Up bright and early because our first appointment is at 9.00, I just love getting John up early when he is on holidays, it enables me to get back at him for inflicting pies upon my person all day. Sue heads off to work at sparrows and John pretends to be a caring sharing dad and takes the fourteen year old trainee brain surgeon off to school so itís business as usual for me and I get to eat breakfast in peace.
On these trips on some days itís loads of quick visits to a huge number of wineries and on others itís in depth long visits to a small number. Today was planned to be primarily the latter.
Our first stop is at Scarpantoni which was a long time favourite of mine. Their 1996 and 1998 Block 3 Shiraz were both about as elegant and subtle as a train smash so I was looking forward to trying the 2001. Their 1998 Reserve was also very good but the six pack I purchased came complete with an inbuilt dodgy batch of corks. After a few conversations Phil Scarpantoni agreed to replace the last two opened bottles (that were corked) with museum stock which was pretty good of him and we had arranged to meet this morning at 9 AM. When we arrived and asked for Phil we were informed that he was on his way to the Barossa and had forgotten our appointment. (He didnít have to leave town to avoid me so we went ahead and tried the wines.)
Scarpantoni 2001 School Block Shiraz Cab Merlot sells for $15. A slightly lifted nose of warm dark fruit showing hints of aniseed which was pretty dumb (for a school!) Itís an ample weight wine with simple complexity, smooth tannins and obvious aniseed and blackberry on a reasonable finish which is drinking well now. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Scarpantoni 2000 Blanche Point Maslin Beach is a Shiraz Cab Merlot blend that sells for $25. Like the School Block it also has a fairly dumb nose but thatís where the similarity ends. A well constructed ample weight drop with lots of silky slightly powdery tannins that provides a supple consistency and solid structure with some elegance. Chocolate, plums, mint, and coco powder flavours are agreeable and the finish is respectable but the wine is nothing to jump over the moon about but many people will like its style and its rated as Recommended with *** for value; should peak about 2006.
Scarpantoni 2001 Block 3 Shiraz sells for $22 at CD. Wham Ė the big black nose of intense tarry notes with cherry, liquorice and dark chocolate is not exactly low key. Tannins are velvety and as expected the fruit is strong and obvious coming across the palate as tarry black fruit, dark chocolate and multiple black berry and cherry flavours. This is a hedonistic Ďblock splitterí thatís a love it or hate it style, as is the flavour profile. Itís a big fruit driven wine in typical Block 3 tradition but different from the 96 and 98. Rated as Recommended with *** for value there sure is flavour for your dollar. Drink sooner rather than later.
Scarpantoni Summary Ė Although we only tried three wines and all were OK, frankly in some ways I think Scarpantoni produced better wines some years ago. The excuse for poor and average vintages could be levelled at some of the wines from last few years but things seem inconsistent and whilst they look to be changing I am not sure itís for the better.
Now it was time to meet Paul Beard who is a local guy and a wine agent by profession. Last year when we met it was in a certain coffee shop in McLaren Vale and this year we met in the same shop and I am sure he was eating the same thing for morning tea. Also, when we were with Paul last year John didnít get lunch till 3.30 so at morning tea today John stocked up and tried to fill one of his hollow legs just in case. After they stiffed me with the bill (and all I had was a short black coffee) we were off to the first of Paulís clients.
††††††††††††† Geoff Johnston 1
Pirramimma is no Johnny come lately. It was founded in 1892 by the Johnston family and is owned and operated by the grandsons. We were met by Geoff Johnston who is the Managing Director and winemaker. Geoff is a very quietly spoken reserved person so it took awhile to get a lot of information from him. The company is run conservatively and is no small operation. I understand they are fully funded and as well as their own vineyard areas, they have an additional 200 acres under contract to other wineries and a reasonable percentage of their vineyard land is not even planted (yet.)
Their philosophy is fairly simple, concentrate on growing good fruit, use high quality oak, keep everything under their own control and sell the resulting wine at a fair price. Although they have recently built a new office and administration block, one gets the impression that they are in no hurry and everything is planned a long way into the future and under complete control. No sudden or quick moves from these guys. If you think of the word Ďsolidí it describes both the company and its wines perfectly.
