Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Multiple Wine Tasting: 2004 Seppelt Drumborg Riesling, 2005 Clayfield Grampians Shiraz, 2006 Mt Langhi Ghiran Billi Billi Grampians Shiraz

There is currently a poll posted on one of the leading Australian wine websites (http://www.winefront.com.au/) asking which State you would pick to fulfil your wine drinking needs if forced to choose only one. While being a wonderful poll that really makes you think about how diverse the Australian wine industry is, the results have surprised me; Victoria is a clear leader. Personally I might have chosen South Australia or Western Australia, but there is undoubtedly a lot of quality wine coming out of Victoria.

So it seemed somehwat apt that last night I had friends over for dinner (including Red) and every bottle of wine we consumed was from.......Victoria. Furthermore, with the exception of a non-descript and passed-its-best vintage Sparkling from the Pyrenees, the wines were all superb in their own way.





Seppelt 2004 Drumborg Riesling (retail)
As you can probably tell from some of the reviews on this blog, both Red and I are big fans of Riesling – Eden Valley Riesling in particular, but also Clare Valley and any other top example of the grape. I had never tried a Seppelt Drumborg despite almost universal acclaim from critics, so decided to see what the fuss is all about. After almost 6 years in the bottle, this wine is still has years ahead of it – clear, light yellow with the slightest green tinge. On the nose it has strong floral notes. There were slight hints of burnt match upon opening (which almost gave the wine a kerosene smell), but these died away when the wine was exposed to the air. The wine has crisp lemon at the front and middle palate with mineral notes more prominent on the finish. The structure is tight and it has focussed line and length. This wine will develop for another 10-15 years with ease, and I would love to get some more of these babies.
Red's take: Similarly enjoyed the wine. Definitely got that kero smell that aged riesling starts to develop! Very very long


Clayfield 2005 Grampians Shiraz (retail)
For many Victorians (and wine enthusiasts in general) it is an article of faith that Great Western/The Grampians produces some of the highest quality Shiraz in Australia (in the more traditional, continental, spicy cooler climate ‘Syrah’ style). I have been impressed with most of the reds I have had from this region at all price points and will be investing in more in the future. Red invested in a case of this wine a few months ago and generously donated one of the bottles not destined for 10 years in his cellar to the evenings wine list. In the mouth the Clayfields Shiraz had ample waves of ripe plum and dark cherry with subtle lashings of soft sweet liquorice and spice thrown into the mix. The tannins were ripe and soft though still firm enough to assist the impressive structure. In short: a lovely, elegant medium bodied wine that is full flavoured, spicy and with great length and intensity of flavour. It should last another 5-15 years in the cellar (depending on how you like your wine).
Red's Take: As Brown says, it is a lovely, elegant medium-full bodied wine, and yet it still has wonderful volume and power on the palate. A sensuous wine that I absolutely love drinking. Looking forward to the other bottles I have in the cellar as they age gracefully





Mt Langhi Ghiran Billi Billi Grampians Shiraz (retail)
As luck would have it, there was a bottle of the Billi Billi in the wine rack and there was enough interest in tasting back-to-back bottles of Grampians red (well a glass of the second wine at the end of a relaxing evening). Tasting the Billi Billi after the Clayfields provided the opportunity to better identify regional Grampians characteristics and also effectively assess the differences in flavour and style between a $15 bargain and an elegant $45 wine with a capacity to age from the same region. On the nose and in the mouth, the Billi Billi had the same black fruits (less plum) with less intense/obvious spice and a mere hint of liquorice. The tannins were harder edged and there was nowhere near the same level of complexity as the Clayfields (as you would expect given the price difference and 2 less years in the bottle). However, for the price there was definite ‘bang for your buck' in terms of fruit flavour and approachability. There were clear regional similarities between the two wines – to paraphrase Len Evans, both smelt like a wine from the Grampians and not like generic glasses of Australian Shiraz.
Red's take: It was great to taste these wines back to back. While there were differences in terms of quality and complexity, they were so obviously both from the same region. Both wines, given their respective price points, are great expressions of Grampians terroir, and it's a flavour profile I love . . .

