Westend Durif - even better than you think
14.5%, Screwcap, $25
It often surprises me how many well-known wine industry folk are teetotallers. It seems such a juxtaposition to be working around such a sensorial product whilst having no intimate connection yourself. It's like painting with no paint or setting up a bread shop even though you're gluten intolerant.
That's the story with Westend Estate though, the winery still run by by non-drinker Bill Calabria, a gentleman who epitomises the sort of hardworking, I'll-make-it-work-if-it-kills-me migrant settler ethos that made Griffith one of the epicentres of Australian wine production (an epicentre? With the headquarters of Casella, De Bortoli, McWilliams and the like all calling Griffith home, it is one oft overlooked powerhouse).
What is most interesting about this Durif is that it's effectively been declared by Bill and his children (who are gradually inheriting the business) as Westend Estate's 'Hero Variety' - a grape/style that Bill & co think works particularly well in sunny, flat Griffith. After recently checking out 10 vintages of the Westend Durif I rather agree too.
Actually, given its relative stature (as a little heralded grape, from a region known for volume not quality) and pricepoint ($25), this is one surprisingly structured and age-worthy wine, the vertical showing that with aplomb. The 2003 Durif, in particular, has a structure and form that is anything but by-the-numbers Riverina wine.
This 2010 vintage Durif stood out in that vertical for its quality too, easily the best wine of recent years and especially so given the quite reductive and odd early screwcap years of the mid noughties.The joy, again, is all about a richness without excessive sweetness, that savoury intensity, if cast in warm climate generosity.
Like most Durifs, this wine is dark in colour and dark in nature. The nose initially is all heavy toast oak over dark berry fruit leading to a dry, savoury, chocolate and coal driven palate with thick, firm grained tannins. Those tannins are a centrepiece of this wine actually, giving depth and an extra layer of class that propels it from just another simply wine. The oak is a bit dominant perhaps, but underneath this is quite vital and very well made wine (little surprise considering then that Westend's winemaker Brian Currie is a finalist in this years GT Wine Winemakers of the Year).
Lots to like really. 17.8/92