Plonk Oz 2006 Day One - Saturday
If you have not already read it, my Overview of Wine Australia can be found here.
When attending an event like Wine Australia with about 350 stands and the possibility of a few thousand labels to try, one must have a plan and plan we did. We met twenty minutes before the event started and had coffee to plan our attack.
Strike all the c-throughs and that
reduces the possible wines to try by about half so we were off to a good start.
Given that we had spent over a week in
As the palate can get jaded very
quickly at an event like this, we decided to chop and change regions whenever
it took our fancy. So it was nothing to do a few wines from Heathcote, then move to the Barossa, then shuttle back to
Brian and I had trade passes; Brian was “employed” by Auswine for the weekend, but he kept on bitching about the lousy pay. I thought his pay was commensurate with the productivity he provided his employer, i.e. Brian should have been paying for the privilege of not doing any work for Gavin. The job description on my pass was “wine educator” (as I refuse to call myself a journalist), and thanks to our trade passes, we walked in a little before and had time to do a brief recce before the event formally commenced.
Our first stop was
Picardy 2004 Tête De Cuvée (Pinot Noir) sells for $40 at cellar door and is their top wine; it is due for release in September 2006. The bouquet showed cherry, musk, earthy notes and forest floor characters. Pure, deep fruit delivers an off-sweet uptake with chocolate and earthy characters; the mid-palate is sweet and it finishes with fresh acid, and the drying tannins have good length. Medium-weight with a supple consistency and a harmonious complexity this is a very drinkable wine, that I would be happy to consume at any time and is rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value.
great to start an event like this with a good, enjoyable wine that takes your
fancy. From here, we moved into the Victorian section where we spent a bit of
time primarily trying out wines from Heathcote and
BlackJack Vineyards (
Blackjack 2004 Major’s Line Shiraz sells for $25 and was released the day before. It is made from purchased fruit. The bouquet was dominated by camphor over brooding fruit. The palate flavour profile is dominated by oak flavours, with heaps of sweet vanilla and chocolate with some coffee thrown in for good measure, and the deeply-seated fruit delivers savoury black cherry. Ample-weight with a supple consistency and solid structure; the complexity is agreeable and the wine reasonably harmonious. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Blackjack 2004 Block 6 Shiraz sells for $35. The bouquet also showed camphor, it must be a characteristic of the oak, but the rest of it was locked up tight. The pure fruit in this wine is just lovely and the smooth tannins provide a supple consistency and produce an attractive mouth feel. Once again, there is loads of vanillin oak flavour but this wine also has savoury plum and chocolate that has excellent intensity and persistence. Ample-weight with a solid structure, the wine shows some elegance; the complexity is harmonious and agreeable but the wine needs time to fill out and gain length. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine matures around 2009.
Blackjack 2004 Shiraz sells for $35 and is the original red and blue labelled
Blackjack 2004 Cabernet Merlot sells for $25. A pleasant, perfumed nose with floral characters and dusty notes, which led to a palate showing enjoyable berry fruit, musk, and chocolate but unfortunately the drying finish was a tad hard. Ample-weight, the wine is slightly disjointed now but may come together with time. Rated as Agreeable with ** for value, if it comes together the rating will be substantially better.