Summary: 3 great value wines at differing price points.
#Note: While being a casual dinner, there were no food-wine matchings per-se, though the main meal was Bavette Pasta with Pancetta, cream and rocket sauce (compliments to my wife, LB, the cook).




Sunday, December 27, 2009

2001 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)

I was interested to drink this wine both from the perspective of simply wanting to drink a Bin 407 with a bit of bottle age, as well as it being a wine that had divided wine critics with descriptions ranging from "vegetal" and "overcooked" to "luscious, fruit-defined, black-red and hummingly powered" depending on which review you read. End drinking windows also ranged from 2009 through to 2017. Having now had a couple of glasses I definitely fall down on the positive side of the ledger . . .

The wine had a classic blackcurrant nose, with some nice oak, chocolate and a hint of leafiness. Yum on the palate, with good fruit, chocolate, and some spiciness before finishing with gentle tannins. I'm not sure how much more complexity it will gain with age but it certainly has a few more years in it at least. Lovely Cabernet.

Red

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Red’s Xmas Eve – Bellussi Prosecco, 2008 Grosset Watervale Riesling, 2006 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir

Christmas eve was a wonderful family dinner, with a mixed plate of fresh oysters, prawns, and tuna and salmon sashimi for the entrée, and then a prawn gnocchi for the main. Would love to tell you more about the food but this is a wine blog. Stay on message they always say. Suffice to say the food was beautiful.

Now to the wine . . .

Bellussi Prosecco di Valdobbiadene – $25 - My wife is a big fan of Prosecco so we kicked off the evening with this . . .
On the nose it had that subtle bit of yeastiness which I like. On the palate it had good fruit, a hint of pear, with a bit of sweetness, but from mid to back palate was dry, and you’d definitely put it in the dry style of prosecco. Very tasty and drinkable, and at $25 a bottle would happily purchase more.

With the seafood platter we had a 2008 Grosset Watervale Riesling ($35). A somewhat developed colour for an ’08, this is a wine that is dominated by lemon and lime flavours. Nice and juicy on the palate. Quality wine that will undoubtedly age, though also highlights to me my personal preference for the Eden Valley Rieslings. This wine had none of the floral nose and minerality on the palate that I love in my riesling. Not a criticism just my preference. If you love your Clare Valley riesling you'll certainly enjoy this.



With the prawn gnocchi we had the 2006 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir ($80). I’m not someone who has drunk a lot of pinot noir (not compared anyway to what I have put away in terms of cabernet and shiraz), but I’m certainly coming around to the variety and starting to drink more of it. This wine has done a mighty service to that cause.

I’d say it’s the best Pinot I’ve drunk this year. It combines power and hedonism, with complexity and elegance.

Firstly it’s a dark pinot that foretells of the power and hedonism of the wine. Secondly it has a wonderfully aromatic nose. While there are descriptors I could mention, none of them to me stand out or are obvious, but rather all blend together to produce a wine that you could just keep on smelling (for the record I got strawberries, game/meaty aromas, and spice).

On the palate it is all class. It is silky and smooth, and while there is some sweetness on the front palate, the flavours are predominantly savoury. In fact the front palate provides the yum factor, while the middle to back palate provides a complexity of flavour that you keep coming back to. It has great length, structure, and tannins, and I’m sure it could age at least another 5 years.

I could feel a bit guilty having drunk it when it still had some ageing left in it, but it was just such a beautiful wine that I see no reason to feel that way. It was a superb way to finish off the night.


