As you know, here at Woodshire Wines, we are big fans of Australian wines and we stock a good range of both reds and whites to prove it!
So, when we recently had the opportunity of joining the renowned wine writer, critic and raconteur Matthew Jukes at one of his “100 Best Australian Wines” dinners, to be held at the M Restaurant in London’s Victoria, we jumped at the chance.
The event was attended by about 50 or so wine enthusiasts and held in a very elegant dining room. The service was excellent, the wine samples generous and the whole evening was great fun. Matthew was on good hosting form with both his insight and anecdotes. The restaurant Head Chef had created an interesting, appropriate and tasty menu, though perhaps not for vegetarians nor the faint hearted and certainly not for those with fond memories of Skippy the bush kangaroo!
Needless to say the seven wines which Matthew had selected to accompany the food (or was it vice versa?) were of the highest quality and paired well with each course.
The menu and the wines:
The theme of the evening was based around demonstrating the excellent ageing potential which the best Australian wines are able to offer. The event provided a great opportunity to experience first hand how the key flavour characteristics of these wines can develop over an extended period of proper storage, creating a range of savoury flavour notes to complement the intense fruit flavours, still present after all this time, to produce wonderfully complex and enjoyable wines.
We began with a rather good Peter Lehmann Riesling from 2007 followed by a great 2012 Brokenwood Semillon. Both worked well with the opening courses of the meal, but it was the arrival of the reds that was most anticipated and it was these wines which stole the limelight.
I won’t go into the tasting notes here but I will say that all the wines on offer had indeed aged very well indeed. The reds, all pure Shiraz or Shiraz/Cabernet blends, ranged in age from 2008 to 2010 and my feeling was that a couple had probably already reached their peak and were ready for drinking now, whilst a few, although drinking very well, may have still further potential to develop.
Some of the key desirable wine characteristics, typical of successful bottle ageing process and present in all the wines tasted on the day, might include:
- a softening of the tannin structure of the wine, almost to a silky finish, making it much more approachable and frankly more enjoyable than in its early years
- retaining sufficient acidity to keep the wine refreshing
- retaining a level of fruit flavour intensity and interest - great fruit quality is a key requirement for successfully ageing wine
- presence of good secondary aromas and flavours from the initial barrel maturation process, to include oak flavours, vanilla, coconut, spices etc
- development of tertiary aromas and flavours, such as coffee, tobacco, leather etc to enhance the complexity of the wine
If I had to choose favourites of the evening, not an easy task, I think they would be the Anaperenna 2010 retailing at about £40 per bottle and the Maurice O’Shea 2010, truly outstanding but retailing at a whopping £150 or so. These are certainly “occasion” wines for most of us.
What the evening put us in mind of mostly, however, was the range of aged Shiraz wines we hold in storage ourselves - three very highly rated Australian Shiraz wines from the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Intense, powerful and complex, everything you would expect from premium wines produced in these world renowned regions. In our view, a real treat for Aussie Shiraz fans and all drinking well today but with potential to develop further.
First off, we have the the wonderful Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Syrah 2006 from the McLaren Vale. This wine delivers "complex notes of pepper, spice box, bacon, blueberry and blackberry liqueur. It has gobs of fruit and a velvety texture" (Jay Miller). A rich, powerful, intense example, bursting with fruit, spice and savoury flavours. The Hickinbotham Syrah was produced from low-medium yielding, dry grown 45 year old vines and the wine was matured in French oak for 18 months of which 85% was new oak.
From the Barossa Valley we have the acclaimed Standish The Standish Shiraz 2005. "This wine was sourced from a 98-year-old vineyard in Vine Vale and aged for 36 months in seasoned French oak. Opaque purple-colored, it has an expressive bouquet of balsam wood, spice box, lavender, blueberry, and black raspberry. This leads to a dense, rich, savory Shiraz with layers of fruit, outstanding concentration, and enough stuffing to evolve for 3-4 years. This lengthy effort will be at its best from 2011 to 2022".
Finally, and possibly the star of the show, we have Two Hands Zippy's Block Shiraz 2005, a 99 point rated wine, also from the Barossa Valley. "Glass-staining purple color. A huge, intensely perfumed bouquet expresses floral- and mineral-accented cassis, blueberry, plum and cherry, with a good dose of sexy oak (this saw 35% new French barriques). Surprisingly fresh and energetic on the palate, with bright redcurrant, raspberry and blackcurrant flavors accented by Asian spices. Silky tannins give shape to this wine, which gains further in brightness on the long, spicy, raspberry-infused finish" (Vinous).
What an amazing Christmas gift these would make for any lover of Australian Shiraz!
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