Australia. The land down under with plenty of Kangaroos and Koalas. But few people know that it's a land where Phylloxera, (the deadly infestation which destroyed vineyards in Europe) had minimal impact. This means that Australians have vines that are well over a 100 years old, which for a wine person is an exceptional treat!
To elucidate, old vines are prized in viticulture. By and large, the older the vine, the better the quality of the fruit, and a good wine starts with good quality fruit and terroir.
This, coupled with the fact that Australian vineyards were not harmed in world war 2, means that it is possible to find a 100 year old bottle of wine or a barrel in good condition. The best example of this is Seppeltsfield, who come out with a 100 year old vintage port every year.
Within Australia, most of the viticultural activities happen in South Australia, and Shiraz is the choice of grape. The terroir is perfect for the grape, and you tend to have wines with bold, rich flavours, and aromas such as chocolate, vanilla, and tobacco.
While I was in Australia, I had the tremendous privilege of visiting some of the best and most interesting vineyards and wineries on the Australian wine scene.
Of the wines that I tasted, I would say that these stood out from the crowd.
# 1: Seppeltsfield 1917 port wine
Colour: Dark red, almost black, opaque, with very pale, faded brick tints indicating that this is a very old wine.
Nose: Treacle, jammy fruit, ink
Palate: Smooth attack, a treacle sweet evolution with barely there acidity, and an extremely long end palate
Finish: Notes of treacle lasting 10 minutes long at least
Food pairing: By itself at the end of a meal. It’s too pure to mix with food.
#2 Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny Port
Colour: Tawny crimson red, pale, transparent
Nose: Strong vanilla, a lot of raisin, licorice, and roasted nut aromas, Christmas mince pie like candied fruit aromas.
Palate: Rich, strong, mouthy, with lots of sweet raisins and candied fruit on the palate
Finish: Sweet, lingering finish that’s easily 8-10 minutes long with plenty of candied fruit on the end palate
Food Pairing: By itself at the end of a meal. It’s too pure to mix with food.
#3: Penfolds Grange 2008
Colour: Deep ruby red with brick tints.This wine has started it's evolution but it's certainly not more than a decade old.
Nose: Vanilla, a hint of ink, and some tobacco
Palate: Full bodied wine with a subtle attack, a peppery evolution with warm spices and licorice, jammy dark berries such as blackberries.
Finish: Lasts 7 -7.5 minutes with tobacco and mulberries on the end palate
Food Pairing: Duck in rich sauce of it’s own juices and prunes or morello cherries.
#4: Penfolds St Henri 1986
Colour: Red wine with faded brick tints. Much darker than the grange, indicating it is at least 25-30 years old if not older
Nose: Jammy dark berries such as black berry, plum and Morello cherries, some tobacco, toasted nuts, some licorice and perhaps some herbs (mint ?)
Palate: Clean attack with a complex evolution with plenty of fruit, candied walnuts and hazelnuts, plums, licorice and more on the palate. Extremely smooth and supple tannin make it a very easy drinking wine.
Finish: Long (8 minutes), velvety with a touch of mulberry
Food pairing: Lamb cooked rare in black pepper sauce
#5 Penfolds St Henri Claret 1965
Colour: Red wine with light, faded brick orange tints, suggesting it is quite old.
Nose: Forest Floor, Leather, Blood, Mushroom
Palate: Medium bodied red wine with a clean attack, and an evolution that confirms the aromas of forest floor and mushroom.
Finish: 6-8 minutes long
Food Pairing: Gamey meats with a thyme and wild mushroom sauce
#6 Alpha Box and Dice: Golden Mullet Fury 2015
Colour : This is a white wine that is bright, with a deep gold colour, and green tints indicating it's youth.
Nose: First nose: Clean, crisp, mineral, floral like a Viognier but with a twist. That’s when you realise it’s co fermented with Semillion. The second nose is more concentrated, with herbaceous aromas
Palate: The attack is crisp. The mid palate is mineral and you can taste the white wine tannins. There are plenty of white flowers and also a little herbaciousness.
Finish: Mineral and long lasting at least 5-7 minutes
Food Pairing: This wine will pair with any light white meat but in a heavy/ complex sauce. So for instance, Georgian style Chicken in Walnut sauce
# 7: Saltram Marble Quarry Rd 2012 Shiraz
Colour: Red wine, that is bright, opaque and with purple tints
Nose: Vanilla, possibly some rose, plenty of jammy dark fruit
Palate: Attack is clean. Mid palate has pepper, vanilla and dark fruit, and just ripe plum, and currants.
Finish: About 5-7 minutes long but will improve with time.
Food pairing: Game with a rich mushroom sauce
# 8: Saltram No 1 Shiraz 2013
Colour: Deep red, opaque, and has slightly more intense purple tints than the marble quarry Shiraz
Nose: Vanilla, chocolate, some dark berries such as blackberries, but with a slight savoury undertone.
Palate: Clean attack with the gentle presence of vanilla and spice. Evolution of dark chocolate, with black berries and currants. Balanced
Finish: 7 minutes
Food Pairing: When young will pair with braised pork belly in a red wine reduction sauce
#9: Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Colour : This is a very pale white wine (almost the colour of water) with green tints.
Nose: Very floral nose, white flowers with a few ripe tropical fruit
Palate: Mineral palate with plenty of stoned white fruit, and peaches.
Finish: 5 minutes long
Food Pairing: Salad of warmed goats cheese with red apples and walnuts.
Tie #10 Kies Family Wines Dedication Shiraz 2014
Colour: Red wine with deep ruby colour and tints indicating the wine is maybe just beginning to start it’s evolution.
Nose: light red fruit, forest floor, some tobacco .
Palate: Rich, full bodied wine with a clean attack, with notes on the nose detcted on the palate plus some what I suspect is the beginning of some leathery notes.
Finish: End plate lasts about 8 minutes long with a lingering finish
Food Pairing: By itself with friends and family.
Tie #10 Doc Adams 1838 First Vines 2015 Shiraz
Colour: Red wine with deep ruby colour and purple tints indicating it's youth.
Nose: Chocolate, Vanilla, spices and some black fruit.
Palate: Full bodied wine, with a clean attack, plenty of warm spices such as pepper and nutmeg on the palate, some chocolate as well.
Finish: End plate lasts about 6-7 minutes long with a lingering finish
Food Pairing: By itself with friends and family.
Other notable mentions include Rolf Binder's "Bulls Blood" wine, and Alpha Box and Dice's "Dead Wine Maker's Society" (another very interesting wine made from the Dolcetto grape).
That concludes this week's issue of The Grape Vine. I hope you enjoyed it. Please do leave your comments in the section below.