Sally’s Hill 2004 Shiraz sells for $20 at cellar door and is made from estate-grown fruit. The bouquet is attractive with pleasant floral characters, some noticeable oak and perfumed notes. Dusty tannins combine with deeply-seated fruit to form a medium-weight, solid wine with a supple consistency and plain level of complexity, but it’s fruit driven and has loads of flavour. Cherry, bitter chocolate and plum; it should improve with a little time and is currently rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Sally’s Hill 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $20 at cellar door. With enough VA to tickle, there is lots of fruit evident with dusty notes. Well-balanced and backed by dusty tannins, it’s medium-weight, firm, and solid; off-sweet flavours of blackcurrant, and dried herbs finish with a touch of green character, but it’s very drinkable. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Paddock 2004 is
Having tried some wine from
Hanging Rock 2003 Cambrian Rise Shiraz has a recommended retail price of $27. The bouquet shows earthy characters, chocolate and perfumed notes which lead to an off-sweet palate of cherry and chocolate. Smooth tannins and distinct, strong fruit comes across with good intensity and combine to form an ample-weight wine with a solid structure and an agreeable complexity. As a fruit driven wine with a supple consistency it is easy to drink now, but may improve over the next five years; it’s rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Hanging Rock 2004 Rowbottoms Shiraz sells for $33 at cellar door. As the name suggests, the grapes are hand-picked from the bottoms of the vine rows. Varnished oak dominates the bouquet and the palate follows the nose; it is not particularly attractive and comes across a little sour. Brian did ask if the bottle was sound and was informed that was the way it was meant to be. Drying, puckering tannins come across as being almost hard and the wine is rated as Acceptable with * for value.
Hanging Rock 2003 Heathcote Shiraz sells for $50 - $55 (street price) and is this winery’s icon. Attractive fruit combine with vanillin oak and earthy notes to produce the sort of bouquet that you know is going to deliver a lovely wine. An excellent structure is provided by the smooth, fine, drying tannins that combine with the fresh acid and deeply-seated strong fruit to form a muscular-weight, firm but rich wine with a rock-solid, very tight structure, and sophisticated complexity. A delightful dark wine completely devoid of over-ripe characters, it shows multiple black fruits (cherry and plum), thyme and loads of spices; it's intensely savoury, builds slowly across the palate and just keeps going. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value now, the rating should improve as the wine matures around 2012 and beyond.
After these Victorian wines, it
was time for a change and on our way to
Harwood Estate 2004 Mt Barker Shiraz sells for $25 at cellar door. The bouquet was subtle showing attractive spice and perfume. The palate was off-sweet on the uptake with a touch of green on the mid-palate with contrasting sweetness; it finished very dry and the abundant tannins overshadowed the fruit, which clearly needs time to surface. Medium-weight, the wine is rated as Agreeable with ** for value.
Harwood Estate 2004 Cabernet Merlot is a medium-weight wine with firm tannins, a solid structure and simple complexity. Off-sweet on the uptake, it appears a touch green; the powdery tannins finishing very dry and it would have been better with more fruit. Rated as Agreeable with ** for value; it's just another Cabernet Merlot.
Dominic Torzi of Torzi Matthews, Old Planes and Long Hop was sharing a stand with Harwood
Estate as his agent represents them as well. Whilst we were there, we had a
chat and Brian got to try the 2004 Frost
Longhop 2005 Old
will sell for $28-$30 when it is released on the first of October and is a blend of 65% Cabernet and 35%
We then wandered over to the South Australian area and elbowed a couple of little old ladies out of the way at the Kilikanoon stand. This stand was a priority as Brian and I had both purchased the 2004 Covenant and Oracle en primeur.
Kilikanoon 2004 Blocks Road Cabernet Sauvignon sells for approximately $25. The bouquet was lifted and creamy; the very ripe, deep and pure fruit produces blackberry, mint and chocolate flavours that finish with good intensity. Muscular-weight with a supple consistency, a solid, tight structure and well-developed complexity, although it is approachable now, a bit more time will do it the world of good. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Kilikanoon 2004 Covenant Shiraz can be found for around $37. The bouquet is dark; it’s busy and shows spices and vanilla which are replicated on the palate as blackberry, dark chocolate, mint, spices and white pepper, all finishing with good intensity. Silky-smooth tannins provide a solid backbone and supple consistency whilst the structure shows class, some elegance and is tight. It’s approachable now but this is a sneaky wine with tannins that build slowly across the palate, and as a result, will be better with a few years in the cellar. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, as a personal thing, I preferred it to the Oracle, although Brian preferred the Oracle.
