Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kellermeister Black Sash Shiraz 2004 - Musings

If it is not obvious yet, I am a pretty big (and unashamed) fan of the Barossa Valley. Part of the attraction is historical, part of it is based on the evidence I see in the glass more often than not. If I can drag myself off the couch long enough, I may write an unsolicited defence of the Barossa, but now is not the time, and that is not the subject of this blog.

In a wine industry dominated by the big players (the Constellations and Fosters of the world), it is always refreshing to find a family owned winery that makes honest wine – there are lots of them out there, but sometimes you need reaffirmation that this is the case.

Speaking of this type of winery, I am an unashamed fan of the Kellermeister /Trevor Jones in the Barossa. A couple of good mates put us on to them in 2004/5 when we shared several very good bottles of Barossa Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1998 vintage.

Most would be familiar with the Trevor Jones Wild Witch Shiraz – a wine that consistently rates highly and for $55-60 is very good value (if you have not heard of it – grab a bottle asap). In my opinion the Trevor Jones upper end Reds are by far their strong point – primarily their Shiraz. They also make some nice fortifieds and desert / sweet/semi-sweet whites that you do not see that often at other wineries (where a sweet rose or a half-hearted moscato is fast becoming the pacifier wines of choice!).

One of the premier wines in the Kellermeister range (the entry level / everyday drinking range, sitting below the premium Trevor Jones range) is the Black Sash Shiraz. Black Sash uses vines that are over 100 years old, and is matured in French oak (as I think are most / all of Trevor Jones’ wines). It retails at the cellar door for $32+. I tried the 2004 Black Sash at a tasting in 2005 and was impressed. At the same tasting and the one the following year, I purchased a few bottles of the 2002 Black Sash Shiraz (based not on my tasting of it, but on vintage alone....).

I had a bottle of the 2002 last year and was unimpressed. It appeared past its best, and possibly affected by brettanomyces (I am no expert in that type of thing). I opened another bottle last weekend, and my flattering impression of the nose was of ‘old washing-up rags”!!. Granted, it opened up after decanting, but had dead fruit notes and a pungent nose. I swear the cork was poor and it had affected the wine.

Given that I have several of the 2004 Black Sash Shiraz in the cellar, I was a bit concerned (I was recalling the compelling arguments I gave to the better half, convincing her that buying more than 5 bottles was of this wine was ‘of national importance’).

Therefore, it was time to crack open one of the 2004s to set my mind at ease/ confirm my fears.

The first hopeful sign was the screwcap – no concerns about random oxidization from a poor cork. The second positive sign was the nose of the wine (floral, sweet, fresh and even juicy) and the colour. While hardly ‘ethereal’ (what Barossa Shiraz is?), it had a nice dark red hue.

With a bit of a swirl, the darkfruit and spice notes came out, and there was a hint of the typical liquorice.

In the mouth, the wine was smooth and already well integrated (at least to my taste-bud challenged palette). In the background, the drying tannin and oak supported the dark plumb, slight sour dark cherry and more all-spice flavours, with the fruit definitely leading the flavour charge. Once again, as with the nose, there was an almost juicy fruit aspect to the wine in the front palette. There was the usual flavour gush in the mid palette (though not flabby) and it finished with the alcohol nicely subdued and not noticeable.

The lively fruit finished with more of the pleasant sour dark cherry flavours and spice (which came out the longer the wine was decanted). The tannins softened over the course of the evening. I assume it has another 5-10 years left in it easily. I could not identify any secondary characteristics in the wine.

With my faith restored in the Kellermeister range, and my taste buds looking forward to the several 2004 Black Sash Shiraz wines in my cellar I settled back to enjoy the evening. I will have to test out the remaining 2002 Black Sash – the cork may not be to blame for all of them, and I have had all the wine in storage since purchase. One thing is for sure – for $30-35, the 2004 Black Sash is a great bottle of wine. Worth double the price in my biased opinion (#Edit - perhaps worth up to at least $4 Brown).

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