Mini Victorian Tour Diary 2005
This tour diary started off like no other; I decided to take the train down to Canberra because it is the most convenient method of transport. I booked online and was flabbergasted when I had to pay the bill, it was a whopping $13 from Moss Vale to Canberra; the taxi from my place to the station, although it only took minutes to drive, actually cost more than the train ticket.
The train left on time at 2.03 pm. The lady in the next seat to me was reading books on anatomy and was probably a mature age student studying physiotherapy or some other such discipline. When I pulled my copy of the latest addition of Wine Front Monthly out, together with a highlighter pen, I know who was studying the more enjoyable topic. The current edition turned out to be one of the best Campbell has produced and I was thoroughly absorbed by it. When the train left Goulburn, I decided to catch 40 winks and woke up an hour later. My travelling companion had had enough studying and was reading a book by D.H. Lawrence; clearly a person with highbrow tastes and much more literary than my choice of Wilbur Smith.
Brian met the train and we had an uneventful drive back to his place. On the way, Brian mentioned they had invited five other people for dinner, so it was going to be a great night. One thing I know for sure, when either Brian or Andrea decide to cook, not only are you not going to go hungry, the food will be damn enjoyable.
When we arrived at Brian and Andrea's place, Andrea was hard at work making homemade ravioli. Now that’s true dedication and a labour of love! Unless you have seen handmade ravioli being produced, you have no idea of the time and effort required.
Brian didn't wait until the witching hour of 6 p.m. because by five to six we had the first glass well and truly in hand. It was a Majella 1998 Sparkling Shiraz and that wine is undoubtedly the best vintage produced under this label. It’s at its peak now and drinking beautifully. Not-too-sweet, the flavour shows good complexity whilst the wine still has a reasonable level of youthful characters; just the way I like it. Whilst we were sipping the FRS, we were also munching on some crispy deep fried broad beans; a Chinese and Thai delicacy and very ”moreish”. Brian first came across these in Thailand and has been hooked on them ever since. To accompany the broad beans we also had mixed unsalted nuts. Around to 7 p.m., by the time the Majella had been almost killed, the rest of the crew arrived. The next bottle opened was a Yalumba 1998 Black D Sparkling Shiraz; this is one of the standout value Sparkling Shiraz available. I've have this wine and a number of occasions and it never fails to please.
Whilst we were sipping on the bubbles, out came a huge platter of fresh oysters, half of which were from Tasmania and the other half from Smoky Bay. The oysters were served with the choice of a fresh squeeze of lemon or a shot of hot sauce; and they were fresh and delicious.
We then formally sat down to dinner. The first course was home-made ravioli filled with minced prawns and a simple home-made tomato drizzle; it had a delicate flavour profile and was sumptuous. Two wines were served with the ravioli. The first was a Yarra Yarra 2000 Cabernets; the tannins have fully resolved and it is delicate, lightweight, elegant and had a wonderful flavour profile, was dominated by tomato leaf but there was enough ripe fruit below to make the wine most enjoyable. I would rate it as Excellent. The second wine served was a Rockford 1994 Basket Press Shiraz, and like the previous bottle of this wine, it was a disappointment. The wine had some slight reductive characters and whilst the fruit was hiding under the reductive character, it was not a particularly impressive wine. The main course was grilled beef steak with Café de Paris butter and the gravy that accompanied it was to die for! There was a green salad with rocket and hazelnuts, not to mention sautéed mixed mushrooms; and I noted the menu had “mine and Ric's favourite” on it in brackets, how true! The mushrooms were sautéed in lots of butter with just a drizzle of lemon juice to finish it off; they were magnificent.
…………..Tokay wants to come with me!
A delicious “Carbones” Italian-style bread was served warm and was perfect for mopping up the gravy. Some unnamed people were even crass enough, or possibly that should be smart enough to have bread and gravy. The list of ingredients in the Café de Paris butter was infinitely longer than the formula for the Colonels secret chicken, so no wonder it was good (although I am not sure Andrea would be impressed with my comparing her food to the Colonels greasy plastic.)
The two wines served with the main course were the Rosemont 1998 Balmoral Shiraz and a Veritas 1999 Heysen Shiraz. The Balmoral is just entering its drinking window; it was typical of the label and was the wine of the night for me. The oak has resolved well, and is hardly noticeable. The Veritas opened up with a fair whack of stink that unfortunately was not bottle stink, and was more akin to a reductive character. The wine was doubled decanted approximately three hours before it was drunk, and as it opened up in the glass, the reductive character did recede a little and the fruit character surfaced. And what beautiful fruit it was, unfortunately by the time the bottle was finished, it was still slightly marred by the reductive character. I hope that this is a one-off bottle fault but unfortunately I doubt that is the case. This is if the first bottle from a six pack so further investigation will be required.
We then had a sumptuous cheese platter (provided by Anne) with a wonderful variety of cheese. To go with the cheese platter we cracked an Arakoon 2001 Doyen and I must admit I was not impressed with this wine. To my thinking a large amount of the flavour profile, including coffee, almond, and vanillin characters were all oak derived, and whilst there was some fairly strong fruit there, it was overshadowed by the oak. The fairly high level of alcohol was reasonably well masked; there was no excess warmth to the wine. There was also an excellent bottle of Reynell 1994 Vintage Port that was full of aniseed, liquorice, chocolate and other great typical Reynella flavours. It was almost midnight by the time we said good night and a great time was had by all; what a wonderful way to start the trip.
Early on Monday morning I awoke feeling very good (and if you believe that I have a harbour bridge for sale.) Drinking copious quantities of water last night paid dividends as I did not feel as bad as I should have felt. I staggered out of bed to the coffee machine, and drank a very rewarding cup of long black coffee. Brian surfaced and looked to be in reasonable shape, and although Andrea was a touch slow, she was still in reasonably fine form. We had a “red bigot breakfast” with tomato juice, toasted Carbones bread (left over from the previous evening dinner,) crispy bacon on top and some homemade tomato puree like substance to wet the bread.
One funny thing happened last night that I should share with you; due to the cooking downstairs, the upstairs smoke detector kept going off. Brian sent me upstairs to take the battery out, but he didn't give me explicit enough instructions. That's my story and I am sticking to it. (Editors note: There are two smoke alarms, one was making a noise, one wasn’t, guess which one Ric picked?) I barely touched the smoke detector and the fitting came off in my hand and was dangling from the ceiling by its wire thread. To add insult to injury, it started shrieking at me in an indignant fashion (Editors note: i.e. it wasn’t previously). It turned out that this smoke detector was the one that was hard-wired into the monitored burglar alarm system. Needless to say, Brian was not impressed. On Monday morning out came the ladder, Brian scurried up the ladder and removed the cover to screw it back into the ceiling. As soon as he did, all hell broke loose, the alarm went off, not the smoke detector, the alarm; and there were phone calls flying everywhere from the alarm company to see if the house was being broken into or not. They didn’t believe Brian’s story and thought it sounded very suss, so they rang Andrea to make sure there wasn’t some mad burglar telling them porky pies.