Red

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2008 Georges Du Boeuf Beaujolais Villages




I've become a bit of fan of the Gamay grape in recent times. Brown is a bit more of a sceptic with the variety, and as such this could be the subject of a worthy Face-Off between the two of us.
Previously I'd had a negative perception of the wine, given what you often read about it being simple, flimsy, and not age-worthy. This perception was changed the day I had a Cru Beaujolais from Fleurie. It was a dark wine, of structure, tannin, complexity, and would undoubtedly age for 10 years.
The 2008 Georges Du Boeuf Beaujolais Villages ($15) is a great summer red for quaffing. I picked it up at Dan Murphys for $15. As a Village level wine you're always a bit worried about the quality of the wine that you'll be drinking, but no such dramas in this instance.
It's a nice cherry red in colour, and certainly a lot darker than many pinots you would often drink. It has a lovely, soft nose of flowers and berries. On the palette it's beautiful and smooth. The front palette has some nice fruit sweetness, and then through the middle to back palette sour cherry comes through. It finishes with decent length and some soft, drying tannin.
Serve this slightly chilled on a balmy evening this summer . . .

Red

White wine . . . a slave to fashion

Brown's musings on the state of play with Riesling - http://redtobrownwinereview.blogspot.com/2009/12/heggies-eden-valley-riesling-2009.html - is just one example of how much the broad, commercial success of white wine is down to trend and fashion. Red wine, while far from being immune to this, seems slightly less affected.

Riesling

I agree with Brown's comments on Riesling. Apparently it was popular in the 1970s (I was born in 1979), and I remember my grandparents were fans of Riesling. Not sure if the grandparent's thing is a common experience, but if it is it would explain a lot of why Riesling is only slightly more popular than sherry!

Chardonnay

I've had two experiences this year which have confirmed to me that the relative decline of chardonnay is once again a thing largely of fashion.

A few months back I went to a WA wine tasting which had a lot of the smaller Western Australian wine producers. I went with a mate who loves his wine, but is not especially knowledgeable about the subject. He was the classic "I like sav blanc, and don't like chardonnay" type drinker. By the end of this tasting he had changed his tune. While certainly not walking away from his love for sav blanc, he'd discovered the joys of chardonnay.

I went to another WA wine tasting a few weeks back which I have written about in a previous post - http://redtobrownwinereview.blogspot.com/2009/12/margaret-river-tasting.html . As mentioned, when the people in the room doing the tasting were asked which chardonnay they liked, they preferred the buttery, oily Moss Wood Chardonnay over the leaner, cooler Voyager Chardonnay. Not only were these people expressing a like for chardonnay, but indeed for a heavily oaked and malolactic Chardonnay that is supposedly not what people want anymore!!!


Pinot Grigio/Gris

A variety that has become increasingly popular, but personally has yet to really appeal to me. I was talking to a guy who had recently opened up a wine bar in Sydney and he told me that his Pinot Grigio was the dominant wine on his wine list. Asked why this was, he said his target market for the bar was professional women. Having done extensive surveys, he discovered that the number one preference of all these women who were surveyed was Pinot Grigio. While not discounting the fact that some of the people surveyed genuinely like the varietal, I can't help but think that this preference is down to it being a trendy wine and even the fact that the name kind of sounds sexy.


Albarino/Savagnin

Can you feel sorry for a grape variety? If you can then I feel sorry for the fiasco that has befallen the artist previously known as Albarino (and obviously the growers of this variety). It was a variety that on the cusp of stardom, when it was struck down by a cruel quirk of fate (without going into detail the grape is apparently not Albarino and is in fact a variety known as Savagnin). Albarino is a great name, and it's one of those words you really want to roll the R on and give it your best Spanish accent. Combine the name with the fact that it is an aromatic wine that goes beautifully with seafood, I have no doubt that it would have eventually been very popular in Australia. Its new name could not possibly be more unattractive. Savagnin. Moreover, it sounds too similar to Sauvignon Blanc. Subsequently, I believe that regardless of the quality of Savignin that we end up producing in Australia it is consigned to being a secondary variety in terms of popularity.


