One of the good things about getting old is being able to spot absolute bargains from the past that hopefully elude those youngsters scanning the auction sites. From grapes grown on venerable Wendouree vines in the Clare Valley and turned into wine by Stephen George at Ashton Hills in the Adelaide Hills. A sideline that sadly ended with the 2002 vintage I think. Despite 1995 being perhaps the worst of vintages in SE Australia, the Clare Valley fared better than some. I remember driving through Coonawarra in May that year to see a good part of the crop left to rot on the vine. Aromas of Australian forest still perfume along with exotic brown spices, dark cherries and leathery caramel showing 25 years of age. Still a good red colour and plenty of broad acidity and ripe settled tannin, large but flowing so evenly, a true Wendouree treat. Touch of mint and some pepper mixed into that characteristic swell of deep fruit hint at the cooler vintage. Maybe not the full throttle of the great vintages but still a formidable mouthful. To some of us 1995 seems as close as yesterday.
13% alcohol. Cork, one of those ASA branded ones that seem to do a relatively good job. $29 at auction which is about a fifth of what a Wendouree label would fetch.
94 pushing 95 points considering age.
There was much bemoaning the 2011 vintage in quite a bit of Victoria and SA. Well, it was very soggy and cool for days in summer. Nevertheless, comes the test and if the vineyard’s ancient, deep rooted and seen worse, then there’s reason to believe it won’t be a waste of money to support this oversubscribed treasure. Comparisons, here we go again, are maybe less than odious if they help with context. If the 2011 Malbec had Wendouree packing up its flavours and taking them on a trip to Barbaresco to find its structure, then this Shiraz seems to have swapped the usual iron and velvet for a finer acid based frame from somewhere like Saint Joseph. In fact this is delight for those sniffy North Rhône fanciers, dark brown spices, menthol, Oz bush and bracken lift and season just ripe cherries and very ripe raspberries, harmonious and sotto voce. Floating and crisp rather than that usual firm velvet fog. Makes a nonsense of trying to fetish the favoured vintages, Wendouree way the bottle always seems too small.
13.7% alcohol. Screw cap. Thanks for keeping the faith dear C.
93 points but more soul than some bigger scores.
A little reduction to start, clears quickly but there’s still some just made and bottled yeasty savour. Below there be masses of lime cordial, fresh lime and kaffir lime zest, lots of lime really. Some green apple juice and steely flint. A power of fruit floats on ripe, succulent and mouthwatering acidity. Generous Watervale and looking forward to one in the heat of February next year when it settles and thence for years more. Dry grown, organic principles, hand picked. Cellar, bargain, winner.
12.5% alcohol. Screw cap. 589 gms glass. $19 Dan’s members’ special.
To remind myself why patience is very much a virtue while waiting for the annual mail, as in snail, purchase from my favourite Australian red wine producer, must be time to open one. Wendouree Shiraz always commands the highest price on the secondary market but its first amongst equals position is debatable, especially with the fascination of vintage variations. The cork is well behaved, letting deep flavours of brown spices, linseed oil and biscuits emerge. Lurking like a dark foreboding presence under a calm sea is a sinking depth charge of profound red fruit. This detonates splendidly after twenty four hours, spreading very spicy chunks of cherry fruit all over the mouth. The kind of ripe full but caressing tannin that only great grapes possess. Perfect firm acidity. Just as it finishes there’s a flickering glimpse of the first signs of caramel decay or maturity depending on how much you like old things. A lot in this case.
13.3% alcohol. Cork. $45 in 2006. The mail out also notes grapes from 1919 Eastern vineyard and 1893 Central vineyard.
Started about 93 points ended up the high side of 95.
Pikes’ premium Riesling with some age. Still a bright young thing to look at, reserved aromas of turpentine, lime and some more lime and vanilla pod. With time and who doesn’t have plenty of that now, the lime seems more concentrated, then brown toast, and some Meyer lemon slide on through. The acidity’s a bit grapefruit mouth drying but it just gets over the ripeness line. Despite the initial intensity, the flavours flatten out a little towards the end perhaps. Lovely to drink but not quite up with their best. Considering the price point where some great Germans start their climb up the scale, it’s amazing value. So reliable the one with the fish on the label.
12.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $37 at auction, current release not much more.
Proper Australian names for a Syrah Mourvèdre blend. Smells of old linseed oiled cricket bats, that’s also something the French might not recognise, polished walnut and leather in an old Rover motor, blackberry and damson preserves. Old England without the airfare. Second day, there’s some nougat oak which sinks into bright nutty cherry red fruit bowled up on a good length. Background notes of darker fruit, licorice and dried woody bush land. Typical firm Clare acidity and furry ripe tannin close the deal. It’s that full whack shiny, almost honeyed, red fruit that proves its value. Pretty label, real wine.
13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $26 at Langton’s on line store, good value.
A winery with an address on Wendouree Road East which could be an indication of grape quality, especially as it seems the vines are eighty years of age. Here the Clare Valley puts its stamp on a Grenache, making it less plump and generous, more sinewy and lithe. Starts with the instantly recognisable smell of doing dusty bottle time, then breathes some faded rose, mint and cherry. Despite a pale colour for Clare, it builds well with these flavours sweetened with age. Finest of satin tannin and delicious twist of Campari acidity. Bony structure but flesh too. Made by gentle infusion more than rough extraction perhaps and better for it. The relatively high alcohol had more effect on the drinker than the flavours.
14.8% alcohol. Screw cap. Lucky auction win for $25.
Some generous wine loving people bring the most delicious things to the dinner table. Wendouree at its zenith. All those alluring smells, Oz bush after rain, rich cherry, cassis and whilst I’ve no idea why, the word mossy comes to mind. A soft explosion of all these things in the mouth as what must be the Malbec builds and builds a rose and bramble intensity. Structurally, the tannins are perfectly ripe and full of comfort. The acidity perfect. Expletives and pleasures galore.
13.7% alcohol. Cork. Thanks for sharing.
97 points, yes really.
Clare Valley Cabernet blends are part of Australian wine heritage, particularly if they have some Malbec adding sweet berry fruit to that stern old Cabernet. There’s also some Cabernet Franc here too but the back label is coy about percentages. Opening with all the correct clean smells of strict winemaking, cassis, red fruits, mint, tobacco and a dab of coffee and vanilla oak. Broad shoulders, square of jaw and firm of handshake. Open and guileless. It’s the depth of sweet berry red fruits that convinces, all set against firm, no nonsense tannin and acid. It’s the lingering mouth perfume of cassis that beguiles, showing beautifully ripened Cabernet. Little age weariness, just a smooth mellowing. Very tasty and firmly Clare. Nothing fancy.
13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $26 on release.
One from the cellar. The tree bark came out a little bit too easily but still seemed to have done its job. Such a volume of those typical Wendoree smells, Australian forests after rain, choc mint, cherries, blackcurrant, and something involving iron and liquorice. Huge in the mouth but still disciplined by fresh, natural acidity and a solid wall of frowning skin tannin. A reminder of Wendouree from the last century. A lasting fruit perfume smooths the structure and maybe there’s finally a suggestion of age starting to calm the austere Cabernet scaffold or is it that round Malbec swell of sweet berries? In no way diminished on day two. The 2018 vintage mail out on real paper in an envelope is due in the letter box soon. A few for the cellar and some optimism about living long enough to enjoy them.
13.2% alcohol. Cork. About $45 on release.