Kilikanoon 2004 Oracle can be found for around $65. A tarry, charry, lifted bouquet indicates this wine is not for the oakaphobic. Silky-smooth tannins are interwoven with strong, deep, concentrated fruit to solidly, and tightly-frame, a muscular-weight wine, with a well-developed complexity. Due to the suppleness of the mouth feel, the wine is approachable now but should be better after 2010+ when the blackberry, aniseed and mint flavours will have hopefully absorb the tarry oak as the wine ages. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
I am glad that I have both the Oracle and Covenant in the cellar and hopefully will enjoy the Oracle a lot more when the tarry characteristic has been absorbed.
We headed over to the Coonawarra stand and by this stage it was pretty damn busy, but Brian was able to ruck through the players and get us both a sample. Katnook Estate has a new range of entry-level wines called Katnook Founder’s Block and the packaging is impressive, so impressive that many people who looked at the new labels thought that these wines would be pitched above the Estate Series, or at least above the Riddoch Estate label.
Katnook Estate 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for between $30 and $40 on the street. The bouquet is driven by ripe, berry fruit which comes across the palate as a combination of sweet and off-sweet berry flavours (blackcurrant/mulberry) mint, chocolate and coffee. Smooth tannins and deep fruit produce a supple consistency and harmonious well-developed complexity that makes this a very easy drinking, ample-weight wine. A good result for a tough vintage (the fruit quality/density just isn’t there), it’s rated as Recommended with *** for value (at $30).
To be quite honest, the crowds at the Coonawarra stand was so big that we figured they must have been giving wine away, and as Brian didn't want to get injured in the scrummage, and I didn't want to be arrested for assaulting any more little old ladies, we decided to head towards the Adelaide Hills region, and although that was also very busy, at the end of the block, we were able to get to Shaw and Smith.
Shaw and Smith 2004 Shiraz sells for around $30. The first bottle we tried showed noticeable sulphur which masked the spicy fruit characters on both the bouquet and the palate and caused the wine to finish sour. Initially the person manning the stand (Michael Hill-Smith himself) thought the wine was sound but after retasting it decided to open a fresh bottle. The second bottle was much better but this time the char from the oak overshadowed the fruit on the bouquet and was noticeable on the palate together with blackberry, aniseed and loads of spice. A medium-weight, solid, firm wine with a deep, persistent fruit and smooth tannins, but due to the charry oak it's difficult for me to be objective, and others will probably like it more. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Right across the aisle was the beaming face that belongs to Steve Hoff of Heritage Wines. Please note, there is no “Fine” in the winery's name and they have been around a lot longer than their almost namesake. Unlike their almost namesake, they also have a reputation for delivering honest, good quality wine at a very fair price. Steve's smile is indicative of the whole operation, it is open and what you see is what you get. It's always a pleasure to try his wines because I have yet to be disappointed by any of them.
Heritage 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $25 at the winery. A pleasant, attractive, clean, fruit-driven bouquet leads to a very-ripe, but most enjoyable palate showing black cherry, chocolate, and mint. The deep, strong fruit and powdery tannins maintain an excellent balance in this muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency and whilst it's very drinkable now, it will benefit from time in the cellar. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, it's a good honest wine and is worth considering.
Heritage 2004 Shiraz sells for $25. The bouquet of
this wine is unusual in that I don't recall seeing so much spice in any of
Heritage 2004 Rossco’s Shiraz sells for $38 and was made from the best 20 barrels available, and the wine spent an extra six months in oak. Milk chocolate, spices and white pepper dominate the bouquet. The fruit in this wine is just lovely; it’s deep, pure, strong and persistent delivering black cherry, spices, and chocolate flavours that finish with wonderful power. The smooth, dusty tannins are in perfect proportion and solidly back this ample-weight wine that has a modicum of elegance. Without a doubt the best wine I have tried from this producer, it is rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value and although it’s approachable now, it will be best after 2010, and at that stage I expect the rating will improve. Why pay over $50 a bottle when you can get something this good for $38?
At Plonk Oz 2004, the talk of the show were the 2002 Wirra Wirra wines and whilst we didn't expect the current releases to be as good, they were certainly worth a visit, and luckily we were able to shanghai a small corner at the end of the counter, which made taking notes a lot easier.