Sav Blanc

The topic of Sav Blanc's rise has been the subject of hundreds of articles, reviews, posts and blogs. To be honest, while it's not my cup of tea, I can see why people who have little interest in wine and want something to quaff find sav blanc appealing. I think it's probably at its peak in terms of its popularity as a variety, and have no doubt that in 5-10 years time we will be talking about its relative decline.


Cellar worthy cheapies

One of the things I absolutely love is the number of incredibly cheap white varieties that are cellar worthy. Semillon is the most obvious example. As a wine that often only hits it straps after 10 years, it often represents amazing value. Marsanne from Tahbilk, along with Houghton's White Classic (a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Verdelho) are two others that also need at least 5 years in the cellar. Once again none of these wines could be considered fashionable and as a result, at $10 a bottle, they offer incredible value for us wine tragics.


Personally I love my Chardonnay and Riesling, and these two varieties dominate my white wine drinking and cellaring. I'm still undecided what my ultimate preference is between the two varieties. Certainly if cost is taken into consideration then Riesling wins hands down, but even if it can be expensive, Chardonnay at its best is a wonderful wine. I look forward to having these two varieties tussle for supremacy on my palette in the coming years . . .


Red

Friday, December 18, 2009

Heggies Eden Valley Riesling 2009



Proclaiming that the 2009 Heggies Riesling is great value and a delicious, reliable drop is definitely stating the obvious. Indeed, one of the cruellest ironies when it comes to Australian wine is that as tertiary white varieties (in my ignorant opinion) like the all-conquering Sauvignon Blanc dominate the best sellers lists of the bottle shops of Australia, noble and delicious varieties like Riesling suffer a consumer / popular backlash.

The cruel aspect to this commercial reality is that wine makers who are persevering with Riesling are not getting as much kudos from the general public or financial returns they deserve for making high quality wines. This is despite the best efforts of the wine critics and bloggers I follow who repeatedly discuss the ‘Riesling revival’ (which makes sense to me, but is not reflected in wine drinking trends).
The irony of this situation is that the (seemingly) small minority of wine consumers who love good quality Riesling have choice aplenty when it comes to wine at a low price point. For example, I am able to purchase top quality bottles of several 90+ rated Riesling for well under $20.

In the lead up to Christmas, the much better half (LB) and I are trying to save money (or build up a festive season war chest as I like to put it). On a reasonably frugal budget, we decided to kick it old school and have fish and chips on Coogee Beach as the sun went down on a warm late spring Sydney Saturday night.
In my humble opinion (and the late Len Evans’ deservedly not as humble opinion), nothing goes better with freshly shucked oysters than young Semillon. However, when it comes to other white wine/ seafood matchings, no other wine comes close to paring as neatly with fresh fish and chips as a well made, affordable young dry Riesling. Therefore, we purchased a bottle of Heggies, ordered two serves of fish and chips and settled down on Coogee Beach for dinner.
Most wine drinkers have heard of Heggies and/or consumed a bottle or two of their Riesling, Chardonnay or other white varieties (plus their sometimes very good Merlot).
As their wine is affordable, and has always been a dependable drop, I had wanted to try a bottle of the 2009 vintage for some time..
Whilst on a wine tour in the Barossa/Eden Valley in October, Red and I had heard from a few wine makers that the Eden Valley did not suffer as much heat damage as the Barossa Valley floor during the killer heat wave in late 2008/early 2009. We also heard that the weather was much more even in February to March, which led to even ripening of the fruit (and I assume increased natural acidity – but don’t quote me on that!!). To support this, the 2009 Rieslings I tried in the Barossa were almost universally more floral, light, and pleasantly more acidic than the very good, but not amazing (and early ripening) 2008 vintage.



