• Moa Nilsson

Wine Tasting with Australian Thistledown Wines

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Wine tasting with Australian Thistledown Wines

Wine tasting with Australian Thistledown Wines

Had the pleasure of attending my first wine tasting at Drinkmonger here in Edinburgh. It was a free ticketed event and I ended up going by myself since C had to work late. I had never before visited Drinkmonger, which is the sister shop to Royal Mile Whiskies where I've attended several whisky tastings. They had a lovely selection of wines, beers and spirits and definitely worth a visit if you want to talk to staff that know their wines. This evening it was the Australian Thistledown Wines that were hosting. They're a company that primarily focuses on small batch McLaren Vale Grenache, Adelaide Hills Chardonnay and Barossa Valley Shiraz.

7 Thistledown Wines

I had never heard about Thistledown Wines before, but became very curious about the seven wines presented before us. Even though whisky tends to be my focus, I have started to realize that I'm interested and passionate about flavour and where it comes from - no matter if it's whisky, wine or other spirits.

I definitely wasn't expecting to be tasting seven wines when I rocked up with my ticket for a free tasting. I wasn't really sure what to expect or if it was a formal tasting or just a mingle event. But it turned out to be a formal tasting, as in when the host goes through each of the wines and talks about them individually and about the company. We started the evening with a white wine called Tabula Rasa.

Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa means clean slate in latin and was intended as an easygoing midweek wine for every occasion. We tried this white one as well as the red version which to me tasted so much of blackcurrant which is one of my favorite flavours. Sometimes when someone describes a wine as easygoing I find that it sometimes lacks flavour or is a bit boring - but that was not the case with either of the Tabula Rasa wines. They were both easygoing and very easy to enjoy but still had a really interesting flavour. I liked that they had bottled them in beer bottles which were both 50cl. Our host informed us it was because they wanted it to be approachable for midweek drinking when you might not want to open a full bottle and only have one glass or so. This wine would be a perfect companion to a BBQ or an evening at home when you just want a nice wine to enjoy.

Our host of the evening was Giles Cooke who is the founder and wine maker of Thistledown Wines. He also told us he is a Grenache enthusiast (which also became clear during the evening) and that he's on a mission to bringing good Australian Grenache to the world stage. He was very interesting to listen too and had a lot of good information and both funny and fascinating stories to tell about his wines.

Interesting Stories

One of the things I wasn't expecting from the tasting was all the interesting backstories for each wine. The Grenache and Shiraz wines that we tried also had beautiful labels which depicted their individual stories. On the photo below you can see the Thistledown Wines Grenache She's Electric which tells the story of the vineyard where the grapes come from. Giles told us that in Australia and other places of the world it's not unusual that the wine maker and grape growers are two separate things, meaning that the wine makers have to seek out grape growers to buy grapes for their wines. This specific vineyard apparently burned half to the ground after a bird sat on a power line during a power cut. When the power came back on the bird exploded and this resulted in a fire.

The threat of Kangaroos?

Giles also told us that alla the wines have been fermented by wild fermentation and they are all small batch and therefore quite limited. They're all also vegan and vegetarian friendly.

Someone in the group also asked the question what was the biggest threat to the grapes and wondered if it might be kangaroos. Giles responded that kangaroos only eat vines if there's a drought and they have nothing else to eat, but that it's the birds that are the biggest threat, especially if you don't cover the vines.


Our second Thistledown Wines Grenache was Sands of time. The grapes for this wine comes from vines from a 75 year old vineyard where they grow in deep sandy soils that are great for Grenache. This wine had also been through a layered wild fermentation in cement eggs and is oak matured. It was a really elegant and smooth wine.

Giles added that Grenache delivers what pinot can only promise when someone said that it reminded her of a pinot noir that she likes.

You could also read all the stories of the different Thistledown Wines on the back of bottles. I really think that storytelling enhances the experience and taste of any food or drinks tastings. It's what I would like to achieve in my own tastings that will be launched soon!

Giles also told us how important it is to him that the fruit is picked when it is "on the way up" and not when it's passed its maturation point. To achieve this they constantly look for signs of approaching maturity and also do tests on the fruit.

Small Batch Advance Release

During the evening we also got to try a small batch advance release white wine made from 100% roussanne, which is a grape that is usually blended with other varieties when used in wine making. I got a lot of elder flower, honeydew melon and a herbaceous note of thyme and this wine was probably my favorite one of the evening because it was so interesting!

After Tabula Rasa, Roussanne and Grenache we ended the evening with two Shiraz from Thistledown Wines. We started out with The Quickening which was a wine named from the happening when babies and energy comes to life.

Shiraz to finish

We then finished with Silken Beastie which was a contrasting wine to the previous Shiraz. The label was telling the story of a scorpion trapped in gossamer which turns it into mother nature. The reference is that Australia's hostile environment is the scorpion and Grenache is the gossamer which together makes a very beautiful wine.

Line Up

And here's the line up of the Shiraz, Grenache and Roussanne that we got to try. My favourites of the evening were probably Sands of time with its gorgeously interesting and smooth character, the red Tabula Rasa because of its blackcurrant flavour and of course the Advance Release roussanne because it was so different and delicious, but they were all really lovely.

Have you tried any Thistledown Wines?

© by Moa Katarina Nilsson. All rights reserved.