We left Canberra at 9:15 a.m. and had a gentle drive south, stopping for lunch at a bakery in Holbrook. This is the second time we have eaten there. I had a chicken wrap which was edible for bakery food. Unfortunately Brian has not got over his pie fetish and ordered a Bushman’s beef and vegetable pie. As this wasn't enough for a growing boy, he ordered some revolting red thing that was wrapped up in, what looked to be like filo pastry gone wrong, with sesame seeds on it. I believed it was called a Kransky but as I respect my dogs, I wouldn't let them eat anything that looks that bad. I understand that medical science is working on a cure for Kransky disease.
After we left Holbrook, Brian realised he had forgotten to bring a belt or a black shirt with a proper collar. Last time we went to Rutherglen, Brian forgot his socks, so going clothes shopping with Brian is nothing new. Luckily, as we drove into Albury, I spotted a huge Rivers Factory Outlet, and in a short space of time, Brian tried to empty the store with his bargain buys.
Being bored with all the highway driving, we decided to take the back road between Albury and Corowa which conveniently brought us out to our first stop at Cofield Winery. The main purpose of stopping here was to buy a couple of bottles of their excellent Sparkling Shiraz to have with dinner over the next couple of nights. Although I did not make an appointment, or even directly telegraph my intention to stop at the winery, we were expected. It seems that the staff has sussed out that whenever Brian and I come to Rutherglen, a mandatory stop for Sparkling Shiraz is on the cards.
Scott, the very able cellar door manager had teed up Damien Cofield to take us through some barrel samples. When we walked out to the back of the winery, it was quite obvious to see what they had been up to. The Portavin mobile bottling plant had just finished doing its job on a couple of their wines. For those that have not seen a mobile bottling plant in action, it's quite a feat of engineering and most importantly, leaves the winery in control, as the wine does not leave their premises.
We tried a sample of the 2005 Quartz Vein Shiraz. The wine had a delightful perfumed character, and although it was slightly dirty at this stage, it should clean up well. The fruit characters were certainly good. The next wine was the blended sample of the 2005 Quartz Vein Durif. The wine showed loads of coffee and chocolate characters with very smart brambly, minty fruit as its basis. The abundant, drying, dusty tannins are long, and in time it should be a stunner. Cropped at two tonnes to the acre, the wine shows no sign of excessive heat. I look forward to trying this wine again when it's released. Cofield only produce this wine when the fruit is good enough, a smart move. There was also one new completed wine for us to try as well.
Cofield 2004 Sangiovese sells for $18 at cellar door. The bouquet showed a slight aldehyde character with lifted alcohol, cherry, milk chocolate and spicy notes. Mid-weight and showing some elegance, the acid is well judged and hardly noticeable and the savoury, milk chocolate and earthy flavours are offset by a sweet underlying river of fruit. A highly quaffable food-friendly wine, it is rated as Recommended with **** for value and like many of the wines from Cofield, represent above average value.
…………..The Cofield Lab – fit for a mad professor
After leaving Cofield, it was a short drive to the Wine Village Motel where we had a couple of rooms booked. Depending on whose rating you look at, the motel is either 4 or 3 1/2 stars, but whatever the rating, it's clean, functional, reasonably modern, and at $83 a night, fair value.
After checking in and leaving our luggage in the rooms, we decided to head out to a couple of wineries. First and most important, was a trip to Morris for me to top up my supply of their Cellar Door Release Tokay. And $30 a 500 ml bottle, this is my favourite, standout value, every day drinking sticky. We also tasted one wine.
Morris 2002 Durif sells for $22 at cellar door. A black nose, showing dark chocolate, aniseed, blackberry and toasted oak; the palate closely follows the bouquet, is a touch tart, fills the mouth, and finishes with excellent persistence and good length. Fine-grained, smooth tannins backs a solid structure, provides a supple consistency; and for a young wine, it has a good mouth feel. The acid is noticeably fresh and piquant. A good, muscular-weight wine, it should peak around 2009 and is rated as Recommended with **** for value.
Brian decided that as I hadn't been to Mount Prior, and they were reputed to have a fairly reasonable sparkling red, a visit there was in order. When we arrived, it was fairly warm and we followed the instructions and parked in the visitor’s car parking. As we walked up to the cellar door, we noticed a car under the trees, and Brian asked the cellar door manager if we could park his hoon-mobile in the shade too. As Brian wandered off to move the car, I opened my camera case/hold all bag to take some pictures. (Remember this later.)
By 1896, Mount Prior was the second-largest winery in the district but at the turn-of-the-century, it was basically wiped out by phylloxera. In 1975 the replanting of the vines began and now, just over a quarter of their 435 acre property is planted to vines.
Mount Prior Sparkling Shiraz Durif sells for $27 at cellar door. The wine has good mousse, a pleasant mouth feel and is well balanced. Not overly sweet with just enough residual sugar to work, and offset the slightly bitter blackberry finish, this is one of the few Sparkling Shiraz in this price bracket that is worthy of consideration. Ample-weight, with a firm but supple consistency, the structure is solid and the complexity agreeable. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Mount Prior 2003 Premium Durif sells for $29 at cellar door. Brian tasted this wine before I did, and I couldn't work out why he didn't say anything. Apparently he did make a slight exclamation, but I was busy taking notes and missed it; but there was no missing the level of cork taint on the wine that was poured. A new bottle was opened; it showed a brooding, earthy nose, with sawdust notes and blackberry fruit lurking below the surface. On the palate, the oak seems slightly raw but the fruit is good; it's sweet with contrasting savoury flavours and finishes a tad green from unripe tannins. Muscular-weight, the consistency is supple, the complexity plain; but still, it's quite quaffable and is rated as Acceptable with ** for value.
One winery we definitely wanted to visit was one of my favourites in the district, Bullers. As we walked in, the working winery door was opened and there was Andrew busily doing, what looked like obscene things, with wine bottles. In reality he was hand shoving the bottle necks into a machine and they were coming out with “plastic condoms” to protect the cork. We said hello to Andrew, but clearly he was preoccupied and busy with his work, and did not recognise us, so we left him to his own devices (or should that be vices) and moved into the cellar door to taste some wine.
A short time later, Andrew joined us and we had a long chat. I really enjoy talking with Andrew because he is a deep thinker, is not afraid to speak his mind, and is extremely open and frank with his thoughts. Andrew certainly doesn't put any “spin” on his thoughts and tells it the way it is, which in today's world, is most refreshing. He also has a wonderful way of asking a rhetorical question, and answering it himself. He certainly doesn't stand on ceremony; in fact for the most of the time we were talking, he was sitting on a settee which has obviously been conveniently placed in cellar door for his personal use; and why not!
