Tasting Notes: ‘Australia – reds with bottle age and classy whites’; presented by John Harris, 27 June 2018

After having to postpone this tasting earlier in the year it was great to be able to show the Club some of my favourite wines. Interestingly, Lisa Perotti-Brown who does most of the Robert Parker tastings these days reckons that Australia offers the best value in fine wines in the world, I’d definitely agree….

2016 Blind Spot King Valley  Garganega   (Wine Society £8.95) A Wine Society exclusive from a small parcel of grapes, this makes the famed Soave in its homeland of Italy. A very elegant and crisp wine with fresh citrus and mineral notes, excellent length and just that touch of green nuttiness that this grape can show . Really excellent value and a favourite on the night.

2016 Bleasdale Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills  (Wine Society £10.95) A light  and citrusy take on the grape that always divides drinkers of Aussie whites. A well-made wine with just a light touch of oak on the palate, very unlike the heavy chardonnays of the past.

2017 Mad Fish Great Southern Riesling  (Wine Society £8.95) The last of our trio of whites and the only one from Western Australia. This is a very young and light take on this classic grape, with very little evidence of the “petrol” hints that divide those who taste more mature and serious Riesling. Very citrusy and with zingy minerality, this is not made to be too serious and one or two felt it lacked what a Riesling should have. I liked its honesty and freshness, and again very good value.

2011 Robert Oatley Finisterre Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River  (Wine Society £19.00) Another offering from Western Australia, I chose this to contract with the bigger reds from the East. An elegant take on this classic grape, with round but restrained blackcurrant and blackberry fruit and a lovely fresh, slightly herbal nose. Arguable the best region for Cab Sauvignon in Australia, although Coonawarra might disagree. A very different style to the Barossa wines and a fine example of Western Aus wine.

2006 Magpie Estate Gomersal Grenache, Barossa Valley  (£24.00, Seckford Wines)  OK, now on to the serious stuff! Grenache tends to make big alcoholic wines with a slightly sweet finish and this one was no exception. Made by my colleague Noel Young and Rolf Binder, their joint venture, Magpie Estate, makes top-quality wine and this one, with some real bottle age, was a smooth and structured mouthful with lovely balanced fruit and complex spicy notes – truly a delightful wine which had benefitted, as all the reds, from overnight decanting to open it up.  Another  favourite on the night and just about still available, younger vintages from Noel Young Wines.

2005 Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz, Barossa Valley (Available at Exel Wines for £32; 2015 vintage from Majestic £40) From Michael Twelvetree’s wide-ranging brand, this is classic Barossa Shiraz in the modern rather brash style, big black and red berry fruits on nose and palate, smooth tannins and not in any way restrained. Maybe just a touch of alcohol “burn” was evident,  so not the best balanced example I have tasted.

2004 D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz, McLaren Vale (ca £45, Seckford Wines, Grand Vin Wines) This wine was decanted from a magnum bottle the night before to open it up and get rid of the “rocks”,  made from very old Shiraz vines in the slightly cooler McLaren Vale region. D’Arenberg is a big and quite quirky independent winery and this example of one of their top reds was excellent, highly structured and just a little more elegant and restrained on the nose, on the palate more serious tannins and minerality under the red and black fruit, with a touch of black pepper and maybe some aromatic hints of eucalyptus as well.  An interesting contrast with the Barossa Shiraz.

2004 Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz, Clare Valley   (n/a UK)  This wine had opened up so much after the overnight decanting, probably my favourite on the night. A fantastic spicy black fruit nose and wonderful structure and complexity, big and yet so elegant and well-balanced, a real treat.  Kilkanoon is a fairly new winery and very much one to watch in the classic Clare Valley region. If you can get some of their wines, lay ‘em down!

2001 Wendouree Shiraz-Mataro, Clare Valley  (n/a anywhere in the world except maybe at auction in Australia, going rate at least £90). I put this single bottle into the tasting as a bit of a treat for all of us. Wendouree is probably the oldest winery in Australia and famous for its very long-lived wines and its refusal to do anything “modern”, so you tasted  history here, this is how reds were made before the export industry got going, and these guys refuse to do anything different to what they’ve always done. Only reason I have this is because Noel Young bought it at auction, there isn’t even a cellar door, just a very exclusive customer list! Tasting it, the lovely structure, the balance of fruit, mature tannins and acidity, and that lovely rustic hint all came together in a delightful old wine. What were you doing in 2001? It’s clear what these guys were doing and what a result. (By the way, Mataro is Aussie for Mourvedre, so this could be called an Aussie Rhone!)

I really hope you enjoyed this tour around some of my favourite wines and wine regions!

John Harris