It's another less detailed note this one, of a wine that is more of a fine representation of the Summerfield house style than a great wine, worthy more for its style and context than its absolute fineness.
The context in question is centred around the Summerfield family, one of those revered multi generational operations that our wine industry is built upon: Blood, sweat and tears style winemakers who live and breathe their land and their wines. The Summerfield version of this wine story is now 30 years strong, with their success focused on an unwavering desire to craft one thing only - glorious full flavoured red wines. It's a desire that, judging purely by how quickly the wines sell out, must be producing results - the current 07 release, for instance is largely gone, with the 08's barely in bottle yet. Just check out the frequency of 'Sold Out' on this order form.
For me personally, my experiences with Summerfield have been brief - the odd encounter with the very black, rich and textural Summerfield wines have been good, but decidedly few and far between. Even tonight I wouldn't have called a stop at the Summerfield stand a priority, but that was until having a chat with Mark Summerfield himself.
Mark, and his family, are in a unique position. They, unlike many in the industry, don't have to work too hard to sell the wines. Rather, the quality is so good, that the loyal mailing list customers, combined with the Cellar Door and a small trickle of exports and retail sales, snaffle up nearly every Summerfield morsel available, leaving them in the enviable position of not having to sell their wines (and their souls) to anyone they don't want to.
It's not a situation bad eh? But I asked then why then would he be at a wine trade show/fair tonight? Showing a range of wines that are basically sold out to a bunch of drunks?
It's all about the future. With two excellent vintages on the way, and plenty of wine to sell from both of them, he figures that if he gets out and shows the trade/consumers just how good the Summerfield wines are, that when the (even better!) 08 vintage is released, he should already have built up some enough momentum to (hopefully) lead to them finding a place in even more homes at a faster pace than ever before. By similarly touring the 08's around at tastings nation (and world) wide, he figures that the 2009 wines should thud basically sell themselves.
It's a long term strategy that (arguably) only family winemakers can pull off, but it also reflects smart business practises, coupled with an unquestioning confidence in how damn good your wines are. And, tasting how consistently good the 2006 & 2007 vintage wines are, I don't think he will have any trouble selling them. Indeed, he had wine scribe Ralph Kyte Powell in the barrel hall last week, and told him that 'you can taste from absolutely any barrel of 08 vintage reds. They are all that good'
Confidence indeed. But I don't blame him. The 07 'Medley' is still available (though not much left according to Mark) and it has to be one of the most genuinely impressive $25 wines I have had this year. It would easily put many $50 examples to shame, such is the convincing intensity and depth at hand, yet it is still the 'entry level' wine for the Estate. What's more, each and every wine in that 07 lineup is a stunner (if you like the style of course) and the $47 (less 10% for those on the mailing list) sum for the Reserve wines is actually genuinely good value - again a rarity for wines $40+ a bottle.
In the end though,he doesn't need me to talk up his wines. They will all ultimately sell themselves on simply how consistently good they are.
Summerfield Reserve Shiraz 2000
There is a distinctive house style about these wines that appeals deeply to me, yet I could also see how they could be a turnoff. This is, like all of them, an intensely rich, ripe, and full bodied wine. Unequivocally full bodied and ripe. This ABV Nazi though really doesn't find them hot or raisined or overripe, which is somewhat rare. Nor do I find them intensely oaky, even though oak plays a significant part in their genetic makeup. Rather, like many central Victorian Shiraz, it is the richness of texture that I find appealing. It is a richness that also draws me to the various Best's Shirazes, along with those of Greg Clayfield and the older Seppelt's. It is a richness to me that represents the very best of Australian Shiraz. And I love it.
This 2000 then takes this richness and mixes it with the first gameyness of age. The sweet chocolatey black fruit core is there, but so is the overtones of meat and leather and spice, with licorice for good measure. Whilst the palate is just starting to peak and is really softening, it is the kick of tannins that help to propel this beyond just another 9 year old red.
The overall effect is of a wine that is quintessentially Summerfield in style, but with a feral edge, a wine that is probably not brilliant, but just reminds how bloody consistent these wines are. And thats where the significance lies for me - it is this notable consistency, apart from anything else, that is ultimately the key to Summerfield's success. 18
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