Due to the lovely, laid-back setting, my ‘tasting notes’ for the Heggies are not comprehensive – the wine had a typical floral and lime nose, but I found it a bit more developed than other Rieslings of the same vintage with a hint of melon and even passionfruit (an earlier drinking style despite the seeming longevity if EV 2009 vintage?). I found it a more forward wine, a tad ‘ballsier’ than I expected, though with a crisp, refreshing acidity. I thought it was more Clare than typical Eden Valley, but was crisp and clean on the palette.

It matched superbly with fish and chips – the acidity cutting through the batter, the lemon/lime notes of the wine complementing my lemon-soaked fish fillets.

Combine the wine and food with a family friendly Coogee Beach setting, at twilight at the end of a scorching late spring day, and it was a very enjoyable – and affordable night out.



Why people do not bring more bottles of sub $20 Riesling to summer BBQs and seafood dinner parties is beyond me. However, with people coveting the Sauv Blancs and Pinot Gris of the world, I cannot complain that there are several cheap Riesling options available to me at most bottle shops in Sydney at any given time that can give me a similar value for money experience.



#Footnote – I repeated the same type of evening only a week ago, this time with a Jim Barry Watervale 2008 Riesling. Similarly great value wine, though with less lime and lemon. It was a fleshier wine with not as much crisp acidity. Still, for the price a great wine that complemented the food. You cannot go wrong with a bottle of Pewseyvale, Heggies, Jim Barry, Leeuwin Estate or Peter Lehmann Riesling, to name but a few.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Margaret River Tasting


I went to a WA wine tasting the other night through work. The tasting was quality rather than quantity and was one of the best tastings I've been to this year.

The first tasting were the chardonnays which was the 06 Voyager and the 07 Moss Wood. It was a great comparison as the Moss Wood represents the best of the old school chardonnay being matured in 100% new oak and receiving 100% malolactic fermentation. The Voyager on the other hand represents the best of the new, being 50% new oak and only 15% malo. The Moss Wood really is dominated by oak, with that oily, butteriness being the lasting impression. Not to say it's not enjoyable, because it was definitely was, and there is some really good fruit supporting it. Reckon Moss Wood should stay with this style, as most other top chardonnays have moved toward being much less worked. It's great to still have a quality representative of the strongly oaked chardonnay. The Voyager's difference is immediately obvious from the lighter colour. It's a cooler, tighter wine with a much finer structure. Grapefruit, well integrated oak, and the occasional whiff of struck matchstick. Its long and you'd reckon it will age really well. Really enjoyed both, but personally preferred the Voyager.

What was fascinating was that the group I was tasting with, preferred the Moss Wood overall! Interesting result given the average punter's supposed preference for your crisper sav blanc style white. Most of the people there liked their wine but not many of them were especially knowledgeable about wine. Proves to me that a lot of the dislike of chardonnay is fashion and image, rather than taste. When presented with two chardonnays their preference was for the oakier, more buttery chardonnay. Call it Pinot Grigio and it would sell like hotcakes!

We then tried two Pinot Noirs. A 2007 Picardy Pinot from Pemberton and the 2007 Moss Wood Pinot. The Moss Wood was a pretty good result for a Margaret River Pinot, but was a touch confectionary and flabby, and highlights how certain varieties ultimately don't work with certain regions. The Picardy on the other hand was a really nice pinot that had a beautiful nose of red fruits and a very nice, tight structure. Some nice tannins for a Pinot and good length. Will definitely age. Had never had a Pemberton, let alone a Picardy Pinot, but I reckon it's a region/variety combination I might start looking out for.

We then moved onto the cabernets, and the two on offer were the 07 Vasse Felix Cab Sav, and the 04 Voyager Cab Merlot. I've been lucky enough to try the Voyager a few times previously and each time it's been beautiful. This tasting was no different. It will age very well but it is already drinking beautifully. In the best way it has some sweetness to it, with some chocolate notes. Long with understated tannins. Would love to see what this wine is like in 10 years time. The interesting thing was that the Vasse Felix sitting next to it lost nothing to the Voyager (in my opinion anyway). Just a straight cab sav so it gave me more classic MR 'gravel' love on the nose than did the Voyager, and had more noticeable structure and tannins. Quality fruit and had some minerality to it as well. Reckon it has at least 10 years of ageing in front of it, and possibly a lot longer. Both were beautiful Margaret River Cabernets, but were also distinctly different.