The winery was also at the forefront of Petit Verdot development in Australia with the original plantings going back to 1983. For my money, in many instances the small addition of Petite Verdot makes a more interesting wine than the small addition of Viogner which seems to be the Ďtrendoidí grape of the moment.
We tried three vintages of each variety. The current release, a completed future release and a barrel sample. This broad range gave a very clear indication of this wineries style and quality.
Pirramimma 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $22 at CD. This is a lovely wine that just needs time for the rather abundant dusty tannins to integrate with the deep persistent fruit that whacks the tongue with dark chocolate, blackcurrant and mint. Muscular weight and solid in every respect the complexity is developed and if you want flavour for your dollar this is it. Rated as Recommended with **** for value it should not be touched till 2006+.
Pirramimma 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon is a completed wine but has yet to be bottled so itís had two years in oak. (Over a year off release.) The wine is muscular in weight and shows great balance and a more enjoyable mouth feel than the 1999 wine. The fruit is charming and shows liquorice and mint at the moment but it needs a lot of time and should become more harmonious as it ages. I prefer it to the 1999 but wont rate it now but look forward to trying it again in the future.
The 2003 barrel sample of the Cabernet Sauvignon showed great fruit and enough tannin to suck your tongue out the back of your head.
Pirramimma 2000 Petite Verdot retails for $25 at CD. A deep brooding ample weight wine with a sensuous mouth feel which is provided by the silky tannins and expressing blackcurrant floral fruit, other subtle flavours and liquorice in a harmonious seamless package that just needs airtime to show its best. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Pirramimma 2001 Petite Verdot has been blended but is still in barrel and is due for release in December 2003. It has a very attractive floral lifted nose with rose petals, violets, and nuances of blue fruit. A solid wine with shovel fulls of dusty tannins balanced by the full bodied deep persistent concentrated fruit that has a diverse and interesting complexity and flavour profile. Liquorice, chocolate and all sorts of other interesting floral flavours make this an unusual wine thatís worth seeking out when it is released. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value.
The 2003 Barrel sample was a fresh young wine with great fruit intensity and one that I look forward to trying again in a few years.
Pirramimma 1999 Shiraz retails for $25 at CD. This wine is a surprise and almost delicate by comparison to the rest of the line up but it still has muscular weight and loads of tannins. Agreeable well developed coffee and chocolate moderately explode across the palate and fill the mouth with flavour without any excess baggage or extraction. If you want a bang for your buck and have about three years to wait for the Recommended rating to improve then this is for you; *** for value.
Pirramimma 2001 Shiraz has been blended but is still in oak. The abundant tannins are approaching creamy and provide an attractive mouth feel. This has sophisticated complexity and great blackcurrant, blackberry, coffee and chocolate fruit flavours and will be one worth watching out for in about 18 months. No hesitation in a Highly Recommended rating even though its not in the bottle yet.
Pirramimma Summary Ė All the wines are big solid wines with loads of tannins and big fruit. Nothing subtle about them and in some ways they are a bit old fashioned, but thatís said in the nicest possible way. They are not broken so they donít need fixing. Not a fault or bad wine amongst the whole line up. They are achieving their objectives and that includes the reasonable value aspect too. A solid and dependable label, in all ways sums it up.
On our way to Cascabel John was already getting desperate and trying to get Paul to stop for a pie break but Paul had read my last Tour Diary and knew that was a dangerous waste of good drinking, sorry I mean spitting time that was so he kept driving.
Cascabel is located in the foothills of the ranges at the back of Willunga is one of the unsung heroes of the McLaren Vale district although technically speaking they are so far south east of McLaren Vale they are almost out of it is. The temperature is much cooler here and as a result these wines are not your typical blockbusters, they are refined and elegant with great length. The winery is as boutique and hands on as you can get and the resulting quality of the wines shows the dedication and passion of the two owners.
This winery would best be described as Spain meets Australia and France; such is the grape varieties and diversity of wine styles. Production of each varietal and blend is measured in the hundreds of cases and their wines are not easy to obtain but they are worth searching out and finding.
