What finer tribute could there be to your dad than creating a bottle of wine in his honour? Peter Ranscombe finds out what inspired Giles Cooke to produce Our Fathers.
It’s not often that I’ll write about a single bottle of wine in isolation. Then again, there aren’t many bottles with the rich backstory that lies behind Our Fathers.
Created by Edinburgh-based master of wine Giles Cooke, Our Fathers is a red wine made from Shiraz grapes grown in the Barossa Valley in Australia. Cooke is best known as the wine development director at Beith-based Alliance Wine and as the winemaker and one of the founders at Thistledown Wine Company in Australia, the wines from which have graced the pages of the Wine to Dine column in the main printed Scottish Field magazine.
Yet those aren’t the only strings to Cooke’s bow. Our Fathers is a standalone project that’s very close to his heart.
His own father died at the age of 74, just 50 days after being diagnosed in 2013 with lung cancer, which had spread to his brain. Instead of running a marathon or shaving his head to raise money for charity, Cooke decided that he wanted to “give something back” by doing what he knows best – making wine – after being inspired by the care his dad had received.
Cooke’s mother, who suffered from mental illness, died shortly after his father, and then Cooke himself had a heart attack in May 2015, giving him even more reasons to salute those involved in his family’s care. He decided to create Our Fathers, all the profits from which support Scottish Action on Mental Health (SAMH) St Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.
The inspiration for the wine itself came while Cooke was walking through a vineyard in the Barossa Valley that contained 125-year-old Shiraz vines. He was struck not only by the resilience of the plants themselves but also by the generations of farmers who had tended to them over the years.
Production takes place in the Adelaide Hills and Cooke sources grapes from old vines growing in a number of the Barossa Valley’s sub-regions. Older vines tend to produce fewer grapes, but the flavours in the fruit are usually more concentrated and complex.
Following in the footsteps of Cooke’s adopted wine-making forefathers in Australia, the grapes are picked by hand, with as few additions as possible and no fining or filtering. A small amount of the maiden 2014 bottling is still available in the UK, but the current vintage is the 2015 Our Fathers (£25, ourfatherswines.co.uk), which is full of fresh blackcurrant, blackberry, redcurrant and subtle coffee aromas on the nose.
On the palate, the blackcurrant and blackberry fruit is much bolder, and is joined by richer coffee, vanilla and milk chocolate flavours, with a crack of black pepper coming through on the long finish. The tannins are soft and well-integrated, but still firm enough to stand up to meat, while there’s bright acidity to offer balance too.
The 2016 is currently ageing in its barrels, while Cooke is fresh back from Australia, where he’s been creating the 2017.
Our Fathers is poised to reach a wider audience after Smith & Gertrude, a wine bar in the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh, began selling the wine by-the-glass for the first time, giving drinkers the chance to taste a sample before opting to purchase a bottle direct from Cooke.