Thursday, September 29, 2011

Report from ... Australia’s First Families of Wine – May 5, 2011

I wrongly kept referring to this event as the Five Families of wine, I guess the Godfather is fully ingrained in my brain; but that wasn’t the name of the event at all.  First, this was an Aussie event, not an Italy wine tasting and really what could be feared from the 5 Families of Australia?  Too many shrimp on the Bar-b?  Were they going to drown us with Foster’s?  Or make us watch all of Paul Hogan’s movies, (plus his Subaru commercials)?  I'd say we're pretty safe on all counts. 

Turns out it was far from 5 families in attendance, in actual fact it was 11 (twelve are part of this organization but absent was the Brown Brothers winery, because they have no distribution in Ontario).  According to the "families" mission statement, they got together to “represent 16 Australian Regions across 4 states and between them have more than 1200 years of winemaking experience.”  These families have 5000+ hectares of vineyard land between them, and that’s a lot of growing space, they also claim to be the “Guardians of some of Australia’s finest vineyards, most famous wine names and some irreplaceable history.”

The sit-down portion of the tasting was set up in a speed-dating style: each winery got a chance to pour two of their iconic wines to a small assembled mass of ~10 people per go.  Every 10 minutes or so a bell would sound and we were told to move tables; not my favourite way to try wine, but definitely an innovative method, which, in truth, I hope we never do again.  Anyway, let’s look at the best of these two wines per producer – hopefully you’ll recognize their names.

Campbell’s …
Poured: Muscat & Shiraz
Top Scoring: Rutherglen Muscat (NV) … this is a sweetie made in a solera system (like they make Sherry) with an average of 5-year-old wines.  Lovely flavours and smells, mainly toffee and orange peel, a real delicacy for dessert. (****+)

D’Arenberg …
Poured: Mourvedre & Shiraz/Roussanne
Top Scoring: 2007 The Twenty-Eight Road Mourvedre … these vines were planted in 1983 and are now being produced to make a meaty, dark fruited wine. (*** ½+)

De Bortoli …
Poured: Botrytis Semillon & Blanc de Blancs
Top Scoring: Rococo Blanc de Blancs (NV) … a fresh clean entry with rich vanilla cream across the palate. (*** ½+)

Henschke …
Poured: Euphonium blend & Pinot Noir
Top Scoring: 2008 Keyneton Estate Euphonium … this is a 60% Shiraz based wine with hints of Cabernet and Merlot blended in (the amount differs every year).  The Keyneton vineyard was planted in 1960. A tasty wine with plum and black cherry along with pepper and spice on the finish. (****+)

Howard Park …
Poured: Shiraz & Chardonnay
Top Scoring: 2008 Scotsdale Shiraz … this is the youngest winery in this group, having been established in 1986, but they seem to be making quite a name for themselves, especially having been invited to join this group of old-timers.  Their Shiraz was a tasty blend of dark berries with spicy pepper. (*** ½)

Jim Barry …
Poured: Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz
Top Scoring: 2008 The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon … you’ve seen this bottle before with the picture of the golfer on the front, this 42 year old winery makes a mean Cab with dark fruit and spice dripped in chocolate – yum. (****)

McWilliam’s …
Poured: Sauvignon Blanc & Shiraz
Top Scoring: 2010 Mount Pleasant Estate Florence Sauvignon Blanc … This winery has shown consistency of winemaking over its 134 year history, that's because they've had only 4 different winemakers over a 90 year period.  This wine is very New Zealand-like in style, but adds an element of warm climate Savvy B with melon and tropical notes weaved in amongst the grass. (****+)

Tahbilk …
Poured: Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz
Top Scoring: 2005 Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon … a tough call between these two wines, but this one edged out its competition by a very slim margin.  The dominant vines in this Cab were planted in 1949, while the label was launched three years later to take advantage of the great fruit being grown.  And what great flavours do these old vines produce these days?  Chocolate, red licorice and raspberry dominate with a vanilla-mint finish. (****+)

Tyrrell’s …
Poured: Shiraz & Semillon
Top Scoring: 2010 Lost Block Semillon … this Sem is very fruity with refreshing citrus, floral and melon flavours. (*** ½)

Wakefield …
Poured: Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon
Top Scoring: 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon … this company started off as hoteliers and moved into wine.  All those years of dealing with the public has really paid off, cause their Cab delivers just what the people want at a very reasonable price ($16.95).  Mint and plum lead the charge of this juicy and somewhat jammy wine – but in a good way. (****+) 

Yalumba …
Poured: Viognier & Grenache
Top Scoring: 2005 Hand Picked Single Site Habermann Vineyard Grenache … an interesting older wine that has developed peppered raspberry notes with some strawberry thrown in for good measure. (****)

1 comment:

Dean Tudor said...

My famous take...

**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-D’Arenberg The Galvo Garage Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet
Franc/Petit Verdot 2003, $33
-De Bortoli DB Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, +221994, $15.95
-Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2002, $899
-Howard Park Chardonnay 2008, $39
-Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2008,
-Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz 2006, $219
-Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 2006, $55
-Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 1999, $65
-Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, $59

***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Campbell’s Rutherford Muscat Vintages
-Campbell’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, $19
-Campbell’s The Brothers Shiraz 2007, $55
-De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2007
-Henschke Johann’s Garden GMS 2007
-Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2007, $134
-Howard Park Scottsdale Shiraz 2008, $37
-Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, $23.95
-McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz 2005, $65
-McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz 2006, $65
-McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2003, $59
-Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Shiraz 2005, $59
-Tahbilk 1860 Vines Shiraz 2005, $139
-Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2008, $24
-Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Shiraz 2008, $19.95 Vintages
-Wakefield St. Andrews Shiraz 2004, $49
-Wakefield St. Andrews Chardonnay 2008, $44
-Wakefield St. Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, $49
-Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, $17.95 Vintages
-Yalumba Viognier 2009, $24.95 Vintages
-Yalumba Hand Picked Single Site Habermann Vineyard Grenache 2005, $76
-Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier 2008, $50.95
-Yalumba The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2004, $110.95

*** Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Campbell’s Rutherglen Durif 2008, $25
-Campbell’s Bobbie Burns Shiraz 2008
-Campbell’s Shiraz/Durif 2009, $19
-D’Arenberg The Twentyeight Road Mourvedre 2007
-D’Arenberg The Wild Pixie Shiraz/Roussanne 2009, $29
-De Bortoli Rococo Blanc de Blancs NV, $25
-De Bortoli Melba Lucia 2007, $29
-Henschke Keyneton Estate Euphonium Shiraz 2008, $50
-Henschke Giles Lenswood Pinot Noir 2009, $54
-Howard Park Madfish Gold Turtle Chardonnay 2007, $27.95
-McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Florence Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010
-McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005, $59
-McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Estate Shiraz 2008
-Tahbilk Viognier 2010, $18
-Tahbilk Shiraz 2006
-Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Hunter Shiraz, $51
-Tyrrell’s Lost Block Semillon 2010, $15.95 Vintages
-Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2004, $51
-Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Hunter Chardonnay 2008, $51
-Wakefield Chardonnay 2009, $16.95 Vintages
-Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz 2004, Vintages $21.95