It was Philip White who first noted that things were changing at Kaesler.
Kaesler, the Barossan producer who made their reputation courtesy of super high points (for super ripe wines), were evolving their style, moving their famed reds in a (somewhat) more elegant direction.
I say somewhat, for this is a style that you can feel the particular appeal of. You can see, smell and taste the concentration, with hedonism at every corner. They’re wines that have a reputation for excess – not grace – but are celebrated because of it.
But have things changed? Will this new slant deliver more drinkability?
That was the question sitting in back of my mind tasting these new super premium Kaesler reds today. The Old Bastard, in particular, is a wine that has always been about ultra-rich Barossa Shiraz flavours, complete with huge fruit, equally dominant oak and alcohols north of 15% (and over 16% in some vintages).
I haven’t loved some of the last few vintages of the Old Bastard. Maybe this ’13 would be different…
Kaesler Old Vine Barossa Shiraz 2013
The vines for the Old Vine Shiraz are the spawn of the Old Bastard vineyard, with this plot created using cuttings from the 1893 Old Bastard plantings. Matured in 30% new, the rest one and two year old, oak for 19 months. This is a wine that very much shows New Kaesler. It’s still a purple/deep red/blackish coloured wine, but the black fruit flavours seem more moderate. Don’t be fooled this is a deep, oak rich, full bodied Barossa red with serious intensity, but the lighter finish, the lovely purple black fruit, high quality oak, the lot is all high quality, if just a bit warm. Only problem is that, when sitting next to the Old Bastard it looks very much lesser, lacking the concentration and persistence of the older brother. What an unfair comparison. On its own this would be a standout, with intensity that is admirable. The style is ‘take it or leave it’, but the score needs to be high to recognise the class, even if the slightly lean back end suggests it needs some time in bottle to look its best. Oh and a footnote – the number are interesting here: pH 3.7 and TA 5.8g/L. That suggests a deft hand with the tartaric acid additions, and I’m asserting that this wine is all the better for it. Best drinking: 2018-2030. 17.8/20, 92/100+. 15.5%, $80. Would I buy it? Not quite but I can appreciate the form.
Kaesler Old Bastard Barossa Shiraz 2013
From the original Old Bastard vineyard planted in 1893. 35% new oak, the rest one year old. I’m intrigued by this wine on the Kaesler website ‘The wine making procedure is a closely guarded secret, with innovative techniques as yet revealed to new world wine’. Wow, that’s lofty. There’s some odd discrepancies between the website stats for this wine and those on the bottle. What to believe? 14.5% alcohol (website) or 15.5% (bottle). I’m going for the latter. Old vine swagger makes the difference here – the colour is very similar to the Old Vine, but the hints of anise, black texta and more mark this as a level above. The only challenge is the tarry edge – its very juicy, but heading toward treacle, all black and purple fruits. For all that, this finishes quite savoury, the oak carrying that 70% cocoa dark chocolate bittersweet character that suggests it is very high quality. The alcohol is there, warming, but it doesn’t derail either, the black fruits washing straight through like a tide. It’s still a huge, immensely rich wine – perhaps too immense – but this does indeed show restraint. New Kaesler is here. If anything this needs less time to unveil its secrets compared to the Old Vine. But it will always be the better wine. Best drinking: 2017-2030. 18/20, 93/100+. 15.5%?, $220. Would I buy it? No, but I do admire it.