Margaret River is close to being my favourite wine region in Australia, and this tasting did nothing to undermine that view.



Red

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Red to Brown 'Face-Off' : Shiraz Blind Tasting - 07 Shaw & Smith, 07 Cape Mentelle, 07 Tyrrells Stevens, 06 Heathcote Estate


This is the first of what will hopefully be a steady stream of 'face-offs' from Red to Brown involving wines we have both tasted. It is hoped that in future months some more blind tastings with approproiate food matchings will be posted, including an Australian vs New Zealand Pinot Noir and Multi-regional Cabernet Sauvignon tastings.





(Red) Brown, myself, and our better halves had a dinner the other night where we kicked things off with a blind tasting of four Shiraz from four different states – NSW, Vic, SA, and WA. We'd each brought two of the wines, mine from NSW and SA, and Brown's from Vic and WA, so we knew the identity of two of the wines in the line up, but were clueless as to the other two.

Wine 1 (2007 Shaw and Smith Shiraz) (Red) - Beautiful aromatic nose of berries and French oak. On the palette the wine had a great mouth feel, with good length and nice tannins. Berries and a pleasing bit of spice. First up wine and I loved it. Correctly picked this as the Shaw and Smith (my only correct pick of the night!!)
(Brown) - On the nose I picked up the strong scent of French oak (perfumed, not over-done), along with some vanilla and a hint of spice and pepper. This wine had by far the strongest nose of the 4 out of the bottle. On the palette it had typical black and red fruit, a hint of pepper and some sour notes (in a good way). It was medium bodied with very good length and a tight structure, finishing smooth with perfectly ripe fruit. Knowing Red was bringing SA and NSW wine, the spice and use of French oak (and the fact it was obviously not from the more familiar Barossa, Mclarenvale or Clare Valley) made me assume it was a newer style Coonawarra Shiraz (Ba-bow! wrong). The other half gushed about this wine, and it was the consensus pick for the night.

Wine 2 (2007 Cape Mentelle Shiraz) (Red) - As we were to discover this wine needed a good decant. There was virtually no nose at all at this stage, maybe a bit of French oak. On the palette the distinguishing feature were the pepper notes to match the berry fruit. Decent length and stronger tannins than the Shaw and Smith. Had no idea where it was from, but the given the pepper I figured it was one of Brown's wines
(Brown) - Classic example of why decanting is good for even young wines, why this wine deserves its universally high rating, and why it will also age wonderfully. Even factoring in my terrible sense of smell, the Cape Mentelle had no nose when first opened. You had to work the wine like a rusted FJ Holden to get some life out of it initially (eg minutes after opening). My notes highlighted the subdued nose, which had sweet hints. The tannins were powdery and fine, it had structure, even if the fruit had not yet opened up to flesh out the wine. There was no obvious new oak. I assumed this could have been the Cape Mentelle, without really having much of an idea (had not tried that many south Margaret River Shiraz). As it turned out, this wine really opened up during the night and on the next day. So much so that by Sunday night it was very nice – the pepper had peaked on Saturday night, and though it was still there, the fruit had come out and the overall package was a very nice, fruity, fully flavoured, yet elegant wine.