This was my third visit in three years because Duncan Ferguson and Susana Fernandez are doing some good things and with every visit to this winery I leave there more impressed. If you believe that all McLaren Vale wines are built in the same mould then do yourself a favour and try theses. You will be proved wrong with a pleasant surprise.
Normally Susanna is the bubbly outgoing partner and Duncan the quiet deep thinker but Duncan must have overdosed on happy pills this morning because I have never seen him so talkative and excited, it was lovely to see. Duncan was also bemoaning the fact that everyone always wants to take Susannaís picture and no one ever takes his photo (obviously all the photographers are red blooded males) so I did the right thing. That made him happy and so he opened some wine for us to try.
Cascabel 2001 Grenache et al sells for $23 at CD. A very unusual nose of sarsaparilla and raspberry. Smooth silky tannins and medium weight pure fruit cascade across the palate in a seamless wave of savoury chocolate, sweet raspberry, sarsaparilla which then turn savoury and finish with great length. Its sophisticated† and has excellent structure and has been made with food in mind. Can this be right? TORB is giving a GreenAsh blend a Highly Recommended with **** for vale, and he wasnít even drunk at the time (or in lust with Susana.) †
Cascabel 2001 Tempranillo Graciano is a 70/30% blend and sells for $38 at CD. Only 160 dozen of this wine has been made. The stand out feature of this wine is the incredible mouth feel but then the structure is not far behind in terms of impressive impressions. Yummy milk chocolate coated raspberry flavours build in the mouth at the same time as the silky tannins quietly, seductively and seamlessly almost elegantly seduce the tactile membranes of the palate gaining in intensity finally reaching a crescendo and then ever so slowly slipping away. If you think this wine sounds like good sex, you are right!
Itís medium weight with a firm but silky consistency and a harmoniously refined sophisticated complexity. This wine will continue to improve till about 2007 and beyond and is rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value. (A cynic would say good sex is never cheap.)
Cascabel 2001 Monastrell (a Spanish grape variety also know as Mourvedre in Oz) sells for $38 at CD. An Ďinteresante ramoí (I said it was Spanish) showing floral notes with milk chocolate. Like all wines of this grape variety the full bulldozer of tannins flattens the tasting machine, in this case with ultra fine dusty ones but the deep persistent savoury red cherry and intense chocolate and coffee flavoured fruit is up to the task. A very well made wine with a developed sense of complexity, and long finish; the muscular weight will continue flex its muscles until about 2007.† This is an unusual drop that people will either love or hate, but itís always worth trying something new and if you try this, have it with a brontosaurus steak to cut through the tannins. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value. Only 130 dozen made so you are paying for the rarity as well as the quality. An excellent straight Mourvedre and none of the good ones are inexpensive.
Cascabel 2001 Shiraz sells for $30 at CD. An ultra clean wine with unobtrusive chewy drying tannins and pure clean fruit. Ample in weight, its layered structure and refined harmonious sophisticated complexity makes this a classy drop thatís well built and stunningly good, in fact itís in a class of its own for a McLaren Vale wine. The savoury red fruit and rich dark chocolate last about the time it would take to drive back to McLaren Vale.† Rated as Highly Recommended now with **** for value, the rating should improve as it peaks about 2007.
†Cascabel Summary - In the future you can expect to see a lot more of Cascabel wines in ROTE (roll on tamper evident Ė aka Stelvin) as they are purchasing their own screw cap machine. We then tasted the usual multitude of barrel samples and the quality is certainly there, as is the individual stamp of Duncan and Susanna. (Notice I mentioned you first Duncan, thatís two you owe me.)
Seriously, but what do you say about a small hands on operation like this that is producing such fine wines and is not much bigger than a four car garage? I think the tasting notes say it all!
And then we were off towards the Blewitt Springs end of the district and the last winery must have left an indelible impression on John as he didnít mention his need for a pie once, but he did mention Susannaís name about twenty times during the drive to Sylvan Springs.