Wirra Wirra 2004 Woodhenge Shiraz sells for $21 at cellar door and the wine was made from 50% declassified RSW fruit. The oak influence is evident on the bouquet with mocha, char and spicy characters. Ample-weight with a supple consistency, it's a good well-made wine with deeply-seated strong fruit that delivers aniseed, blackberry and apricot flavours that finish with excellent intensity and persistence. Whilst it's not to my personal palate preference, there is no doubt it will be hugely popular; rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Wirra Wirra 2003 RSW Shiraz can be found from $40. In typical WW fashion, this is a modern wine that is well-balanced and has a lush, harmonious mouth-feel. Firm, dusty tannins are well matched to the unobtrusive acid and good quality, strong fruit that delivers multiple spices, aniseed, liquorice, chocolate and blackberry flavours. Muscular-weight with a supple consistency and tight structure, the complexity is well developed and whilst it is approachable now, indeed very drinkable, it should improve in the short to mid-term and hopefully lose its slightly blocky character. A wine of some class, it is a good result for the vintage and rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
Wirra Wirra 2003 The Angelus (Cabernet Coonawarra/McLarenVale) can be found from about $40. Its ample-weight and a savoury, dark fruited wine, with intense leaf characters and chocolaty oak; the fine grain tannins are tight and the wine is firm, solid and there is not a thing wrong with it. Despite that, at this point it doesn't do much for me and is rated as Recommended with ** for value.
I am not sure if it was at this point or not, but somewhere along the way we decided to have lunch, if that's what you could call it. The variety available was a bit slim, almost as thin as the tasteless mozzarella and tomato Turkish bread style roll I chose. It wasn't exactly filling either. Brian had Moroccan Chicken and Cous Cous salad which he said was reasonably tasty, although it wasn't a huge serving, so we had no sooner finished lunch and we were dreaming about the real possibility of hot chippies for mid-afternoon play lunch.
After all these South Australian reds, it was time to head
Boat O’Craigo 2004 Black Cameron Shiraz sells for $24 at cellar door. The bouquet is slightly volatile showing sweet, soft berry fruit. With enough dusty tannins to hold the wine together and medium intensity fruit, it’s a medium-weight soft, harmonious, clean, fault free and easy drinking drop that will be very popular with the masses. Flavours of sweet strawberry with spices and milk chocolate; it is rated as Recommended with *** for value.
No idea why I wanted to try Redesdale Estate as I knew nothing
about them but we headed their next (Brian was still steering at this stage).
According to their web
site, their Heathcote winery was established in 1982 on harsh, volcanic
rock that has very little topsoil and causes of vines to struggle. Up until
1999, the grapes were sold but they now make their own wine. The wines are made by Tobias Ansted at Balgownie. Although they only produce about a
thousand cases a year, it is interesting to note that there are three vintages
Redesdale Estate 2003 Shiraz sells for $29 at cellar door (Order form still says $40). The bouquet is clean, subtle and shows touches of spices and milk chocolate. Tightly-grained smooth tannins and pure, bright juicy-fruit form a just ample-weight wine with a well-developed complexity that shows some elegance. Liquorice, black cherry, plum and milk chocolate flavours sneak up slowly on the palate and keep going. A very good wine for the price, and one that will go well with food, is rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value and will be best from 2010+.
Redesdale Estate 2003 Cabernets sells for $40 at cellar door and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The bouquet of the first bottle was slightly lactic or cheesy; a new bottle opened thankfully didn’t have this character, with elegant red berry fruit and some noticeable oak characters. The wine maintains a finely counterbalanced structure with pure, strong fruit delivering a well-measured amalgam of flavours including sweet red fruit with off-sweet subtle aniseed, and milk chocolate; the wine has a good power to (it's a medium) weight ratio. It maintains a modicum of elegance and is rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, but the rating should improve when the wine matures in 2010 and beyond. (I liked this wine more than Brian.)
