Australia’s First Families of Wine – a family snapshot
|The 12 family members + next generation. Photo from AFFW website|
‘1200 years of wine industry experience’.
That was the brief for an event held in Sydney recently, an event that brought together the principals from 12 of (arguably) Australia’s most important family owned (established) wineries, with the combined wine industry experience from those principals over 1200 years.
Whichever way you look at it that is an impressive statistic, a powerful statistic that suggests that this group has the potential – if they can coordinate things effectively – to change the view of Australian wine internationally.
The way these 12 wineries (and wine families) can do this is not just by presenting their wines, but by presenting their personalities. Amongst these 12 families there are enough characters, enough stories and enough divergent viewpoints to be able to convince even the most sceptical wine critic that Australian wineries have something to offer.
At this particular event the emphasis was as much on the stories (and the wines), as it was on another trump card that these producers have to offer – the clever ‘generation next’ that will be following in the principals footsteps. These ‘next genners’ – the children that will be taking over from their parents – are as good representatives as their parents are, presenting contemporary views and contemporary wines to help reinforce their belief that the future of Australian wine is family wineries.
With the quality of wines on offer at this particular event, there was no doubting that this is a pretty compelling notion too…
I tried my best to both listen out for choice quotes whilst tasting the wines but the wines largely won. Limited notes in italics. Notes are largely as written on the day.
Howard Park Riesling 2006 (Great Southern)
Geoff Burch – ‘From a very cool season in the region’.
Gentle lime toast. Gentle. Soft sort of wine on the palate in a ripe mould. Flash of late acidity. Does the generous style very well with just a smidgen of added acidity. Rather tasty. 17.7/20 92/100
Mcwilliams Mt Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Phil Ryan on just how hard the Lovedale site is – ‘Lovedale used to be an airstrip used in the second world war’. ‘The land is so poor that rabbits carried lunch boxes’
Classic sort of nose. Green fruit meets soft toasty bottle oak but with a very primary green apple punch. Lots of latent power for a riper style. Big fruit and intensity sits underneath. Serious lemon/lime sherbet power. Sherbety edge something of a ripe year note. Length is outstanding – it just goes on and on. Long and bristling with acidity. Maybe added? Is it too bulky? Very generous in its mould but backs it up. 18.5/20 94/100
Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Big glass really helps this. Has quite a deal of rough oak but also that lovely banana pie sort of Vat 47 style. Ballsy and powerful but perhaps a bit gruff. Alcoholic too. Retains acidity but gritty citrus acid. Will need quite a while to really come together. Powerful beast though. 17.3/20 90/100
Brown Bros Patricia Merlot 2004 (Pyrenees & Beechworth, Vic)
Ross Bown, on regional characers ‘The Pyrenees and Beechworth have both been identified for their great Merlot capabilities.’
Certainly the least wine in this lineup. Mint/eucalypt aplenty. Slightly stewed perhaps, choc mint and tannins. Structured but also a bit stewed for mine, the fruit missing in action. 15.8/20 86/100
|Hello birth year wine!|
Taylor’s St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (Clare Valley, SA)
Mitchell Taylor, on the history of Clare Cabernet ‘Inspired by Mouton Rothschild, the Taylor’s were first ridiculed for planting Cabernet. The 1973 was the first wine and won two trophies across the country’.
Looks spicy and leafy and correct. Lovely cedar nose. Defined. Open. Clare mint. Seriously minty palate has richness to match those tannins. Nice mid palate (as Mitchell looks for). Lovely generosity but contained, with sweetness. Rough, blocky tannins. Workmanlike but very real. Excellent Clare Cab. 18/20 93/100
Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 1981 (Nagambie Lakes, Goulburn Valley, Victoria)
Apparently this Alistair Purbrick made a contract with his father that this wine wouldn’t make it past it’s 10th birthday. He won a 1930s penny on that reputation and still has it to this day.