This winery has only been going since the 98 vintage but has a commitment to make it work no matter what it takes and David Pridmore (whose Grandfather started Tatachilla) has been working in the industry all his life. Most of the vineyards are well established with aged vines. The wines are made by Brian Light.
The 98 wines were good, the 99ís even better, unfortunately the 2000 took a dive due to the vintage conditions so I was looking forward to trying the 2001 wines. The news is good, they are getting back on track and the 2001ís are credible wines for the price. Given time, the wines from this winery should get better and better too.
A mate of mine enjoying Sylvan Springs 1999 Shiraz
Sylvan Springs 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for less than $18. The wine has quality pure fruit with good intensity showing thatís initially sweet on the attack going into savoury black cherry and liquorice with a good length finish. The second stand out feature of this wine is the good mouth feel form the ultra fine tannins. Its ample weight and rated as Recommended with **** for value it should peak in a couple of years.
Sylvan Springs 2001 Shiraz sells for less than $18. An early drinking style with unobtrusive fine tannins and good pure fruit. Weight is ample and the wine is well made with an agreeable complexity, itís a crowd pleaser and would be a good food wine. The sweet upfront raspberry fruit with savoury nuances goes into black spectrum berries and finishes with respectably for the price point. Rated as Recommended with *** for vale.†
Sylvan Springs Summary Ė These guys are trying so hard and have a commitment that not many other wineries their size can manage and thatís because they have deep pockets and are in it for the long haul. On that basis, and the fact that their wines are solid for the price and reasonable value, I am prepared to keep supporting them and will watch their progress with interest.
Rant Number Three
There is a place in the Australian market place for all sized players and if you are Mr Joe or Ms Josephine Average wine drinker you donít care who makes the wine and how or where it is made as long as you enjoy whatís in the glass which is perfectly reasonable.
However we are not all Mr and Ms Average when it comes to wine consumption so itís to the wine enthusiasts this rant is directed. Adelaide Steam Ships as the name implies once was a transport company who bought David Jones and is no longer in steam ships. South Corp used to be the largest producers of hot water heaters in Australia but they no longer make Dux Hot water services having sold the division off. Wolf Blass made wine but the company is now owned by one of the worldís largest beer brewers. Hardyís used to be a family company and is now part of the worlds largest wine company and is essentially an off shoot of an American wine corporation.
Mr and Ms Joe Average Wine Consumer 1
All these companies have one objective, to return an adequate return to shareholders and that fine, thatís what they are in business for and some of these companies make some very good wine. However, they are large corporations with a corporate outlook and mentality. If they decide they can make more money producing left handed space shuttle interfaces then they can from wine, in five years time they will have sold of the wine division and they will be going gang busters producing left handed space shuttle interfaces.
The only long term loyalty the large companies have is to its shareholders but thatís OK, we know that; so as they have no loyalty to consumers why should consumers show any loyalty to them? Might sound like a stupid question but it brings us the main point of this rant.
†††† A Nameless Enthusiastic Consumer
†††††††† (notice the colour of the shirt) 1
The small to medium producer, especially the family owned wineries work differently to the large corporate companies. They produce the best wine they can and hope to make a sufficient return to stay in business. Their focus is on the wine, not the $$. The long term future of the Oz industry is in these guyís hands, the small to medium wineries. Wineries like Cascabel, Pirramimma, Sylvan Springs, Turkey Flat, and many more all have a number of things in common. They are all small to medium production, they all are doing innovative things in the winery, and they all have a reputation for looking after and supporting their customers without being greedy.
These people need our support because they are the ones in the longer term that will be offering us more interesting hand-crafted wines. The larger companies will more and more move to mass production techniques and a homogeneous style of wine that is ready to be drunk on release without any great character. Lots of stainless steel vats, wood chips and reverse osmosis, etc.
End of rant and back to the story.