After four Victorian wines, it
was time to head back to
Hentley Farm 2005 Estate Shiraz sells for $30. The bouquet is fruit driven so it was no surprise to find lovely fruit chugging along the palate and the delivering chocolate, dark cherry, liquorice and vanilla. Smooth, dusty tannins and unobtrusive acid provide a fine counterbalance in this a muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency and tight structure. As its’ only a year old, it's very youthful and needs time, but it should be good. Happy to drink us at any time, it is rated as Recommended with *** for value but that rating should improve as the wine matures in 2009 and beyond.
Hentley Farm 2005 The Beauty sells for $45 at cellar door. As this was only bottled two weeks ago and also contained four percent Viognier, I didn't know what to expect or how well it would be showing. The bouquet was earthy, and showed spice with pleasant floral aromatics. A quality wine with deep, rich and powerful fruit that is well backed by smooth tannins and balanced acid; it's an impressive package. Nothing confected about this baby, on the palate, the Viognier is just noticeable and not at all objectionable. Palate flavours of blackberry, controlled apricots, aniseed and dark chocolate are primarily off-sweet but there is a touch of sweetness too. With quality winemaking at play, it has a well-developed complexity, supple consistency and is muscular in weight, finishing with terrific persistence and very good length. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
Hentley Farm 2004 The Beast sells for $68 at cellar door. This is the sort of wine I can sniff all day; it has lovely aromatics with fantastic complexity together with floral aspects and vanillin French oak characters. Cropped at less than one tonne per acre from young vines, this proves exactly how good that can be when done properly. Fine, dusty tannins, fresh acid and pure, deeply-seated, strong fruit combine to produce a harmonious package that is finely balanced. Liquorice, black fruits, black coffee, vanilla, and hints of spices; it's off-sweet and finishes with excellent persistence: it finishes a bit short on the palate, but hopefully it will put on weight and fill out as it ages. Muscular-weight, its firm, solid and tight and the only question is how much it will improve. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value, the rating may go up substantially as the wine matures around 2012+, and if it does, the price won't matter.
Hentley Farm is a label that could be worth watching, especially as their vines age. Like all new players, the biggest problem they face is survival in such a crowded market until they can establish a solid reputation, and whilst the Hentley wines are more than credible, over delivering on value is better than either being “me–too”, or under delivering, something these guys possibly should think about.
Brian picked the last one so it was my turn to play Russian wine roulette. I had never heard of Russell Wines but had noticed a few people around their stand as I had walked past, so thought they were worth a punt. This is another winery that is not listed in Halliday's companion and a quick Google search was not particularly helpful either. To make matters more confusing, I am not sure if the name of the winery is Russell Wines or John Russell Wines and surprisingly enough, neither one returned a result in the South Australian White pages. Talking about exclusive, they so exclusive you can't contact them.
Russell Wines 2004 Augusta Shiraz Cabernet sells for $32 at cellar door (if you can find them.) The wine comes from 12 year old vines and was matured in 20-30% new oak. The bouquet exerted touches of varnished oak and dominant coffee character. A good-solid wine with abundant dusty tannins and distinct fruit that delivered loads of flavour including coffee, blackberry, blackcurrant and dark chocolate, and whilst it finished very dry, there was a touch of green to the tannins. It's muscular-weight and has an agreeable complexity, but it needs time for the fruit to surface and is rated as Recommended with ** for value. The label has potential.
Russell Wines 2004 St Vincent Shiraz sells for $32. The wine spent 22 months in new French oak and 500 cases have been produced. The bouquet is black, with black spices, coffee oak and menthol. A dense blanket of tannins and oak currently bury the black fruit flavours and dominate the palate and make this a hard wine to judge as it needs years to absorb the oak. Muscular-weight with a firm consistency, and a solid but tight structure, it's rated as Recommended with ** for value but the rating may improve as the wine matures around 2012.
