Authenticity is a funny concept, not exactly hilarious but odd when applied to wine and place. Just how do a bunch of grapes represent the place whence they come? The sort of daft question that distinguishes the wine obsessed from more sensible humans. In terms of the flavours a place can transmit through the simple ferment of sugar into ethanol, then old Wendouree does it better than most. Sure, climate change, method, style and fashion have had their way but the smell and taste of those old vines stay staunch. Malbec planted in 1898. More medium of body than twenty years ago, there’s still that wintergreen, mossy, mint and eucalyptus lift but only as a background to dark cherries and soft summer berries of profound depth. Flickers of rose perfume, spiced Dutch biscuits and fresh supple vanilla pod. The kind of chiseled acidity and tannin only the great vineyards produce, no room for excessive flounce. Wendouree seem to have added grace and subtlety to raw power. Very good of them to make things more approachable earlier as some of us run out of waiting time.
13.8% alcohol. Screw cap. $40 in 2014 on that precious mail out.
A blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Malbec from a vineyard notorious for its ambitious first release from the wet and mulchy 2011 vintage – for a measly $100 a bottle. Better vintage weather and sensible pricing have prevailed. Very Yarra Valley, this is just ripe enough. Pencils, tobacco, leafy and just ripe black currants. Some mint and a hint of gum leaf. Oak supports but no more than a seasoning. It’s savoury but the tannins are ripe and sweet with just right acidity tucked well in. As it leaves, a dense mouth coating wave of still subdued fruit suggests there may be still lots more fruit depth to emerge with some time. Difficult to say, it may just dry out but I’d be willing to hide one away for a while, in fact I think I will. Optimism being essential to cellaring and definitely in the wider world these days.
13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $33.
If the choice was limited to only one Australian red wine producer, then it would have to be Wendouree. Even in the most unloved of vintages and 2011 certainly qualifies so far for this millennium, those old vines produced a wonder. Since the change to screwcap, there’s been a move to the less extractive and the more chiseled in shape. The 2011 dampish vintage only emphasises this. Opens like it’s only a couple of years old with fresh red fruits perfumed by roses. Only with considerable air do the more typical mint, Australian bush and mossy background appear. Appropriately for Easter, this was still very much alive on the third day, palpably at its best. The increasing depth of flavour wasn’t short of gobsmacking. The change in style and the cool year give the fruit an astonishing clarity and fragrant charm. Built more on fine acidity than rumbling tannin, although they’re still there and gently ripe. It’s like the Aussie muscle car chassis has been unbolted and replaced with that of a taut Italian two seater. Imagine the rich fruity essence of Wendouree built on the cool savour of a good Barbaresco, not in flavour but in structure. Modern Wendourees may not please the traditionalists but they’re an expletive worthy expression of vintage and vine. Depth and clarity, say it again, what a treasure.
13.5% alcohol. Gualia screwcap. $45 ish on the snail mail list.
95 finessed points, Wendouree and finesse, say what?
First ever night in Bordeaux and something apparently not typically Bordelais to celebrate. 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Franc from Château Peybonhomme les Tours in the Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. Two favourite varieties from the Cabernet family and perhaps the hardest to find amongst the good and great of grand Bordeaux. Opened with a plume of just ripe red fruit and gravel smells. Satisfying drag of understated feathery tannin and acidity carrying flavours that start with those sparkling red berries and pull on through to more savoury and stoney things. Almost pretty. Clean and refreshing without being simple. Maybe it’s just imagination but is it brighter, finer and more pristine because of biodynamics? All that extra work, you’d like to think so.
13% alcohol. Cork. 27 euros on a great pizzeria wine list. Atypically Bordeaux.
Sometimes a cork does what it should, horoscopes align, it’s a fruit day or it’s luck. Whatever the reason when a Wendouree is this good, it can take its place amongst the great. Not least as it’s a quintessential wine of place. Profound depth of menthol, wintergreen, damp Australian forest, rose oil and sun warmed blood plums. Great weight and stately Rolls Royce power but no heaviness. Length disappearing into the far distance. Perfect ripe melting tannin and a completely natural buoyancy make it hard to believe it’s already thirteen years since harvest. Great wine and big thanks for opening, decanting and generous pouring.
13.50% alcohol or thereabouts. Cork. Generosity beyond money.
Definitely 96 points. Possibly 97.
The most elderly first. The mail out said 52% Shiraz and 48% Malbec from 1898 Central and 1919 Eastern vineyards. Youngest vines are now centurions, happy birthday. Like the best 2000s Wendouree vintages this took a while to unfurl. That unmistakable mossy, minty and eucalypt menthol lift with dark cherry and berry fruit and a puff of lemony oak. Builds on the tongue as Wendouree does do with more Clare dark cherry and an anchor of fair but firm skin tannin and natural ripe acid. There’s also something wine gum dark and mysteriously spicy too. Beautiful grapes and place no mucking about.
13.50% alcohol. Cork. $48 from the mailing list.
Now the younger. 65% Shiraz and 35% Mataro from 1893 Central and 1920 Eastern vineyards. The first Wendouree vintage sealed with screwcap, a posh Italian one too. If the mid 2000s started to show a bit less extraction, then by 2009 things are becoming positively elegant! Fragrant with menthol, anise, cherry and dark plum. Just a seasoning of nutty oak. Probably just imagination but this seems so fresh and pure, could it be the change to screwcap? Fine mid weight wine in the mouth that once again builds and then builds more flavour as it travels through. Fruit as above plus some earthy tar broods darkly. Such different poise and balance compared to Wendouree from last century. Must say I’d like a Tardis to try those young vine ones from before and between the world wars. Still very positive tannin but perhaps finer and more melting? Do enjoy telling those not aligned to Wendouree who ask how to join us to check out the Brady’s extensive social media presence. Rude cheek of a grumpy old man.
13.80% alcohol. Screwcap! $50 from the mailing list.
100% Malbec or Côt as they say in the Loire Valley. Pungently clean perfume of Turkish delight, woody spices veering into star anise, startlingly so. Below are some bright cherries and berries. Terrific flow of spiced fruit with silky tannin and acidity. Floats in the mouth, leaving a gentle waft to linger. Fine and whistle clean. Those lovely obsessives at the City Wine Store certainly know how to tickle my fancy.
12.50% alcohol. Cork. $41.