Grapevine Archive for Shiraz
Earlier this month 90 members and guests were treated to a wonderful meal at Smith’s of Smithfield, the great eatery just across the road from London’s meat market, owned by chef John Torode. It was a fitting Aussie-owned backdrop for a dinner that highlighted wines from two of Western Australia’s finest winemakers – Vanya Cullen from Cullen Wines in Margaret River and John Durham from Plantagenet Wines in Great Southern.
The weather was kind and as the evening wore on a aperitif-friendly south-facing blue-sky panorama from the terrace with St Paul’s Cathedral as the centre piece gently dimmed into a full-moonlit night.
Vanya was delighted with the full moon, as it became her visual aid when talking about the biodynamic way that her vines are grown and wines made. The Mangan Vineyard Sauvignon Semillon (soon to come into stock) matched beautifully with the scallops expertly prepared by the SoS team, the Mangan Malbec Petit Verdot Merlot 2009 would knock spots off many a similarly-priced Claret and the Diana Madeleine 2002 (we have the 2008 currently available) was simply sublime.
John’s vibrant Riesling 2009 got proceedings off to a crisp start, and his Omrah Shiraz 2008 made an interesting gutsy comparison with the aforementioned Mangan Red with our aged fillet steak. The 1999 Shiraz again contrasted robustly with the finesse of the DM, both accompanying the excellent cheeses (Yarg, aged Montgomery and Caerphilly), and his cheeky sweet Ringbark Riesling 2009 matched wonderfully with the pear and lemon dessert.
The wines are very different in style, as are the winemakers, and we got the full picture from both on this moonlit night. The venue doesn’t give itself over to being a quiet and venerable eating place – sociability is definitely the watchword, and perhaps a full moon made members even more gregarious and loquacious than usual … or was it the wine? Either way, a good time was had, the food and service were of a very high standard and the beautiful wines spoke for themselves. We shall return there some time soon.
Head of Tastings & Events
Unlike the classic European wine regions (Bordeaux, Rioja etc), Australia has a fairly limited track record when it comes to long-term ageing of its wines. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to see mature Australian wines, even if you visit producers directly.
So I was immensely grateful when I was invited to join Michelin Star chef and self-confessed Australian wine specialist Roger Jones for a tasting of some top-notch bottles from his own cellar. The tasting was held in his delightful restaurant, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn.
Here are my shorthand notes. All wines were tasted blind.
Katnook Estate Chardonnay Brut, 1995: creamy, caramel, still fruity – lovely delicate mousse and texture. Mature yet still lively. 8/10
Plantagenet Riesling, 1998: zingy, floral, discreetly toasty, very fine nose. Gentle, juicy palate, à point. 9/10
Jasper Hill Riesling, 1998: serious riesling nose, creamy, focussed; amazing lift and intensity. Perfection. 10/10
Lenswood Semillon, 1998: nutty, evolved nose, developed palate, good structure, drink up. 6.5/10
Moss Wood Semillon, 1995: unusual aromatics, brioche-like, smooth palate; esoteric. 5.5/10
Moss Wood Chardonnay, 2000: pungent, smoky flavours. Full, opulent and slightly alcoholic. Not entirely clean. Disappointing. 5/10
Mount Mary Chardonnay, 1996: classic, mature chardonnay: nutty, harmonious and classy. 6.5/10
Lakes Folly, 1999: vibrant, high-toned, restrained, beautiful texture and length. 8.5/10
Barossa Valley Estate “E & E” Black Pepper Shiraz, 1998: layered, sensuous, chocolaty Barossa shiraz, smooth and delicious. Lovely now. 9/10
Penfolds Grange, 1990: exotic, complex, fragrant nose; savoury yet full of vitality; incredible ripeness and depth. A showstopper. Drink now or hold for another 20 years. 10/10
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 1990: attractively evolved, spice/vegetal notes, refined, classy, only 13.5% alcohol, enormously appetising. Now or hold for 10+ years. 9/10
Twelve of the longest-standing Australian wine families have come together under the banner of Australia’s First Families of Wine – between them they have 14 centuries of winemaking experience! We were delighted that representatives from all the families chose a tasting for members of The Society as their inaugural UK event, showing two wines each from their premium portfolio covering many growing regions and styles.
Members came face to face with a veritable Who’s Who of the Australian wine world: Ross & Katherine Brown (Brown Brothers); Col Campbell (Campbell’s Wine); d’Arry and Chester Osborn (d’Arenberg); Leanne De Bortoli & Steve Webber (De Bortoli); Stephen, Prue & Justine Henschke (Henschke); Jeff & Amy Burch (Howard Park); Peter, Sue & Tom Barry (Jim Barry); Doug & Julie McWilliam (McWilliam’s); ALister & Hayley Purbrick (Tahbilk); Bruce & Pauline Tyrrell (Tyrrell’s); Mitchell Taylor (Wakefield); Robert Hill-Smith (Yalumba).
Such is the quality of these wines (and such was the popularity of this tasting) that we are eager to share them with all members. This selection showcases Australia’s best, classic styles including Hunter Valley Semillon, Clare Valley Riesling, Margaret River Cabernet, Barossa Shiraz and Rutherglen Muscat. Click here for a full list of the wines available.
Were you there? What were your impressions? Do let us know.
Established in 1860, Tahbilk is located in the Nagambie Lakes (Goulburn Valley) region of central Victoria (120kms north of Melbourne). This year the Purbrick family, owners since 1927, celebrate 150 years of the winery’s existence, as well as 50 years of supplying The Society.
This premium, cooler-climate vineyard comprises 200 hectares of vines majoring on Rhône varieties such as marsanne, viognier and shiraz. Their marsanne plantings are the largest single holding of this variety in the world, and their marsanne and shiraz are amongst the oldest plantings anywhere.
4th generation winemaker Alister Purbrick visited The Society this week to talk to and taste with Society staff. The fragrant, stainless steel fermented Tahbilk Viognier 2009 was a refreshing, dried apricot flavoured revelation; the comparison of the 2008 and 2002 Tahbilk Marsanne was fascinating – buying a case of the 2008 now, putting it into Members’ Reserves for 10 years and then enjoying it would be a very worthwhile thing to do. The smooth, spicy and brambly Tahbilk Shiraz 2004 caressed the palate and the mint-and-cassis driven Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 was a real delight. For details of Tahbilk wines offered by The Society, click here.
Alister (on the right) and his daughter Hayley, pictured here with the Chairman (Alister’s father John) are at RIBA, London, on Monday 10th May with 11 of their compatriots as The Society presents Australia’s First Families of Wine to 300 members.
As regionality becomes more in vogue with drinkers of Australian wines, what is your preferred Aussie wine growing area?