|3 x Hunter reds. Heritage label looking good front and centre.|
Even in the pampered world of wine scribes, it's a rare occasion indeed that someone opens a famous 50 year old (and some) bottle of Australian red.
That's why I was more than a little excited when the bottle of 1954 Tulloch Pokolbin Dry Red, pictured further below, surfaced at a wine show judges dinner last year. Excited to be tasting a piece of Australian vinous history (and a highly regarded one at that - it won the first prize for 'Claret', first prize for 'Burgundy' and 'Best Red Wine of Show' at the Royal Sydney Wine Show in 1956).
Happily, wonderfully, the wine didn't disappoint either, still carrying enough mid weight, earthen, red-fruit-and-red-dirt Hunteriffic flavours to make it enjoyable.
On the back of that experience (which remains etched in my mind) it is rather satisfying to see that the same DNA appears to be alive and well in these new Tulloch red releases too. The Private Bin in particular has the same elemental structure as the 54 and thus really should evolve in the same fashion.
Speaking of history, the Tulloch 'Pokolbin Dry Red' label itself was awarded the 2012 Heritage Award at the recent Hunter Valley Legends Awards, the award given in recognition of the historical significance of the label itself.
Perhaps the only challenge with wines like this is that, in an Australian wine context, these mid-weight 'Hunter Burgundy' styled reds aren't going to be loved by all. Fair enough too. Skip along if you think that Shiraz must be 'inky' to satisfy (and I say that without condescension).
Personally I love the emphasis on freshness, evenness and vibrancy that such bright low alcohol styles show and this may well colour my judgement. You be the judge.
Like many 2010 reds I think this ranges shows a little dilution and a pre-release sample (tasted post-Legends dinner last week) of the '11 Private Bin shows exactly that. 2010 is still a reasonable vintage for the region, though very much a 'before the rain'/'after the rain'/'we picked at the start of the rain' sort of affair.
(I've put the barrel sample tasting in italics. Barrel samples belong in italics methinks).
Tulloch Pokolbin Dry Red Shiraz 2010
pH 3.35 TA 7.3 Alc 13.2% $25
This 2010 iteration marks the ninth release of the reinvigorated label. Pretty classic looking wine it is this vintage too...
Limpid red cherry and brambles on the nose. Regional and representative, a dash of ethyl acetate volatiles. Earthen, medium bodied palate looks vaguely herbal and carries seriously high acidity. For its mode it's a very able wine with light cherry fruit and plenty of it. Perhaps lacking a little persistence but certainly attractive enough, finishing with light tannins and freshness. Will develop well. 16.8/89+
Tulloch Pokolbin Dry Red 'Private Bin' Shiraz 2010
pH 3.31 TA 7.6 12.8% $50
Now something of a commemorative release (which may or may not mea, named after a famous Tulloch family member. Older vines, newer oak and more in this wine. Shows it too.
A more lifted and prettier wine than the 'standard Pokolbin Dry Red with an extra lift of red cherry fruit and a twist of herbs, with some red raspberries and a little playdoh oak to sweeten things up. Attractive nose.
The palate then balances slightly sweet, balsamic edged cherry fruit with that pronounced acidity. It all looks like a work in progress actually, lots of acidity but not enough love. Acidity, light tannins, plenty of polish and life but a work in progress. Hunter Burgundy aplenty. I want more (and I think it will come too). 17.5/91++
Tulloch Pokolbin Dry 'Private Bin' Red 2011 (Barrel Sample)
This was tasted last week at a little comparison tasting of new vintage reds and whites and is still 18 months (at least) off release. 2011 was a great vintage for Hunter reds, with the cold and wet conditions that much of SA and Vic experienced only lasting up until December in the Hunter, with very dry conditions continuing into March. The only other impediment being a February heatwave that led to some dessication. The best wines are very bright and vibrant indeed, this notably so.
A lovely juicy style this one. Oak sticks out a fraction (but it's a barrel sample). Length is great. Successfully balances red fruit juiciness with longer fine tannins. Such brightness and richness for the Hunter! Delicious wine in the classic Tulloch mid-weight mould. (18.5)
|Tulloch 1954 Private Bin. Magic,|
pH 3.31 TA 7.6 Alc 12.9% $40 cellar door.
Includes some Petit Verdot from Rylstone in the blend. A curious addition but can't argue with the results. A much fuller and more modern sort of wine than the Private Bin though not necessarily better. Smart or messing with that Hunter elegance?
You can most see that sturdiness in the tannins actually, which gives grip and weight through the finish. Otherwise it's a classic Hunter red but with a hint of blackberry over that red dirt fruit. Satisfying sort of red I think. 17.6/92
Tulloch Pokolbin Dry Red 'Private Bin' 1954
Kindly provided by Nick Bulleid and brought along to a judges dinner post NSW Wine Awards. The label is torn but the wine itself was in top condition with reasonable levels.
Terracotta red colour. Rich nose. Bacon bits and mushroom development. Still quite thick and red fruited. Smoky sort of overtones. Really quite silken palate though acid is rising uip on the back. Still has that briary, dark red earth sort of Hunter flavours and mid weight sort of red fruit. Still rather drinkable purely due to that red fruit loveliness. A legend...(Don't think I can rate this really).