The winery is experimenting with the number of new wines, most of which are being made in small batches and some of the ones I have tried look interesting. The latest two new additions which I tried on this visit were a Petit Verdot and a Merlot.
We spent some time discussing the show system, and whilst Andrew is a firm believer in the system, he is not exactly enamoured with some of the politics behind the scenes. Andrew also made comment about the taste off’s that Andrew Sutherland-Smith from Warrabilla had arranged and thought it was a good move for the area, “although it was a bit like throwing a live grenade because you never knew what possible damage could be inflicted.”
Buller 2004 Valerie Merlot sells for $29 at cellar door. The brooding, attractive bouquet certainly holds interest with musk, mulberry and mushroom aromas. Different to most conventional Merlots, but its typical Buller’s – in your face and nothing wimpy! Full-bodied; the smooth tannins are well matched to deeply seated fruit and deliver contrasting sensations; the initial sweet hit turns savoury with mulberry, plum, musk and a touch of bitter almond to finish. Complexity is harmonious and agreeable; the structure rock solid and the consistency subtle. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, this has not been designed for those that order Merlot because Cabernet Sauvignon is too hard to pronounce.
Buller 2004 Valerie Petit Verdot sells for $25 at cellar door. The wine has seen no new oak and only 200 cases have been produced. The bouquet is very floral; bloody attractive, with menthol eucalyptus and mocha to boot. Smooth, almost silky, dusty tannins and fresh acid combine with deep, distinct fruit boot to produce a full-bodied wine with a supple consistency and good mouth feel. It's hard to judge at this stage and needs time, but that's no surprise as it had just been bottled. Whilst it is very primary and seems almost raw, it has all the components; it's floral, cherry fruit with milk chocolate finishes with good persistence and should peak around 2010.
Buller 2003 Calliope Shiraz sells for $35 at cellar door. I always look forward to trying this label. The bouquet showed spicy cinnamon, blackberry, other spices and a touch of lifted alcohol. Smooth, dusty tannins, balanced acid and the deep, pure fruit combine to form a full-bodied, very-firm, solid wine with an agreeable complexity. The mouth is filled with spice, pepper, blackberry, and loads of liquorice flavour that finishes to plum. It needs time to come together and soften, but should be reasonably long-lived; rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value; drink from 2009.
It's always a pleasure to taste the wine at Buller's and this trip proved to be no exception. Before departing, we were able to try their Rare Liqueur Tokay and Rarely Liqueur Muscat side-by-side. There have been some comments over the last year regarding the quality of the Rare Liqueur Muscat, generally stating that the current wine was not as good as previous examples. As a devotee of both of these two wines, I'm extremely familiar with them and was looking forward to finding out exactly what was what. The Rare Tokay was an absolute delight and every bit as good as expected. According to Andrew, the Rare Muscat is more popular than the Tokay and there is more demand pressure on the wine. Unfortunately, the pressure is starting to show and the current release, whilst still a very high quality wine, is not quite as good as previous examples. When Brian tried this wine early year in the year at the winery, he thought it was a not as good as expected and a little flat. Brian’s impression this time round was more favourable, and whilst this bottle was better (indicating that the previous one may have been mildly corked,) it was still not as good as he had hoped.
After we got kicked out of the winery at 5.15 pm, we headed back to the motel. Brian had not brought his computer so he had almost 2 hours in which to relax; I spent that time gainfully deleting junk e-mail, answering a few pertinent e-mails (and some impertinent ones too) as well as catching up on the wine world in general.
We had arranged to have dinner at Tuileries at seven o'clock with Andrew Sutherland-Smith from Warrabilla. The last time Brian and I had dinner there the food was a bit patchy. Some of it was excellent, but some of it was not as good as it should have been. When we arrived, Andrew was sitting in the courtyard enjoying a "relaxing ale" and we decided to sit outside and enjoy the cool air, and peace and quiet of the courtyard. Brian decided to have a beer, but as I had already had my annual quota of one glass, I got stuck into the Cofield Sparkling Shiraz. It was as good as expected, which was no great surprise, as it sealed with a crown seal and not subject to the vagaries of cork. When Andrew tried it, he was suitably impressed.
We decided to nibble on some snacks prior to going inside. We ordered crispy chicken and coriander won tons with a sweet chilli dipping sauce; tempura battered prawn cutlets with a sweet soy dipping sauce as well as another prawn dish. All three of these were cooked to perfection and simply delicious.
By that stage, we had opened up the first bottle of still wine, a Penfolds 1991 St Henri. This was just after Andrew said that he normally didn't like old wine, preferring youthful wine that still had a lot of its primary fruit character. I just love this wine, and so did Andrew, I almost had to fight him glass for glass. Although it is starting to take on some aged characteristics, it still has a good level of primary fruit, and interestingly enough, Andrew thought that there was a reasonable level of new oak influence; something that we know is not correct as the wine is aged in huge old oak vats. The wine was in perfect condition and seems to have reached a plateau and clearly has many years left.
The next wine opened was a Primo Estate 1997 Joseph and Andrew really enjoyed this wine. Unlike the previous wine which had some aged characters, this was full of intense, primary fruit. For an entree, I had prawns cooked three different ways and I could not fault them. The choice of prawns for a starter was probably not a good one, as we have had prawns for our snack. Between the entree and the main course, I ordered some plain bread. A few minutes later, the person who took the order came back and asked, "what sort of bread?" I repeated, “plain bread.” Roughly fifteen minutes later, a serving of garlic bread arrived. As this is the second time that this has happened to me I can only conclude that this restaurant either is incapable of, or refuses to serve plain bread. Either way, they should at least have the courtesy to advise their patrons of the situation, instead of delivering (and charging) for something that was not ordered. It is little things like this that detract from the quality of the operation and the dining experience.
For a main course I had duck and, whilst the serving size was small, it was cooked to perfection, and the duck in ravioli pastry was extremely rich, so it's just as well the serving size was small. Overall, the meal was very good although with a few small improvements, it could have been excellent.
As we had a big day planned the next day, some discretion was called for and the final bottle of wine was not opened. At around 10.30, we said goodbye to Andrew as he jumped into a taxi and Brian and I staggered across the road to our motel rooms. If the rest of this trip is as good as the first day, it will be a beauty.
Today was the day we had been eagerly waiting for since the idea was first hatched about six months ago, but first breakfast. After our last trip to Rutherglen, there was no way we were going to risk going back to the Rutherglen Bakery so we headed across the road to the Black Dog. Unfortunately they were light on for breakfast choices and as we needed to line our stomachs with something a little more substantial, we headed up the road to a “greasy spoon cafe." The bacon and eggs and sandwiches were good, but the coffee was undrinkable, and even Brian's Short Black looked like dishwater. Luckily, by the time we had finished eating, Parker's Pies were open and we were able to get “real,” strong coffee there.