At this point we headed back into town and said goodbye to Paul for another year. As quick as a rat up a drain pipe, John was inside his favourite McLaren Vale pie shop for a quick spot of lunch, but I knew something was up when he ordered only one pie. As it turns out the bakery had changed hands recently and the original lip smacking recipe was lost in the change over but my salad roll was pretty good. For those of you that think that John exists on meat pies alone, I should correct this possible misconception. With every meat pie ordered a large carton of ďFarmers Best Ice CoffeeĒ is also consumed. †
Next winery visited was another regular stop, Oliverhill. This winery is owned by Linda and Stuart Miller who turn out wine of monumental proportions. Nothing subtle or elegant about these wines but if you enjoy lashing of rich ripe fruit then you will love these wines. They must be popular as the cellar door is virtually never open and they sell out with in weeks of release. The wines are made in the old fashioned way, basket pressed grapes, open fermenters and lots of manual labour.
Oliverhill Winery CD Ė Stuart telling John 'where to go' 1
Oliverhill 2002 Grenache will sell for $18 from CD when it is released in late winter. The wine has been blended and will be bottled any day. A candy sweet nose means there is no surprise on the plate when the wine shows very sweet upfront fruit that goes savoury. Silky integrated tannins and with pure fruit, this medium weight wine is uncomplicated and fruit driven, a perfect case of what you see is what you get. Its well made and easy drinking. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Oliverhill 2002 Shiraz will sell for $25 to $30 when it is released later this year. It was completed two weeks ago and shows very bright dark purple fruit that stains the glass. Its locked up tighter than a chastity belt at the moment so you canít see much but the youthful concentrated obvious distinct fruit is evident, as is the high alcohol which surprisingly is not hot. Its muscular weight; the tannins are velvety and ultra fine grained and provide a great mouth feel and when you consider the addition of an almost seamless structure you can appreciate this wines appeal. Hard to rate at this point and I would like to taste it again later but probably Highly Recommended with **** for value based on its slurp ooze ability.
Oliverhill Jimmy Section 2001 Shiraz sells for $25 but is just about sold out. At last, I get to taste a current release at this winery. A rich ripe nose showing mocha, chocolate and liquorice. Lots of dusty fine grained tannins combine with deep concentrated obvious fruit to form a well balanced full bodied huge solid wine that is jam packed with fruit flavours. Despite its 16% alcohol its not hot but could become porty if left for too long, itís probably best drunk over the next three years. Palate flavours are prune, plum, liquorice, mocha and chocolate which make it a good party wine for non cerebral occasions when you donít mind if you donít think. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value.
†††††††††††† Taking money the old fashioned way
After completing this note, just for the heck as I had tasted this as a young wine last year I went back and included the previous note for comparison.
Tasting note May 2002 Oliverhill Jimmy Section Shiraz 2001 has also just been bottled. The vines were planted in 1972 and are cropped at three tonnes to the acre. Dark purple in colour the big nose of liquorice and eucalyptus is closed down tight. The strong deep fruit combines with refreshing acid and a big dusty tannic backbone to support the 16 percent alcohol creating a wine that doesn't seem out of balance or hot. Sweet black berry fruit leads across the palate to liquorice and chocolate. It has a full robust bodyweight, solid structure, an agreeable level of complexity and definitely qualifies as a glass stainer. I would love to see this wine in a few months when it settles down. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value at $25.
Oliverhill 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon will sell for $25 to $30 when it is released later this year. It has been blended and finished but not bottled. The nose shows very dark fruit, almost prune spectrum through other black notes and a touch of mint. There is nothing subtle about this wine, it has loads of everything. The plate follows the nose but the mint really lifts the flavour profile. As expected, its full bodied with refreshing acid to balance the strong fruit and smooth dusty tannins. Its not a true varietal Cabernet but very enjoyable never the less and the developed complexity makes it interesting. Rated as Recommended with *** for value it should peak about 2006.
Oliverhill 2002 Durif is a new wine that Stuart has decided to play with. The wine is completely shut down so itís very hard to judge. Tannins are well managed, the fruit is deep, its full bodied and despite the style, it is not heavy. Interesting wine but too young for me to judge try again in 2008.
Oliverhill Summary Ė All the wines are made in a certain style, big fruit forward wines without any prenotion of subtlety that have been designed to be enjoyed for their rich fruit. If thatís the Millers objective, they are meeting it admirably. These wines are not for everyone, but those that like the style will enjoy them and the value they represent.
