Monday, October 25, 2010

Juniper Estate

It wouldn’t surprise me if in a decade’s time we are talking about Juniper as one of the very top Margaret River estates . . .

On the surface of things you’d think it would already be one of the premier Margaret River wineries. It was one of the earlier vineyards planted in Margaret River, being 1973, so the vines have a nice bit of age to them. The vineyards are also in the prestigious sub-region of Wilyabrup, and its neighbours are Vasse Felix and Cullen. With this combination of age and location you’d think you might be on to a winner. Of course producing great wine is never quite so simple

The vines themselves need to be in robust health, and this was lacking when Roger Hill and Gillian Anderson bought it off the original owners in 1998. At the same time Mark Messenger came across from Cape Mentelle as the winemaker. From that time work began on restoring the vineyard including retrellising along with new plantings. Mark reckons that this work in the vineyard really started to demonstrate its worth in the 2005 vintage. 2006 was of course a bit of a tough vintage in the Margaret River (especially for reds), but then 2007 came along and this could well be the breakthrough year for Juniper.

I’ve written about the 07 Cabernet Sauvignon in a previous post - http://tinyurl.com/26bvpfv - and I was able to try it again at an excellent tasting at North Sydney Cellars, where Mark Messenger guided us through a range of Juniper wines. It was an impressive collection across both their entry level “Crossing” wines as well as their Estate wines. As well as the traditional Margaret River varieties, Juniper are doing some interesting things with both Tempranillo and Zinfandel. The only wine I wasn't such a fan of was the Sem Sav Blanc, but that might say more about my tastes than the wine itself. The highlight, however, remained the 07 Cab Sav. It just reaffirmed my view that it is one of my wines of the year thus far and the best Margaret River Cabernet I have had from the 07 vintage.

After the tasting I had the opportunity to have a good chat with Mark. He’s a lovely, modest guy, who nevertheless demonstrates a real passion for what he is doing and is very forthcoming in talking about all things wine. An interesting aspect that we discussed was the importance of the addition of 1-2% of Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot in the 07. Apparently the straight Cab Sav would have made a good wine on its own, but lacked just a little both in terms of length and complexity. It took a long time to get the blend right, but once in balance, these small amounts of Bordeaux varieties were really important in building the wine into something special.

This 07 could well be backed up by wines of similar or even greater stature in 2008 and 2009. Mark is of the opinion that these two vintages will ultimately prove to be better than the much proclaimed 2007 (interestingly while he thinks 2010 is a decent vintage, he’s of the opinion it’s certainly not a great vintage). Cabernets from 08 and 09 mightn’t initially show as well as 07 but will likely prove more classic, finely structured vintages. Specifically for the Juniper Cabernet these excellent vintages are matched by the continuing improvement of the vineyard, and as such has Mark pretty excited about the next two releases.

I’m generally too young in wine drinking years to be able to reminisce about when such and such a wine was only $7 and the like, and while $45 is no bargain basement price for the Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon, it may well look inexpensive 10 years from now . . .


Red

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