Lawns of Mt Prior - Accommodation Provided for Credit Cards..
We had plenty of time to kill, which was just as well. Earlier that morning, I had looked in my bag for my credit card and it had apparently fallen out of my camera/everything bag at one of our previous stops. I thought the most likely place was when I took my camera out at Buller's so we went back to check, but unfortunately we couldn't find it. We rang Morris is to see if I had left it there when I paid for the Tokay, but I thought that was pretty unlikely as I seem to remember getting it back. As we had drawn a blank of both of these places, the chances were that I dropped it when I took my camera out at Mount Prior, so we toddled on the road and drove into the winery. On the side of the pathway, just near the entrance to cellar door, was my credit card lying in the grass sunning itself happily, and finding it made me very happy. The thought of having to cancel the card and then having to change all my periodical and automatic payments was not a pleasant thought.
This camera bag has been an utter disaster since day one. The design is incompatible with my usage and as a result of it being left open at inopportune times, over the last three years I have broken a digital camera, rendered my micro cassette recorder inoperable, and finally almost lost a credit card. This incident was the third strike so I vowed to get a new one as soon as possible.
It was now getting close to 10 o'clock, the appointed starting time for the tasting so we drove to Warrabilla.
The 2002 Shiraz Taste Off
Last May, at the conclusion of the Great Durif Taste Off, Andrew asked us if we would be interested in doing a Shiraz Taste Off to see how his wines compared, so naturally we jumped at the chance. After much discussion, some rules were negotiated, and the plan was put into place. We decided to select forty of the best Shiraz offerings from the 2002 vintage with a recommended retail price of $50 or less. As a most of these wines had been released and sold out long ago, Brian and I've volunteered to supply some of the wines from our cellars.
During the Great Durif Taste Off, (much to my personal disgust,) Andrew insisted that we use the hundred-point system to rate the wines. As I don't think in those terms, I had a great deal of difficulty scoring the wines during that event and was not going to get caught with my pants down a second time. Over the preceding six to eight weeks, I had practised using a modified hundred point system (that was much tougher than the Parker hundred point system) on every wine I drank, so I was well and truly pumped and ready for this event.
Andrew being the “charming fellow” that he is, decided to bend a few of the rules . The first announced change was that instead of 40 bottles, there would be 50, which would allow additional scope in case we came across a greater than expected number of corked bottles. That was a reasonably smart move, although we were lucky and there were only three obviously tainted bottles. The second change was that as Andrew could not source enough bottles under the agreed $50 price cap, so he had exceeded that amount on eight bottles; what a bastard, that meant we were going to have to wade our way through “some overpriced plonk.” What an “Old Bastard” – and that was now in the line up too.
Andrew had provided 29 of the bottles, and Brian and I had provided 21 of them from our own cellars. In theory the tasting was single-blind, in that we knew the names of many of the wines that were going to be assessed, however there were many in the line up that were double-blind (for three of us) as Andrew had thrown them in at the last moment. In reality, Andrew was the only one that knew what was in the entire line-up.
All the wines were bagged in numbered, brown paper bags and poured into ISO glasses in numbered positions and although we may have known some of the names of the wines in the line-up, by the time the tasting started they had totally gone out of my head. The wines had been broken up into two flights of 25 each with an anticipated break for lunch in the middle.
Whilst I had known about the previous two changes to the rules prior to arriving at the winery, and they certainly didn't bother me, the third change to the rule, which was sprung on me just before the tasting started, certainly did. Andrew had decided that we should use the 20 point Australian wine shows system rather than the hundred point system. BASTARD! As I generally detest using numerical points of any description, I was completely unprepared for this rule change, however this time I knew I could cope – just!
During the last Taste Off, Brian had used the 20 point show system and had then used Jeremy Oliver's conversion table to transform them to the hundred point system; so all I had to do this time was to use the hundred point system and then use Oliver's conversion table in reverse.
The tasting started in predictable fashion, the first wine was corked! After wine 12, my palate was starting to feel a little fatigued, and I called for “the platter.” One thing I will say about doing a tasting Warrabilla, it might be hard work but there is always loads of goodies to refresh the palate, olives, cold meats, cheeses, biscuits, breads, and other assorted necessary items.
Palate fatigue in theses tastings where you are trying big red after bigger red is certainly a real concern, and I munched on loads of olives throughout the day. Making extensive tasting notes at these tastings is also extremely difficult, so my notes on many of the wines will be briefer than normal, but in most cases I think I have been able to provide a reasonable picture of each wine. As I was rating these wines using points, and time was limited, I felt it was more important to comment on the structural aspects of the wines, rather than the individual aromas and taste descriptors of each wine.
Whenever I had awarded a wine the same score as I had awarded a wine previously, I went back and compare the two, side-by-side, to ensure point accuracy and ensure my palate was still correctly calibrated. I'd also frequently checked wines that were only one or two points apart to ensure score integrity. Andrew ripped through his line-up very quickly, making rough notes and awarding points; he then spent much of his time going back and rechecking wines and filling in the gaps; he did this about three times. Either system works just as well, it’s just a matter of personal preference.
Halfway through, we broke for lunch and had some sandwiches; the hour break was most welcome.
After lunch we came back for round two. All the wines had been opened just prior to being poured, so none of them had significant decant times, although those that were tasted in the late afternoon had a better chance to open up. As a result, prior to completing the tasting, we all went back and briefly checked the mornings’ wines again and made some minor fine tuning adjustments where necessary, so it was a level playing field.
Finally, it should be noted that my point scores, on average, were lower than the other three tasters. As mentioned previously, I had been basing them on a modified, and much tougher than normal hundred point scale. As a result, wines that received a gold medal score from me would probably be considered trophy level wines by many; wines that I qualified as silver medal ranking, in many cases would have probably been awarded gold medals and so it goes on. In the overall scheme of things, when all the points were added together and averaged out, it made no difference to the overall rankings of the wines.
A full list of the wines tasted in their tasting order can be found here.
Wine 1 - Corked – what a great way top start! It was unveiled as Tooleen Heathcote Shiraz (made by Dominique Portet.
Wine 2 – was unveiled as Chateau Tanunda 2002 Grand Reserve Shiraz
A brooding, dumb nose with a touch of char but loads of good fruit below; a touch of menthol was also evident. Smooth, almost silky tannins and fresh acid combined with excellent fruit purity to form a muscular-weight wine that is firm, solid and is already showing signs of harmony. The palate has a black nature, with charry oak and blackberry with savoury red and blueberry fruit. Needing time to come together more and build complexity; it stops short of the back palate although the persistence is good. My score 16.1, group score 16.4, group ranking 24th.