Around this time, a lady walked past us carrying a bucket of hot chippies and they smelt so good, we couldn't resist and instead of mugging her for the goodies, we went and bought our own. They tasted as good as they smelt, but that may have been because the lunch was so bad.
After the snack we headed over to the Fox Creek stand and tried their Short Row Shiraz. Holy cow; was this wine horrible or what! It was sealed with a screw cap so TCA was not a likely option, it wasn't reductive, it wasn't oxidised, but it was unbalanced and tasted revolting. It had to be grease from the chips messing with our palates. Only one way to fix that, I headed over to the Adelaide Hills stand and grabbed the first Sauvignon Blanc I could find and gave my mouth a bloody good washout. The acid in that did wonders and refreshed my mouth beautifully. Back to be Short Row Shiraz, and surprise, surprise it was just as rank. It had to be an off bottle but what the fault was I will never know. Luckily, Helen was behind the stand, and I knew her enough to whisper in her ear, “The Short Row is either the crappiest wine you have ever made, which is extremely unlikely, or you've got a dud bottle there.”
Helen looked at me as though I had just arrived from outer space or was a complete lunatic, recognised me (which cancelled the first of the options), and tasted the wine. I wish I had taken a picture of her expression; sucking on lemons had nothing on the wine in her mouth. She couldn't find a spittoon fast enough. Luckily the bottle was almost full and very few people had been unfortunate enough to try the concoction. Helen thanked me for pointing it out and opened a fresh bottle, proving conclusively the bottle variation under screwcap can and does happen.
Fox Creek 2004 Short Row Shiraz can be found for about $24. The bouquet showed sweet soft fruit with lifted spice. The deep, pure fruit is savoury on the uptake with loads of pepper, black cherry, brambly flavours and aniseed; it's more-ish. An ample-weight wine with a supple consistency, the fruit is doing the talking, but it is well backed by smooth, dusty tannins and crisp acid. Certainly worth buying without a second thought, it is rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value and can happily be drunk any time over the next six years or so.
Fox Creek 2004 Reserve Shiraz sells for between $60 and $70. It has a refined bouquet showing black notes, ripe fruit and vanillin characters. A class act, the mouth-feel is stylish; it's supremely balanced, and perfectly constructed. Savoury blackberry, black cherry, an infusion of black pepper, spices, and coffee flavours, are offset by sweet vanillin oak on the finish, which shows excellent length and persistence. Muscular-weight with a supple consistency, a solid, layered and tight structure the wine is already showing harmony and very drinkable now but will improve. I am probably being mingy with a rating of Highly Recommended with *** for value, but there is no doubt the rating will improve as the wine matures around 2014 and beyond.
We decided to stretch our legs
and walk around to see what we could find hidden away; lo and behold, tucked
out of the way and well hidden was the
The staff on the stand openly admitted the name change is expected to cause a drop in domestic sales of their premium wines in the short term, but they are not perturbed in the slightest because they are confident they can pick up the extra volume, and a whole lot more overseas. If the strategy is to work, they will have to be much better at premium wine marketing than they have been in the past.
Jacobs Creek 2003 St Hugo is available on the street from $30. Dusty, perfumed soap characters lead to a palette of blackcurrant, leafy notes and chocolate; the wine probably would have been better if the fruit was a tad riper, but then 2003 was a difficult vintage. A full-bodied wine with very firm, abundant tannins, fresh unobtrusive acid and deep fruit; the wine needs time for the fruit to surface. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, come back and look at it again in four years time.
This wine was a little deceptive. It is clean, well-balanced, technically sound and at first sight appeared to be harmonious showing liquorice, spices/black pepper, blackcurrant, vanilla and chocolate, but the oak very quickly sneaks up on you and makes one wonder if there is enough fruit to handle the oak in the longer term. Ample-weight with a supple consistency, it's rated as Recommended with ** for value.
