Tasting in London (which supplied Julia's wine of the week last Friday too), I tasted the #V18R and #V18W, both at a recommended retail price of £8.99 for 50 cl.
The white is a blend of 70% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc plus a little Arneis and Petit Manseng, all from the Adelaide Hills. The fruit flavour fits the classic citrus profile of the main ingredients, with a little hoppiness and bitter-olive flavour to add modest complexity. It's a thirst-quenching, smooth style which, at 13% alcohol, perfectly fits the profile of what the Aussies call #smashable.
The red is 76% Grenache (mostly from old vines in McLaren Vale), plus 10% Shiraz, 9% Mataro and 5% Carignan, and it was the more delicious of the pair, for me. The sweet, juicy bramble fruit of the Grenache has excellent purity and clarity, benefiting greatly from its youthfulness. Despite the 14.5% alcohol, it is dangerously drinkable and would benefit from being lightly chilled. I see that Jancis tasted the 2017 vintage, and was less convinced, although the blend has changed since then.
Made by Giles Cooke MW for the UK agent Alliance Wine under the Wild & Wilder moniker, Tabula Rasa is currently available only in the UK and Australia. Wine-Searcher reveals that it is stocked by several independent wine merchants across Britain, including Selfridges, plus a handful of Australian retailers.
The inspiration for Tabula Rasa comes from the newly invigorated Adelaide, which hosts events in which 'once-forgotten streets are pedestrianised and turned in to street-long wine tastings. Encouraging winemakers from a particular region to enthusiastically pour their wares to equally thisty 20–30 somethings, these events are riotous and joyful – their glasses not filled with lowest common denominator wines but with high-quality wines made by someone, somewhere', according to Cooke.
In the UK, it's the kind of wine I can imagine selling well in small wine bars as an ideal option to accompany a light meal for two, with the right combination of unintimidating presentation and winemaking credibility to appeal to amateurs and experts alike.