Wine 3 – was unveiled as Charles Melton 2002 Shiraz
Bright and vibrant nose (is there a touch of Viognier here?) with lots of earthy notes; very attractive. Strong fruit is driving the wine but the lively acid is distinctly noticeable; it’s well backed by smooth, drying tannins that provide excellent length, but the excellent persistence of the finish shows slightly unripe characters. Muscular-weight with a well developed complexity, it’s easy to drink now and is unlikely to get much better. My score 14.8, group score 16.45, group ranking 23nd.
Wine 4 – was unveiled as Kilikanoon 2002 Oracle Shiraz
A fair whack of menthol on the bouquet but it wasn’t showing much else. Obvious fruit and crisp acid back a firm consistency, solid structure, and an agreeable complexity. Blackberry, aniseed and tar; its savoury in nature but there is some sweetness below. Finishes a bit bitter, but that should fade in time; there is also some green character to the finish and this wine needs some time. Despite these seemly negative comments, it’s a pretty reasonable wine. My score 13.6, group score 15.03, group ranking 39th.
Wine 5 – was unveiled as Turkey Flat 2002 Shiraz
The bouquet was brooding, closed, earthy, and screamed “I am a serious wine.” Smooth, dusty, drying tannins are well matched to the deeply-seated, pure fruit; this is one well balanced and constructed wine. Muscular in weight, it has a firm but supple structure, and a harmonious complexity. A savoury wine with not much sweetness, it showed multiple berry and cherry flavours, finishing to mint. This is a very attractive wine. My score 16.5, group score 16.38, ranking 25th
Wine 6 – was unveiled as Gemtree Uncut 2002 Shiraz
Lifted nose had good complexity and although it appeared to be both safe and well made, it did not have the same class as the previous wines. A “traditional SA Shiraz” in many respects, it showed coffee oak characters, chocolate and tar and whilst it may not be in the same class as some of the others, it’s well constructed and very easy to drink. Medium-weight, complexity is agreeable and the consistency firm. It should improve in the short term. My score 13.6, group score 15.03, group ranking 40th
Wine 7 – was unveiled as Hanging Rock 2002 Heathcote Shiraz
Sweet, ripe fruit is driving the bouquet, but there is some good oak treatment evident too; this is a big wine that is unlikely to be subtle. Muscular-weight with supple consistency; a rock solid structure is provided by the noticeably dusty, smooth tannins and distinct fruit; however the noticeable alcohol seems to make the fruit appear a bit thin; it’s possible this wine is in a hole. Chocolate, black cherries, and mulberry flavours finish with herbal/menthol notes but it does have very good persistence. My score 15.0, group score 16.63, group ranking 19th
Wine 8 – was unveiled as St Halletts 2002 Blackwell Shiraz
An attractive, spicy, chary black nose! Smooth, noticeably dusty tannins and deeply seated fruit delivered a well-balanced, muscular-weight wine that has been well constructed and has an attractive mouth feel. It is firm, solid and tight; the complexity is well developed; spice, coffee and chocolate flavours are very attractive. Showing reasonable complexity already, this is a baby that will be better with another 5 years. My score 16.8, group score 17.2, group ranking 9th
Wine 9 – was unveiled as Blackjack 2002 Block 6 Shiraz
Brooding nose with Soya sauce characters led to a palate with white pepper, spice and plum; it was savoury and off-sweet, finishing with admirable length and persistence. With excellent balance and construction, this was an elegant medium-weight wine with some class; the complexity was refined; I really enjoyed this wine. My score 17.5, group score 17.25, ranking 6th
Wine 10 – was unveiled as Marius 2002 Shiraz
My first notation, after one sniff was “there is something funny about this wine”. Well balanced and structured, the mouth feel is good but the lively acid is noticeable. Smooth, powdery, drying tannins produce a firm but supple consistency; it’s a full-bodied wine that finishes with good length and persistence. Loads of coffee oak dominates the palate but there is enough black fruit to support it and whilst it is undoubtedly a good wine, it would have been better with less oak, although I am willing to bet many others will love it. My score 15.4, group score 14.1, ranking 43rd
Wine 11 – was unveiled as Chateau Leamon 2002 Reserve Shiraz
The bouquet was floral; lifted and attractive. A clean, well-constructed, well-balanced, ample-weight wine, with a supple consistency, solid structure and well-developed harmonious complexity; it's a very drinkable wine but in some ways comes across as being a bit showy. The mouth feel is pleasant and adds to its attractive nature. Chocolate, coffee oak, plum and aniseed finish with reasonable persistence and length. My score 17.2, group score 15.6, ranking 35th
Wine 12 – was unveiled as Bullers 2002 Calliope Shiraz
The bouquet on this wine doesn't want to lift its skirts, but it’s a class act. The pure, deeply-seated, strong fruit and smooth, dusty tannins combined to produce a full-bodied wine that certainly grabs one's attention; it's well-balanced and constructed too. Flavours are into the dark spectrum and show perfect ripeness, finishing with excellent length and persistence. Complexity is well-developed, the structure rock-solid and the wine is already showing signs of harmony; one of the best wines so far, but needs about another five years to show its best. My score 18.0, group score 16.68, ranking 18th
Wine 13 – was unveiled as Shaw and Smith 2002 M3 Shiraz
The wine showed a touch of VA and was possibly a bit dirty. Silky-smooth tannins and deeply seated fruit produced both good balance and a good mouth feel. Blackberry and candy cane flavours finished with herbal notes. An ample-weight wine with a supple consistency and harmonious structure are all positive attributes, but there was something about this wine that I didn't like and couldn't put my finger on. My score 14.4, group score 15.35, ranking 36th
Red Dog paying attention to his master ……..