Jacobs Creek 2001 Johann sells for between $50 and $65 and is the re-badged Jacobs Creek Limited Release Shiraz Cabernet blend. The floral bouquet showed its reticence but nevertheless it was attractive. The quality of the pure, deeply-seated fruit was immediately evident, and is classically matched to the ultra-fine, smooth tannins which produce a beautiful mouth-feel, and provide a firm but supple consistency, and solid structure for this well-developed, full-bodied wine. Very-ripe blackberry, black cherry, and aniseed flavours complete the impressive package. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value (at $50) the rating should improve as the wine matures around 2011 and beyond. Once again, I was probably being a bit mean with the initial rating, but I didn't have a huge amount of time to look at this wine because Brian was champing at the bit to go and I had been gasbagging too much.
They have only made six vintages of Centenary Hill but from what I can see, there is no consistency in style. The first vintage, the 1994 was dominated by smoky oak and the 1995 seemed like a step up in quality and the wine was heading in the right direction. Although the 1996 had loads of oak, it certainly had enough fruit to balance and was the best wine made under this label. 1997 was reasonably consistent with the vintage conditions and by comparison to the previous vintage, was elegant and restrained in all respects. When I first tried the 1998, literally days after it had been bottled, it seems sensational, but by the time it was released, it didn't seem anywhere near as impressive and I certainly was not tempted to buy any. It just did not seem the same quality as the 96, and given the vintage conditions it should have been at that sort of level. The 1999 appears to be lacking in fruit for the amount of oak that is being used. It's wonderful that Orlando/JC release these wines with so much bottle age, but bottle age may not be enough to ensure the success of this label (and some of their other premiums.)
Getting back to the strategy behind the re-branding, it is interesting to note that their top wine used to be called Jacob's Creek Limited Release and although it had a recommended retail price of approximately $65, it could regularly be found between $37.50 and $47.50. From an outsider's perspective, it seemed to be the group's slowest selling premium wine and in many ways its biggest white elephant. Time will tell if the re-branding will be successful, but even if it is, it won't happen overnight and will probably take years.
As an aside, I wonder why the Jacaranda Ridge and Lawson were not available for tasting.
It was then time to hit the last winery of the afternoon. I always tried to aim at starting with a good one and finishing with a good one, as it's good to start and finish on a positive note. We headed over to Dog Ridge, a fairly new McLaren Vale producer that makes some very credible wines.
Dog Ridge 2004 The Pup Cabernet Merlot sells from about $16. The bouquet showed some VA, was savoury, fruit driven, and exhibited dark characters. With enough tannins to hold the wine together, the strong, fresh fruit is in control and delivers blackcurrant, liquorice and chocolate. An ample-weight wine with a soft consistency, and an almost seamless structure, makes this a very drinkable, fruit driven crowd-pleaser that is rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Dog Ridge 2005 Duck Chase Petite Verdot sells for around $22. The wine is unoaked and shows intense aromatics and the deep fruit has loads of intensity and persistence, delivering liquorice, plum and musk flavours that finish with excellent length. A full-bodied wine that is worth considering for something different; I didn't mind it at all and think that it would be better with a good steak. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
(I didn’t taste the DV3 Cabernet 2003 and DV7 Shiraz 2003 as I had tried them previously).
DogRidge 2003 MVP Shiraz sells for $60. The winery's flagship, it is matured in a hundred percent French oak, which was noticeable on the bouquet, which showed dusty oak, lifted alcohol, coffee and abundance cedar. This is a serious wine with an impeccable structure and balance; silky, ultra-fine drying tannins are backed by pure fruit to form a muscular-weight, supple wine that is tight, and shows a modicum of class and elegance. Cedary oak, liquorice, black cherry spectrum fruit and coffee flavours finish with good persistence, but the wine needs time for the fruit to emerge from below the oak and gain further complexity and length. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value, the rating should improve as the wine matures around 2011 and well beyond.
That was the end of the day's
formal proceedings and as we were walking out, we ran into Duncan Gardner and
his partner Julie who are involved in exporting wine to
Brian headed off to his serviced apartment and I took a taxi
to my father's place so I could get changed for dinner. We had a big night
planned as we were going to Claude's.
