An ‘Exploration of Australia’s Distinguished Sites’.
What a lofty title for this Zoom tasting, held last week by a group of prominent Australian family winemakers (all of whom are in the First Families of Wine). Especially lofty when a full third of the wines are multi-regional blends (from unnamed vineyards).
While the name is a bit silly, I appreciate tastings like these as important barometer checks. You get a chance to look at what prominent brands are doing with their commercial premium Shiraz & Cabernet (which I don’t see every year), complete with winemakers, winery owners and more.
A barometer check then becomes a (welcome) brand check and complete with a few decent wines – although I missed out on some of the juicier bits because I had a small child screaming at me (sorry to anyone who was also on the call).
Bracket 1 Shiraz
The Cabernet bracket was more exciting, but this Shiraz quartet is probably more important from an Australian sense. Excess ripeness was the one thing that dogged this bracket, but you can choose your own perspective depending on tolerance for a little alcohol warmth.
Howard Park Scotsdale Shiraz 2017
Fruit from both Frankland River & Mount Barker in WA. Dark berry red, it’s quite lavish really, although the rosemary and thyme and violets are a nod to the cooler origins. Polished, ripe, just a fraction warm late on the palate, perfectly integrated oak. Maybe the teensy bit rustic edges to the tannin. Not without grunt, it’s a powerful, yet regionally true red. Good stuff. I’d drink this.
Best drinking: now and powering on through 2035. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $40. Would I buy it? Yes.
Yalumba Paradox Shiraz 2017
Tragedy! Corked. One wine in the whole tasting sealed in cork, one wine corked. Not enough to be disgusting, but enough to mute everything. It was a massive big deal too, as I mentioned in the Zoom chat that it was corked and someone chimed in (I’m not sure who) that is was DIAM. Woah! You don’t get many corked DIAMs! I think I’ve had or heard about two, or three tops. That’s a big fucking deal! I couldn’t resist a dig, and asked in the Zoom chat when Yalumba would be going to 100% screwcaps. Well, that just kicked off a little appreciation for cork and DIAM from one prominent Australian critic, while others (hello Huon) then backed me on the cork dig. There really is nothing better than some shit-stirring among wine critics, after a long time between actual interaction. Nature is healing! Regardless, a shame that this Yalumba was corked, as I’ve had previous Paradox (like the one in this lineup) that were very good.
P.S. I went back and checked after the call, and it was normal cork not DIAM, just for good measure.
NR. 14%, $50.
Brown Brothers Patricia Shiraz 2016
Bendigo, Heathcote, Henty & King Valley. I’ve been everywhere (in Victoria) man! 18 months in oak, 44% new with a fair dose of the new wood American. Starting to develop nicely, complete with a little cocoa bean leaf litter, yes, it’s ripe, but that’s part of the mode – it feels chunky and tannic and yet with a little mint, the mid palate is very substantial. Plenty of oak too and just a little warmth. I like how bold and full this tastes – it feels old school Victorian in its chunky, yet tannic, rather than fruit sweet, savoury hearty charm. Good!
Best drinking: now and through 2031. 18/20, 93/100. 15%, $62. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Taylors St Andrews Shiraz 2017
Festooned with gold medals, yet none from local wine shows. This would end up with silvers in my books. From the St Andrews Vineyard in the Clare Valley. It’s a hugely minty, noticeably sweet-fruited red (especially after the Scotsdale and Patricia). Surprisingly the colour is lighter this year, yet the oak is not – it’s dusty caramel and a bit cloying. The whole package feels warm, sweet and a bit overdone, with plenty of tart acidity too. It’s trying too hard, and the balance suffers as a result. I can admire the commercial appeal though – that generosity is going to be hugely popular, even if I don’t see the balance.
Best drinking: now to at least 2031. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $75. Would I buy it? No.
Bracket 2 Cabernet Sauvignon
Largely, this bracket just needs more time in bottle. Except for the Brown Brothers, which looked already tiring. A bad bottle?
Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
From the Leston Vineyard in Margaret River. Has the varietal/regional thing sewn up. Bay leaf, mint, dark berries, just a little chocolate oak. It’s notably tannic, and they sit like a powder coat. Class, moderation, classic Margaret River style. The longer it sits, the more I admire the final finesse here – like the just-right tannins. Wine of the tasting.
Best drinking: now and through 2036. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $50. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Yalumba The Cigar Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
The bottle seems bigger, the wine more grand this year. It’s a strong release. Spends 19 months in 20% new oak. Dark colours too. It’s riper, rounder, more generous. A little mint, more surprising fine tannins too. Woah. It’s maybe not as defined and long as some of the more expensive Coona Cabs, but notably enjoyable with acres of generous, well-handled flavour. Nice wine.
Best drinking: now and until 2036 at least. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Brown Brothers Patricia Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Victoria says the label, but this is Bendigo, King Valley, Grampians & Wrattonbully fruit. A cross-border raid! 18 months in 42% new oak. Not a fan of this – it feels just a bit dusty and open knit, the sweet and sour palate tiring already. A bad bottle? Possible. Otherwise just a bit tired.
Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $62. Would I buy it? No.
Taylors St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
From the St Andrews Vineyard. 40% new, 60% 2-3yr old oak for 18 months. Crammed with sweet, minty dark berry fruit and sweet oak. Formic oak too. Fruit is the big show here, the firm tannins then digging into the back palate in a fight to the death. It’s a grandiose style, that will live for years, but I just find it too much (and unbalanced as a result) despite the impact.
Best drinking: it will live until 2035 without even trying. 17/20, 90/100+. 14.5%, $75. Would I buy it? I’d go the cheaper, and better Masterpiece Cabernet Shiraz instead.
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