Wine 14 – was unveiled as Morris 2002 Shiraz
A bright, floral bouquet showing some coffee oak characters. Ample-weight, with a supple consistency, solid structure and a well-developed, harmonious complexity, this is a very drinkable wine. Smooth tannins combine with fresh acid and pure, deeply seated fruit to produce a well-balanced wine with a good mouth feel. Loads of coffee, leather, blackberry, blackcurrant, and spice provide excellent complexity. My score 17.3, group score 16.8, ranking 14th
Wine 15 – was unveiled as Voyager Estate 2002 Shiraz
Not a good look; it showed obvious signs of Brett which were replicated on the palate leaving the wine with a metallic finish. Ample-weight with a supple consistency and solid structure this wine did not show well. My score 13.5, group score 13.75, ranking 46th
Wine 16 – was unveiled as Torbreck 2002 The Struie
The bouquet was loaded with Brett! Silky-smooth tannins combined with distinct, pure, deeply seated fruit that produced a lovely mouth feel and an excellent balance that was unfortunately destroyed by the Brett. Muscular-weight with a supple consistency and the solid structure, I could have cried when this wine was unveiled. My score of 13.4, group score 15.05, ranking 38 th
Wine 17 – was unveiled as Kaesler 2002 Old Vine Shiraz
A clean, attractive fruit driven bouquet with coffee oak influences. Smooth, drying tannins and deeply seated fruit combine to produce a well-balanced and constructed wine with a good mouth feel; this is a wine of obvious quality and will no doubt improve over the next five years. Muscular-weight with a firm but supple consistency, it still manages to show some elegance and has a well-developed complexity. Loads of fruit, but it's great fruit; blackberry, black chocolate, and tar its off-sweet. So far, for my money the best wine in the line-up. My score 18.0, group score 17.38, ranking 5th
Wine 18 – was unveiled as Gnadenfrei 2002 St Michaels Shiraz
Initially this wine opened with unattractive H2S but with some airtime this blew off to reveal an abundance of attractive floral notes, and loads of spice with some herbal influences. Well-balanced with smooth, dusty, drying tannins and deep, concentrated fruit that finishes with excellent persistence. A muscular-weight wine that is well-balanced with a firm consistency, solid structure and well-developed complexity, it is youthful, fresh and attractive. Intensely savoury, with loads of pepper and violets there appears to be some shaded fruit characters evident, but this does not detract from the wine. Excellent power for its weight. My score 17.2, group score 16.8, ranking 15th
Wine 19 – was unveiled as Warrabilla 2002 Parolas Shiraz
An inky black wine with a big alcoholic nose. Needing time to show its best, strong, deeply-seated fruit and smooth, dusty tannins combined to form a full-bodied wine with a firm consistency, solid but tight structure and well-developed complexity. There is nothing subtle about this wine; it slams the tongue with aniseed, blackberry, chocolate and spice. My score 16.8, group score 17.58, ranking 4th. It should be noted, Brian rated the wine at 16.9, Lawry at 17.6 and Andrew at 19.0 and although Andrew (the winemaker’s) score is higher than the rest of us, even if his score is removed the wine would have come in at 13th place, which is a very reasonable result amongst this very strong line-up.
Wine 20 – was unveiled as Plantagenet 2002 Shiraz
The aroma of this wine was not "exactly flash" with under-ripe characters seem to be poking through on the bouquet. Smooth tannins and distinct fruit combined to form a medium-weight wine with a supple consistency and solid structure; it was an easy-drinking wine with a good mouth feel. Pepper, spice, a touch of aniseed; it finished with a distinct green edge and the heat was noticeable. My score 13.0, group score 14.0, ranking 45th
Wine 21 – was unveiled as Skillogalee 2002 Shiraz
The bouquet of this wine was slightly cheesy. Smooth, silky tannins combined with balanced acid and obvious fruit to produce a medium-weight wine with a good mouth feel. The structure was almost seamless and the complexity agreeable, however on the palate it seemed lacking in weight, a touch herbal and exhibited some unripe fruit characters. My score 13.8, group score 14.63, ranking 41st
Wine 22 – was unveiled as Mount Ida 2002 Shiraz
Sawdusty, earthy bouquet with a touch of varnished oak; silky tannins and obvious fruit combined to form a well-balanced wine with a good mouth feel that could best be described as an easy-drinking crowd pleaser. Although there was nothing overtly wrong with it, this wine didn't appear to be in the same class as the others. My score 14.8, group score 15.7, ranking 30th
Wine 23 – was unveiled as Charles Cimicky 2002 Reserve Shiraz
The bouquet shows spice with some slightly raw oak characters. Tannins are silky smooth and provide a soft consistency, seamless structure and harmonious complexity. Ample-weight, this easy-drinking red is not a great wine but it is greatly enjoyable. Very-sweet fruit on the uptake with loads of contrasting, of sweet and spicy nuances; it's more than just a crowd pleaser. My score 15.2, group score 17.23, ranking 8th
Wine 24 – was unveiled as Summerfield 2002 Reserve Shiraz
An inky black wine, it’s full-bodied and perfectly balanced; maintaining a sexy mouth feel from the silky tannins, there is also great viscosity on the palate. Super-smooth on the uptake, blackberry, black pepper, chocolate, and black coffee flavours finish with good persistence and whilst there is some heat evident, it is manageable. Consistency is supple and fleshy, structure solid and the complexity harmonious: overall a very bloody attractive wine. My score 17.5, group score 16, ranking 28th. This is a wine that polarised the group as Brian rated it at 18.5 but both Andrew and Lawry gave it 14.0 In discussions after the tasting had concluded, Andrew thought it was suffering from Brett, but neither Brian or I could see it.
Wine 25 - was unveiled as Stanton and Killeen 2002 Jacks Block
A cheesy, sweaty nose that was not attractive. There is some good fruit that has been wrecked by something, not sure if it is defective or a winemaking fault. My score of 13.0, group score 14.1, ranking 44th
Wine 26 - was unveiled as Rockford 2002 Basket Press Shiraz
The bouquet was dominated by VA, earthy notes, coffee and plum. Smooth, dusty tannins, crisp acid and distinct fruit combined to form a well-structured, muscular-weight wine with a firm consistency, solid structure and agreeable complexity. It's easy to drink now, but should soften and gain complexity with time, turning into something pretty good. A ripe mouthful of sweet fruit on the uptake is beautifully offset with a river of spicy, off-sweet nuances running below. My score 15.0, group score 16.25, ranking 26th
Wine 27 - was unveiled as Shingleback 2002 The Gate Shiraz
A dark nose, there's lots going on here including a fair whack of oak but the wine has a slight cheesy character to it. Unobtrusive, smooth tannins provide a solid backbone and combine with loads of deeply-seated, distinct fruit to produce a well-balanced wine where nothing sticks out. Muscular-weight; the complexity is well developed and the wine is harmonious and easy to drink now. There is a little distraction to the quality mulberry, chocolate and spicy flavours from the slightly cheesy character which comes through on the palate; I'm not sure if this wine is 100% sound. My score 15.5, group score 15.63, ranking 33rd
Wine 28 - was unveiled as Balthazar 2002 Of The Barossa Shiraz
Plum, menthol and vanillin oak are all obvious on the bouquet. Ample-weight with a firm consistency, solid structure and agreeable level of complexity, the wine is well backed by supple tannins. Plum, chocolate, and coffee flavours finish with a slightly bitter, metallic note and there is a touch of green character if you examine the wine closely. My score 14.4, group score 16.9, ranking 13th. My ranking was far lower than anybody else's.