Wine 3 (2007 Tyrrells Stevens Shiraz) (Red) A bit of earth, sour cherry, and well integrated oak. Medium bodied, with good length, gentle tannins, and a hint of spice. Very nice wine. Reading my own notes it's amazing that I didn't pick it as a Hunter (especially given that I'd bought the wine!!!). My two poor excuses are firstly the touch of spice on the palette got me thinking about WA and Vic, and secondly while tasting the wine I had one of those absent minded swirling the wine moments where I swirled just a bit too vigorously and spilled the wine all over myself!!!
(Brown) - Having survived Red spilling wine on himself (at the end of a boozy night maybe, but after 2 small tastes, quite amusing :-) ), I noted that the wine was an almost blackish red (contrasting with the other two). On the nose there was aniseed/fennel, spice (cloves). In the mouth it was savoury and meaty, yet juicy and medium-full bodied. It finished with a bang of (non-fruit bomb) ripe juicy fruit and had admirable length and intensity. I successfully picked this as a Hunter Valley Shiraz (the only wine I can lay claim to confidently outing!) – the taste of the previous two wines, the odds of one of the last two being the Heathcoate and the meatyness to this one swung it for me. The Stevens shows that though a modern Hunter Shiraz can stay true to the traditional style (earthyness, meatyness) yet also have secondary characteristics like spice and nice, juicy fruit.

Wine 4 (2006 Heathcote Estate Shiraz) (Red) Blackberry, sour cherry, a hint of a pepper and chocolate. Reasonably savoury and not quite full bodied. Good tannins though less well structured than the previous three wines. Given that I had (incorrectly) deduced that none of the previous three wines were the Stevens shiraz, I let myself be convinced that the cherry notes in the wine, as well as its bit of savouriness, indicated it was a Hunter. It certainly wasn't an obvious Heathcote, but once again reading my notes it definitely wasn't a Hunter!!!
(Brown) - This wine had an elegant nose, with coconut scented French oak evident, yet not overpowering . Given that we made notes in silence, I concurred with Red that sour cherry was on the palette (having not identified sour cherry in the previous wines). Once again there was a hint of aniseed and spice, though with stronger, almost syrupy black fruit underpinning the wine. The Heathcote Estate had decent intensity, and drying, pleasant tannin. I picked up an almost citrus tinge at the end, possibly due to higher than usual acid.

(Red) - Very enjoyable tasting. Following the tasting, we then proceeded to drink the wines over the course of the evening while eating a leg of wild boar. The Shaw & Smith was my favourite wine during the tasting and remained my favourite throughout the evening. The Cape Mentelle really opened up. The pepper remained, but berry fruit and liquorice started to come through. Beautiful medium-bodied wine. The Stevens was a wine of real character, and I'd love to drink it in 10 years time to see how it had evolved. Given the quality of the other three, the Heathcote Estate was probably my least favourite. If I'd drunk it on its own, I reckon I would have really enjoyed it and talked it up (it is a very nice wine), but against the other three it seemed just a very slight step down.
Overall, I think it was a good snapshot of where a lot of quality Australian Shiraz is heading. The wines were all closer to medium bodied rather than full-bodied, the highest level of alcohol was the Heathcote at 14.5%, and the use of oak was French and reasonably subtle. All four wines could be cellared for at least 10 years and possibly a lot longer.

(Brown) - I concur with Red, very strong group of affordable reds, underlining the fact that Shiraz is Australia’s signature grape (whether you love it or loathe it), that the different states and wine regions can produce diverse styles and that with trend towards Pinot and lighter styles of wine, Shiraz is amazing value for money.
For me the Shaw and Smith was the most instantly appealing wine, followed by the Tyrrell’s. Both will age for a decade or more. I agree that the Heathcote Estate wine came last, though was not disgraced – it is a quality drop, if a little atypical of some of the bigger, bolder Heathcotes out there. Based on my tasting of it the following evening, I doubt it will develop greatly over time, but will retain its primary characteristics. In my opinion, the Cape Mentelle will evolve into the nicest wine of the 4. As the night went on, and especially on the following evening, the Cape Mentelle developed more fruit flavour and complexity. It will hopefully age gracefully in the years to come.

*Compliments must go to the Chef (Red) who sourced a delicious leg of wild boar – the meat was perfectly matched to the wine – wonderful!
 
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