The restaurant was fully booked and on Saturday night there
is a degustation menu with no option of à la carte.
Thanks to Brian's generosity, we kicked off with a bottle of Dom Perignon 1998
and I didn't think about the wine for one nanosecond; I just sipped it,
revelled in it, thoroughly enjoying every mouthful; this has always been my
It was the start of the Tasmanian truffle season and Andrea got lucky and she is a truffle and mushroom addict. There was a truffle option on the menu ($40) where you could have truffle grated or shaved over all the courses (except dessert); try and keep Andrea away from that one! Impossible!!
As an appetiser, we were presented with complimentary choux pastry filled with truffle-flavoured cream. They were sensational with the champagne.
A first course was Smoked Salmon Consommé served in a short-black sized coffee cup. The first sip of this did not particularly impress me as it was basically all froth and very milk like, but the dish was actually layered and the further down into the cup I got, the more intense the salmon flavour.
The bread rolls had obviously been home-made and were sensational; the tops were sprinkled with a little rock salt, which really added to the flavour and made them addictive. Being a big piggie, I ate two and then ordered a third later on for mopping up the sauces.
The next course was Crab Coddled in Truffle Vodka. For the record, I am a notoriously fast eater, but this dish was so good I savoured every single little mouthful and was the last to finish. The flavour was extremely delicate yet maintained excellent power.
By this time, we had just about finished the
The Crisped Crayfish
and Vanilla was quite a pleasant dish and whilst it was cooked in very
I had reservations about the Pig's Trotter with Wood Ear Fungus as I am too used to seeing smoked pig's trotter's as a dog treat, but I needn't have worried as these were beautiful. Normally I'm not a great fan of fat, but the fat in this dish was controlled and had wonderful flavour and the entire combination worked perfectly.
The King George Whiting with Sterling Caviar was certainly not what I expected, and all the better for it. It was not a thin fillet, more like a small round steak. It had loads of flavour and was more than capable of holding its own with the Tahbilk.
When I offered some of my last bread roll to Andrea, she showed me her index finger and told me she didn’t need any.
By this stage we were on to the next wine, Penfolds 1983 Grange which I had brought along. For a long time, this was a much underrated vintage of Grange, but coming from a drought year, the fruit is fabulously concentrated and this was "a great bottle." Everything that Grange should be and a delight to drink; no notes, no flavours, no comments on the structure; all I will say about it is “it just bloody gorgeous”!
The Aylesbury Duck with Press Sauce was superb but unfortunately I can't say the same thing about the Grass-Fed Wagyu Fillet which followed it. The fillet was fairly thin and was a little too well done, a bit tough and too fatty. The others enjoyed theirs more, but when Andrea tried mine, she agreed.
The final wine of the night had to live up to its predecessors and be suitable for the two dessert dishes. It was not hard to pick a Bullers Calliope Rare Tokay from my cellar as being perfect for this occasion.
Luckily, we had brought backups for all the wines and the Cork Gods were with us as we didn't need to open any of them.
The first dessert, a Truffle Ice with Stout Granita was a superb match of counterbalancing and contrasting flavours and textures. Unlike anything I've ever had before, it was delicious and another dish where I savoured every mouthful.
Normally I'm not a huge dessert eater but must admit that I do enjoy a soufflé, so I was looking forward to their Passionfruit Soufflé, and the good news is that they just don't come better than this one. What a way to end a perfect night.
After downing our coffee and tea we walked out extremely
satisfied in happy. There was only one thing that put a damper on the evening.
To cut a long story short, the wine glasses used in this restaurant leave a lot
to be desired. They are thick and heavy. The red wine glasses in particular
were completely unsuitable for the
All up, including a tip and corkage ($15 a bottle), the bill was $200 a head.
We dropped Andrea and Brian back at the serviced apartment and headed across the Harbour Bridge to Marion's place, where needless to say, that after a night like that, I slept extremely well which was just as well as Sunday would turn out to be another big day at Plonk Oz 2006.
Copyright © Ric Einstein 2006