Wine 29 - was unveiled as Sevenhill 2002 Shiraz
The bouquet shows spice, pepper, with loads of lifted menthol and mint. Ample-weight with a supple consistency, solid structure and simple complexity this wine is probably lost in this line up, as there is nothing wrong with it. The mouth feel is good. Mint, plum coffee and chocolate flavours are bright and attractive. My score 13.7, group score 14.43, ranking 42nd
Wine 30 - was unveiled as Mitchelton 2002 Print Series Shiraz
A brooding, black nose with some lift to the perfumed aromatics, it’s showing earthy mushroom compost characters. A hugely drying, puckering tannic wine, there is a truckload of flavour to balance this powerful beast that needs at least five more years to show its best. Full-bodied with a firm consistency, solid structure and well developed complexity, it is a veritable baby but it is difficult to enjoy at this point in time. Loads of mouth-filling blackberry, black chocolate, coffee and a slightly bitter finish that should recede in time, there is a slight green flavour ( it's not an unripe characteristic) on the finish too. My score or 15.4, group score 16.6 ranking 20th
Wine 31 - was unveiled as Warrabilla 2002 Reserve Shiraz
The big, brooding nose that was tight but showed lifted alcohol. Deeply-seated, strong fruit delivered plum and blackberry; the fruit showed slightly stewed characters. Full-bodied with a solid structure and simple complexity. My score 14.2, group score 16.55, ranking 21st. Brian rated the wine 16.0, Lawry rated it 16.5 and Andrew rated his wine 19.5, which was higher than he rated his own Parolas. By comparison, in the interests of being scrupulously fair, if his score is removed, the wine would average 15.56 and would have be ranked 36th
Wine 32 - was unveiled as Katnook 2002 Shiraz
The bouquet was slightly pongy showing tinned vegetable characters. Smooth tannins, balanced acid and obvious fruit combined to form an ample-weight wine with a supple consistency, open structure and simple complexity. The wine has a good mouth feel and well-managed tannins. Plum, chocolate and other yummy flavours were marred by a green/vegetable finish. My score 14.8, group score 15.58, ranking 35th
Wine 33 - was unveiled as Tatiarra 2002 Heathcote Shiraz
An attractive, perfumed, fruity bouquet delivered loads of fruity characters to the palate, but they were overshadowed by the oak on the mid palate and the finish. The blackberry and coffee flavours were intense. Abundant drying, smooth, powdery tannins combined with strong, deeply seated fruit to deliver a muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency, solid structure and an agreeable complexity. There is nothing subtle about the flavour profile but the balance is good. The wine didn't do much for me, but I'm sure other people would find it very attractive. My score 15.5, group score 16.25, ranking 27th
Wine 34 - was corked which was a shame as it was the St Hallett 2002 Old Block Shiraz
Wine 35 - was unveiled as Olivers Taranga 2002 Shiraz
An inky black nose showing slightly lifted alcohol with mushroom oak characters. A big wine, but it's well-balanced with concentrated, strong fruit and drying tannins. This wine really needed more time to breath and open up. Blackberry, plum, coffee, and black chocolate flavours slowly build on the palate and fill the mouth completely and keep going into the next week. This wine certainly sticks out in a crowd and I really liked it. My rating 17.5, group rating 16.73, ranking 17th
Feeding ALL the Staff ............
Wine 36 - was unveiled as Bannockburn 2002 Shiraz
The bouquet grabs one's attention with floral, perfumed fruit which jumps out of the glass but there is clearly loads of Brett too. Smooth, dusty tannins, fresh acid and pure vibrant fruit provide great balance for this muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency, rock-solid structure and sophisticated complexity. Flavours build slowly across the palate filling the mouth brilliantly but the wine is marred by a steely finish. It is a class above many of the others and whilst it is drinking well now it will improve; such a shame about the Brett. My rating 15.0, group rating 15.13, ranking 37th
Wine 37 - was unveiled as Kaesler 2002 Old Bastard Shiraz
The exceptional quality of this wine was obvious from the first sniff. Loads of dusty, drying tannins combined with deeply-seated distinct fruit to produce a solid very well-made wine. Consistency is supple, the structure is solid and whilst the wine is drinking well now, it needs time and has terrific potential. It's a big-a rich wine with fantastic intensity showing blackberry, chocolate and oh so much more; it has excellent length and persistence. My rating 18.5, group rating 18.25, ranking 2nd
Wine 38 - was unveiled as d’Arenberg 2002 Dead Arm Shiraz
A big brooding bouquet, this is a class act. Silky, dusty tannins combine with sensational quality fruit to form a perfectly balanced wine of standout quality. Full-bodied with a supple consistency, solid, seamless structure and well developed complexity, the palate is slammed by mouth-numbing tannins, but the sensational fruit is up to the task. My rating 18.5, group rating 17.13, ranking 12th
Wine 39 - was unveiled as Clarendon Hills 2002 Liandra Shiraz
There is something very suspicious about this wine, the bouquet is loaded with H2S. On the palate I found to be overly confected, too sweet, out of balance, and the flavour profile jarring. My rating 12.5, group rating 13.13, ranking 47th
Wine 40 - was unveiled as Tin Shed 2002 Single Wire Shiraz
A fruit driven wine with a sweet, confected bouquet; there are enough silky tannins to hold the wine together for the short to medium term. Medium-weight with a supple consistency, almost seamless structure and harmonious complexity, it drinks well now and is a great crowd pleaser. Mulberry/brambly fruit finishes with reasonable persistence with a bitter apricot kernel flavour and touch of herbs. There could be a touch of unripe character to the wine. My rating 16.5, group rating 16.75, ranking 16th
Wine 41 - was unveiled as Jones 2002 L.J. Shiraz
I wasn't sure about the soundness of this wine it appeared to have a lot going for it but the lively acid tended to stick out from the, quality intense fruit and well-judged silky tannins. Ample-weight with a firm consistency, solid structure and agreeable complexity; it was very sweet on the uptake with a river of sweetness running through the wine but the offsetting acid does not seem right. My rating 16.8, group rating 17.2, ranking 10th
…….. Talking about a (small) “closet scientist”
Wine 42 - was unveiled as Journeys End 2002 Arrival Shiraz
A seriously enjoyable wine with an excellent mouth feel, the pure, deeply-seated strong fruit combines with loads of smooth, drying tannins to form a full-bodied solidly-structured wine that is almost seamless, and has a well-developed harmonious complexity and silky consistency. Blackberry, tar and aniseed flavours provide Mack truck pulling capacity that powers the flavours all the way through the palate. My rating 18.5, group rating 17.25, ranking 7th
Wine 43 - was unveiled as Glaetzer 2002 Shiraz
A lovely-drinkable wine, the ripe fruit is not as rich as many others. Ample-weight with a supple consistency and harmonious complexity, there is some subtlety to this wine, which is especially attractive to a jaded palate. It is tight and shows some elegance. My rating 17.1, group rating 16.48, ranking 22nd
Wine 44 - was corked, it was unveiled as Mr Riggs 2002 Shiraz
Wine 45 - was unveiled as Brown Bros 2002 Patricia Shiraz
This is a serious wine. Smooth, tightly-grained tannins combine with pure, pristine fruit that build slowly across the palate and loiters around for ages; it has an excellent power to weight ratio. Loads of high-quality oak is well matched to the savoury fruit; it exhibits perfect ripeness into the blue spectrum rather than black spectrum flavours. Full-bodied, it has a supple consistency, a tight almost seamless structure and well-developed harmonious complexity. This is a standout wine. My rating 18.7, group rating 18.13, ranking 3rd. As I had never been a great fan of Brown Bros wines, I was gob smacked when this was unveiled.