At this point I said goodbye to John as being the dedicated father and husband (and in an endeavour to try and extract himself from the hot excrement caused by his recent wine purchases that Sue found out about) he had decided that he should go home and cook a curry for dinner. So I trundled next door to Classic McLaren for my 4.00 appointment but Tony and his wife Kristina are running late on a mercy dash and donít get back till 4.30. Now Tony is a big talker which is why I made this the last appointment for the day so I remind him that we have limited time as I am expected at a formal dinner at the Davis-Hilton.
To say that Tony Delisio is passionate abut his wine making is like saying Elle McPherson is not bad looking! Tony started off as a vitaculturalist and eventually turned himself into a wine producer, a common story but one with a difference. He has deep pockets with big backing so there is no danger of this winery going down the tubes in the short term.
There is a lot of money invested here, ten million dollars to be precise and last year alone they spent about a million on barrels, thatís a lot of oak. This is a winery with an ďonly the best will doĒ attitude. Considering the wine that Tony was able to produce in 2000 itís not just an idle throw away line, the proof is there already. The business is not after short term profits either, they are determined to be here for the long haul and are prepared to hang on to their wine until itís the right time to release it. The set up is fairly new and the barrel room impressive with room for much expansion, but the ten million buys a bit of kit so itís not surprising.
I have been buying Tonyís wine since before anyone had ever heard of him and he had received a big Parker score. In fact some of the early wines I got from him have Avery stick on white labels with very expressive detailed descriptions like ď1994 McLaren Vale Cabernet SauvignonĒ or ď1995 Onkaparinga Hills Shiraz.Ē
In the past, I have been highly critical of the pricing of the icon range, the Le Testa series which start off at $50 for the Cabernet and the Blend and reaches a stratospheric $120 for the Shiraz. As production quantities have been very low, Tony has been able to get away with it.
When I last tasted the 2000 Shiraz at plonk Oz 2002 I didnít know it had only just been bottled. After having tasted these wines again eight months later with just a bit more bottle age, the Shiraz showed up as a far better wine but itís still well over priced, something Tony and I discussed at length so none of these comments or criticisms will come as a surprise to him. In fact passionate debate would be a more accurate description of the conversation. The Cabernet and Blend are not far off the mark (but still about 20% overpriced in my opinion.)
These wines are fabulous, the only problem is that Tony hasnít worked out how to market them and distribute them in a cost effective manner yet, and when he does that itís possible the prices will drop and make them very competitive.
We walked into the winery office, lab, kitchen, come tasting room to a large array of bottles and barrel samples, clearly this was not going to be a short meeting and that did not take into account discussion time, and there was just a bit of that too, for Tony without conversation is like an Italian without pasta, it just doesnít happen, the only question is the quantity. But when someone is so genuinely enthusiastic and loves their work so much its impossible for the enthusiasm not to engender conversation and passionate debate. Just as well there were no knives handy.
Classic McLaren 2000 Grenache (also known as CMC Range) sells for under $20. A lifted nose with some savoury characters, the wine shows very sweet medium weight fruit going into a chocolate finish. Ď seamless but simple and rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
La Testa 2001 Grenache sells for $50 retail. Smooth Tannins combine with pure strong medium weight fruit to provide a silky consistency and an almost elegant structure and well developed complexity completing a very well made wine if you like the style. Up front† sweet cherry going it savoury characters finishing to chocolate with great intensity and persistence. Rated as Recommended with * for value.
La Testa 2001 Blend (Shiraz/Grenache/Cabernet) sells for $50 retail. A high class nose thatís a bit dumb, (reminds me of someone I went to school with.) This is a simply charming wine with nothing simple about it. Unobtrusive dusty tannins and pure fruit provide the ample weight basis for a silky seamless mouth feel with harmonious sophisticated complexity that flows across in waves of milk chocolate, multiple complex flavours leading to dark chocolate and black fruit all finishing with colossal length. Rated as Excellent with ** for value it should peak around 2005.
