I was lucky enough to go to a tasting earlier this week that was set up as a Benchmark vs Young Guns tasting. For each variety a benchmark Australian wine was chosen, along with a wine that perhaps has aspirations to one day be called a benchmark. It was a great evening, with plenty of outstanding wines. Below are the wines that were tasted . . .
Benchmark - 2009 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling – Clare Valley - Actually not quite as austere as previous vintages of this wine that I’ve tried. Nice nose of citrus and bath salts. Full and round in the palate with good citrus fruit. Great length.
Young Gun - 2009 Henty Estate Riesling – Henty – A distinctly different nose of lime and some floral notes. Nice minerality and acidity that was a touch volatile. Not especially long. Like the style of this Riesling (closer to Eden in style which is my preference when compared to Clare), but it isn’t yet in the same class of the Polish Hill.
Benchmark - 2006 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay – Margaret River - the nose initially was all struck matchstick but that eventually blew off, giving way to a lovely nose of grapefruit, spicy oak, and a bit of cinnamon. The palate is extremely long and of an elegant style, not being as rich as the warmer 2005. Grapefruit and some nuttiness. Should age superbly.
Young Gun - 2008 Sorrenburg Chardonnay – Beechworth - A milky, rich nose that I really loved. Very tasty on the palate with a nice toasty, nutty palate. Really enjoyed drinking this, though once again it’s not yet of the same quality of the Leeuwin (though it is half the price of the Leeuwin!)
Benchmark - 2008 Bindi Original Pinot Noir – Macedon – a beautiful plush nose with lovely cherry fruit and nicely understated oak. On the palate it’s wonderfully complex with intense flavours of sour cherry, ginger spiciness, some stalkiness, and a long, long finish. Great tannins. This is one of the best Australian pinots I have tried and should sail well beyond 10 years.
Young Gun - 2007 Tomboy Hill “The Tomboy” Pinot Noir – Ballarat - started with a pongy, funky barnyard aroma, but with a bit of air gave way to a nice varietal cherry nose. Palate of spice and sour cherry. A very enjoyable Pinot but not in the same league as the Bindi.
Benchmark - 2008 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier – Canberra – This was the first time I’ve tried this wine, and given that every wine critic under the sun waxes lyrical about this wine, and that I’m not always impressed by Australian Shiraz Viognier, I had a fear that the wine wouldn’t quite live up to the hype. Happily that fear was unfounded! A superb perfumed, sexy nose of berries, plum, French oak, and just a tiny, tiny hint of apricot. On the palate the plum flavours travel down the palate in a direct line before finishing with excellent length. There’s some nice complexity here and one thing I wrote down was “perfect pepper”. I’m not always a huge fan of some of the pepper flavours in cool climate shiraz, but for me the pepper profile on this wine was a superb component of the wine. Wonderful wine, and with 2009 shaping up as a great Canberra vintage I’ll be stocking up on this wine.
Young Gun - 2006 Hobbs Shiraz Viognier – Eden Valley – Nice nose of berries, fruit cake and with a hint of meatiness. Quality oak. Lovely fruit through the palate with some nice pepper flavours. Follows the same theme as the other comparisons, in that it’s a really nice wine but not of the same quality as the Benchmark wine.
All up a very enjoyable tasting, for which the common theme was the step up in quality between the Benchmark wines vs the challengers. This is not in any way to criticise the “Young Gun” wines, as all were very good wines. Indeed in terms of flavour profile I preferred the Henty Estate Riesling to the Polish Hill, and the Sorrenburg Chardonnay is arguably a more enjoyable wine to drink right now when compared to the Leeuwin. However, when considering perhaps the more objective elements of a wine (if there is such a thing!), such as length, structure, and balance, the Benchmark wines were a step up from the “Young Guns”. Implied in this of course is the likelihood of longer term cellaring of these wines as well.
Many thanks to Matt Heageny from Union Bank Wine Bar in Orange who hosted the evening.