Wine 46 - was unveiled as Maxwell 2002 Ellen Street Shiraz
The wine exhibited very unusual perfumed characters. It is well constructed, clean, well-made and maintains a tight rope balance, but like most grey suit wines, I found it boring. My rating 14.8, group rating 15.7, ranking 31st
Wine 47 - was unveiled as Tatiarra 2002 Trademark Shiraz
I found this wine to be a bit harsh, almost rough and unbalanced but the fruit is good. The consistency is firm, the structure solid but slightly disjointed and the complexity simple. The others thought more of it than I did. My rating 13.0, group rating 16.0 ranking 29th
Wine 48 - was unveiled as Coriole 2002 Lloyds Shiraz
Attractive floral violet aromas led to a palate that exhibited very ripe fruit that was dominated by coffee oak, blackberry, plum more coffee and a touch of herbs. Deep, strong fruit combines with smooth tannins to form an ample-weight wine with a supple consistency, solid structure and well-developed complexity. My rating 15.8, group rating 15.7, ranking 32nd
Wine 49 - was unveiled as Barossa Valley Estate 2002 E & E Black Pepper Shiraz
Very intense fruit is responsible for the excellent complexity of the bouquet. This is a classy wine, with an excellent mouth feel. It’s seductive and is driven by deep, pure fruit that is well matched to smooth tannins. An excellent flavour profile of blackberry, plum and coffee finishes with good length. Muscular-weight, the consistency is supple, the structure already seamless and the complexity both well-developed and harmonious. This was my top wine of the tasting and rated 18.7, group rating 18.75 and it was the group's top wine also.
Wine 50 - was unveiled as Leibichwein 2002 The Darkie Shiraz
A big, full-bodied wine with loads of the oak tannins, the fruit is strong and deeply-seated. Plum, blackberry and chocolate combine to form a good flavour profile and whilst the wine needs time I am not sure if there is enough fruit for the oak in the longer term. Full-bodied, the consistency is firm, the structure solid, the complexity agreeable and the mouth feel good. My rating 16.5, group rating 17.15, ranking in 11th
A full list of the wines in result order can be found here.
When the covers came off the bags, there were some very interesting surprises, as well as a few shocks. At one particular point, I got to one wine that was exceptionally boring and thought that has got to be “Wine X” (which I had not tasted previously) – well I was wrong. Wine X turned out to be one of the best wines in the tasting, it was anything but boring. By the same token, some wines that I had expected to show very well did not show well at all. That's why tastings like this are so useful, they are a great leveller; no preconceived ideas, no influence from the label and all you can do is judge what is in the glass in front of you.
The following chart shows the distribution of "medal" scores. (Thanks to Glen Green for providing the idea for this chart and to Brian for completing it.)
Andrew, Lawry and Brian “doing” the numbers …
Although we encountered a number of corked bottles, the real disappointment was with the number of bottles that showed Bretty characteristics or winemaking faults. Some of the wines were highly Bretty and a few of them probably had minor amounts of Brett, but even at low levels they were potential time bombs.
From a personal perspective, the greatest disappointment was the Torbreck The Struie. This is not an inexpensive wine, and Brian and I both purchased six packs. Torbreck has had a reputation in the past for producing low end wines with Brett, but if The Struie turns out to be a Brett bomb, it will certainly damage their reputation, and they will clearly need a plan of action to minimise the damage. As an aside, I contacted Andrew Guard from Torbreck on a number of occasions asking him to see if this was a one off bottle, or if it was a problem through the batch, and despite promises of action, and follow up emails by me, nothing has happened, which is not a good sign. Burying their head in the sand and hoping it will go away, is not a good plan of action, as if the batch is Bretty, it will only exacerbate the problem and ensure continuing bad press.
One thing that became potently obvious during this tasting, to some extent, is cause for concern. Far too many of them reeked of coffee oak characters and a very ripe blackberry flavours. When you weighed your way through such a large line-up of wines like this, and see so many of them with these two characteristics, you can well and truly understand why so many Americans think that all Australian wines taste the same. Certainly many of these wines had similar characteristics even though they came from different regions. It is interesting to note, that many of these wines that exhibited coffee characteristics had been aged in high-quality, medium to high-toast, tightly-grained American oak.
Although this tasting was hard work, it certainly was a fantastic experience and one I look forward to doing again in the future.
After a hard day of the tasting, a good dinner was in order and Brian and I decided to go to Beaumont's. History has proved that this is the best restaurant in the area and on this occasion, as expected, both the food and the service were as expected.
For an entree, I had Moroccan chicken cakes served on a bed of Tabouli with guacamole which was 100% authentic in terms of its Moroccan flavour profile. Brian had a Thai beef curry salad, which he thought was first-rate; it had an authentic flavour balance (once the extra fresh chilli was included), something that is not always found in many locally prepared Thai dishes. For a main course, Brian had a Moroccan goat curry, which I tasted, and it was excellent; maintaining flavour intensity and integrity, once again it was 100% authentic. I ordered a rare eye of fillet steak and unfortunately when I cut into it, it was beyond a rare; it was almost raw. Whilst I don't mind rare steak, even blue steak, I don't like a raw two inch hunk of meat. One of the tests of a good restaurant is how they handle situations like these and Beaumont's passed with flying colours. No fuss was made, the plate was quickly removed, and in record time a fresh one appeared, and this time it was cooked to perfection. The sauce accompanying it was superb. Unfortunately, once again Beaumont's left us far to full for dessert, but I had a real yearning for some good old-fashioned ice cream, so after a fantastic meal, we headed up the road to the greasy spoon (where we had started the day with breakfast) and luckily they were still open, and sold scoops of ice cream in cones. Just what the doctor ordered.
After a slow walk back to the motel it was to bed; and so ended a fantastic day of tasting and this chapter of the tour diary. Chapter 2 will be far shorter and will be finished next week.
Copyright © Ric Einstein 2006
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