Classic McLaren 2000 Cabernet Merlot (also known as CMC Range) sells for about $22. It has a sweet fruity nose expressing some chocolate, liquorice and tomato leaf. There is typical Delisio structure, harmonious complexity, solid and tending towards seamless and in this case sweet red cherry and cassis with savoury flavours, chocolate and mint finishing with a good length. A great value interesting wine which is rated as Recommended with **** for value, it should peak after around 2005+.
La Testa 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for about $50. This wine has spent 28 months in oak and loudly screams McLaren Vale varietal Cabernet from the aroma. Itís a muscular weight wine with a good solid backbone of dusty tannins that needs about another four years to integrate with the deeply seated fruit. Currently itís a brooding baby and tighter than a vacuum sealed jar of pickled cucumbers, but in time this sophisticated wine which is currently dominated by blackberry jam and mint should become seamless. †Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value, the rating should improve to Excellent in time as the wine matures around 2007 and beyond. †
At this stage I am asking Tony to hurry it up please or I will be late for dinner but getting Tony to hurry when he is talking about wine is like getting chocolate to melt in the snow, it isnít going to happen! But we eventually got to the next wine.
Classic McLaren 2000 Shiraz (also known as CMC Range) sells for about $25. Great bouquet for the price with blackberry, mocha and aniseed scents which cascade over the plate with intense lip smacking gob fulls of flavour but without excess weight or extraction that has enough length to make Linda Lovelace happy. A well constructed and well made ample weight wine with developed harmonious complexity thatís currently rated as Recommended with ****† which should improve as it matures around 2005. Excellent wine for the price and the vintage.†
Classic McLaren 2001 Shiraz (also known as CMC Range) is not due for release for ages. This wine is a step up from the 2000! It shows more dense blackberry, coffee and less intense mocha, itís also brooding. Tannins are creamy and the purity of the deep fruit blindingly obvious. Blackcurrant and dark chocolate build in waves and reach a crescendo of liquorice on the finish. Ample weight with a long structure that should become seamless in time, the complexity is already diverse and harmonious. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, this is the anthesis in value of the La Testa.
At this stage I am saying Tony, I am running late and I really have to go so he pours me another glass, this time his icon wine.
La Testa 2000 Shiraz sells for about $120. It has a bouquet of huge intensity expressing blackberry, black pepper and formic acid. The structure of this wine is almost unbelievably good. Ample weight with deep persistent concentrated fruit exhibiting absolute perfect pristine purity that combines with smooth tannins that already provide a seamless but tight structure and velvety consistency. Intense blackberry, dark chocolate and aniseed are the dominant flavours but the complexity is diverse, classy and harmonious. Rated as Excellent with ** for value this wine should continue to improve till the end of the decade.
†ďI have really got to go nowĒ I say so Tony keeps talking and ignores my pleas and starts pouring barrel samples. Gees itís a rough life! Finally I managed to extract my body from his clutches and as I ran down the pitch dark drive way Tony thrusts a few of the open bottles into my hand.
Classic McLaren Summary - The quality of the whole range and style of wine is consistent. None are overdone blockbusters, all show high quality pure fruit without being heavy or extracted, the wines could almost be considered elegant but they are certainly not wimpy due to the huge fruit flavour and are all either seamless or approaching seamless. The Classic McLaren Range (CMC) is sensational wine and sensational value. This range will retail for less than $25 and as production of the series is ramped up, it should take the market by storm. Without wishing to make a bad pun, these will be ďclassicĒ wine buys. The La Testa range is serious quality wine but the pricing is over the top and whilst quantity is low moving it may not be an issue but as volume increases it will become an issue.
When I arrived back at the McLaren Davis-Hilton Sue and the fourteen year old trainee brain surgeon had already eaten and the look on Johns face was enough to make me feel about as welcome as a pig at a Kosher wedding but once John saw the open bottles under my arm, all was forgiven and John and I sat down to a delicious home made mild chicken curry. He is not a bad cook and the plates were soon wiped clean and two bottles emptied.
A very good day all things considered and that is the conclusion to Chapter Three. The next chapter should be another beauty with some interesting places to visit and experiences to share. It will conclude the McLaren Vale leg of the trip and then we will move on to the Barossa.
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Copyright © Ric Einstein 2003