Brown ruby colour. Clear edges. Fully developed baked earth nose. Not much fruit left but would have been a rather tannic sort of a beast in its youth. Treacle and dirt. Nice richness still left and seriously dry, dirt stuck to the top of your mouth tannins. Still pleasurable, perhaps because its a birth year wine? 16.8/20 89/100
D’arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2005 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Chester Osborn – ‘2005 was a red year, not a dark fruit year’ Chester Osborn
So much sweetness here. Sweetness of oak, sweetness of fruit. Probably too much oak? All mid palate. I feel this to be a bit big and overt and overly dense for mine but also a little condensed. Quite forward too. Not strictly my favoured style but it deserved acclaim for its power. 16.5/20 88/100
Yalumba Reserve Cabernet Shiraz 2002 (Barossa, SA)
Robert Hill Smith MW ‘Shiraz used to fill in the Cabernet donut. The beauty here is the persistance’
Eucalypt. Lots of eucalypt, regal cedary Cab underneath if minty. Dry and spirity sort of palate. Is this the best bottle? Looks structured and superbly tannic but also too minty? Very backwards. I don’t think this was a representative bottle. Classy but odd. 17/20 90/100++
Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 2006 (Clare Valley, SA)
Peter Barry ‘Straight people don’t have the same complexity as those who are curved’… ‘Armagh is surprisingly the first vineyard to ripen’… ‘3 weeks on skins needed’.
Super powered nose. Liquid treacle. Volatile. Incredibly sweet and luscious, a wine of ridiculous concentration and sweetness and alcohol, but it has this caramel, liquid treacle Viscosity. It feels… Right. There is such caramel sweetness but also much loveliness of liquid blackberry. A wine of whiskey like spirit but still has a place. I love that blackness. 18.6/20 94/100
Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2005 (Eden Valley, SA)
An early, warm and quick vintage for Henschke.
Woah. Intrigue. Fennel and spice. Much fennel. Mint and blackberry and meat too. Super intriguing nose. Just a smidgen raisined. Real graphite character to it. Minty, black jube and subliminal gravelly sort of character. Just a fraction warm? Super complex expression though. Love the cuts of mint through the middle. Has presence. Superb wine. 18.7/20 95/100
De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2006 (Riverina, NSW)
Marmalade. Orange juice. Dark colours too. Such intense sweetness! Anything but Sauternes. Sugar juice. Nice but a simple wine. Overtly sweet.
Campbells Merchant Prince Muscat NV (Rutherglen, Vic)
Ahhh. Like coming home. Super intense caramel coffee mocha fruit. Wonderous intensity and freshness. Very chocolatey and super sweet but with such viscosity. Lingers with a thick grained sort of chocolatey palate. Wonderful. Best I have seen it looking too. 19.3/20 97/100
McWilliams Leontine Chardonnay 2011 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Super reductive and fresh nose. Looks to have spent plenty of time in tank. Slightly sawdusty oak is not super attractive but the nutty palate and lemony acidity makes this tight and intriguing. Just bottled and fresh as the acidity and milky textural oak is very attractive. Wonderful step forward for Mcwilliams Chardonnay and serious intrigue. 18/20 93/100
Henschke Giles Pinot Noir 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Lovely bright cherry fruit. Bright strawberry nose. Lots of glossy cherry. Super ripe-ish and glossy but slightly warm and unyielding palate, finished bitter. Phenolic ripeness isn’t quite even there but very juicy. 17.5/20 91/100
Yalumba Paradox Shiraz 2010 (Northern Barossa Valley, SA)
Chocolatey and glossy fruit. Super polished. Super polished and tight palate has rich flavours but just a little too much alcohol. Such a glossy berried wine that should come together nicely in time. It looks a little odd now but time should be kind.. 17.2/20 90/100+
Campbells Sparkling Shiraz (Rutherglen, Vic)
Has a big black, choc bullet heart with big alcohol but plenty of richness, molten fruit. Thick and black and bitter and unctuous. There is a place for this sort of wine. Super bitter choc finish. Yum. 17.7/92