An irresistible opportunity to open these and compare over a few days. Both made by two young and it must be said attractive tyros of the changing nature of Australian wine. Choosing small batches of carefully grown grapes and guiding them into a bottle without the impositions of big company formulae seems to end up in a glass of something properly authentic to place perhaps. The bottle shot is a glorious Grampians landscape unashamedly stolen from Max Allen’s splendidly definitive book, The Future Makers.
The Wheeler Vino version opens with a beautifully perfumed whack of Rhône like flowers and smoke. It’s hard not to compare when the resemblance is so striking but this in no way undermines how special are the Grampians. Perhaps in years to come someone will pick up a glass of Cornas and say this is so good it could be from Great Western. Medium weight in the mouth, red fruit and both peppery and sweet spice glide with a dragging anchor of natural acid and emery tannin. Any perception of oak is limited to texture and a sprinkle of dark brown seasoning. Just how this looks so…er..Syrah like without whole bunches is a question whose answer can only be guessed, maybe the natural yeast, whole berries, pre or post ferment soaking, ripeness or clone? From maybe one of the cooler sites around the special bit of the Great Western landscape, some gently just ripe fruit has led to a terrific, perfectly groomed, smooth operator.
By contrast, the Reed immediately looks darker and deeper in nature. Blackberries, spice and the tarry earth that echo the old vine flavours of Garden Gully and St. Peter’s gnarled soldiers. A top note of slightly balsamic ethyl acetate tickles the fancy as it so often does in great Victorian Shiraz. A rich but tense mouthful of the same blackberries and dark tar spice sweep through, savoury stem tannin offering a firm grip on the arm of a saline, low acid personality teetering on the edge. At its weighty core, there’s a chiaroscuro of bright fruit and dark earth. Knife edge making indeed but never falling off the perch in three days of balancing up in the open air.
Wheeler 13.6% and Reed 13.5% alcohol, nice numbers. Screwcap both. To be had for between $25 and $30, both bargains for such authenticity.
Over time both competed neck and neck in the pleasure stakes, one a bit ahead, only for the other to gain breath, catch up and gain a nose. The bottles drained almost simultaneously, a good indication of even favour. Churlish to play favourites with such proud efforts.
94 points for both but more importantly there’s modern love and respect for an ancient place. Colin Preece would have approved.