St Hallet ’98 (OB) Shiraz

Barossa. Class taste. Superb. Round core of black stonefruits + leather, roast coffee bouquet. Elk on the Barbie!

Bottle-aged Syrah

can be quite special. Old vines from the Barossa Valley make good candidates (Shiraz), and the right food pairing always seals the deal.

Class Tasting

1998 St. Hallett (Old Block) Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia. Tasted in the monthly Friday night Varietal Series class in Nevada City (California’s Sierra Foothills) – an excellent way to begin a weekend getaway in the mountains. See www.brucecasswinelab.com for the Fall – Winter – Spring schedule.
This wine probably costs a little over $100 in a retail store, but it would be very hard to find. It is from a warm, and highly regarded vintage in Australia. St. Hallett produces three Shiraz wines each year. The one called Faith, and the one called Blackwell, are pleasant enough when young, and should probably be drunk for maximum pleasure then. Old Block is the one built for aging. It comes from 60- to 100-year-old vines. It has an excellent track record, and definitely deserves a spot in the Aussie Top Five for consistently rewarding ten years of bottle age. St. Hallett has existed since 1944, but only upgraded their production facility for fine wines in 1988. Since then the Old Block Shiraz has been the winery’s flagship. It is aged 20 months in French oak barrels. All the St. Hallett grapes are sourced in the Barossa appellation, which is something even Penfolds’ Grange can’t say.
In class we compared the Old Block side-by-side with a 1995 Jaboulet (Les Jumelles) Côte-Rôtie. Both were wonderful, but they could not have been more different. The Jaboulet was all bouquet – roasting pork fat and frying onions. Which works great on my scorecard. The St. Hallett was bigger, darker, rounder. It had plenty of bouquet development – more in the roasting coffee beans and sun-scorched leather department, but most notably the St. Hallett had this gigantic core of mulberry and pomegranate fruit. Not fresh fruit; stone fruit… hammer fruit. The Jaboulet had more acid, but it didn’t have more length. The Jaboulet was friendlier; the Old Block more memorable.

Wine & Food Pairing

I’m tempted to recommend the St. Hallett with wild game, say elk. In fact elk steaks are commonly sold in the supermarket near where this class tasting was held. But I realize access to elk steaks may not be that common. Of course neither is access to a ten-year-old bottle of St. Hallett’s Old Block. So there you have it. Marinate the meat for several hours in soy, plain yogurt, rosemary, garlic, and papaya pulp. Doesn’t hurt to smack the steaks a few times with a 2-ft-long stick before marinating. Sear the steaks quickly over intense heat. Then move them to a low heat section of the grill for slow, indirect, smoky cooking. Serve to a small group. I’d say four people per bottle max.

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  • http://Readtobrownwinereview@blogspot.com Brown

    I tried the 2006 Old Block last week at the St Hallets cellar door. Some friends who are not into wine preferred the OB over all of the wines served by Torbreck the same day, including the RunRig, which retails for more than 2 times the OB. I must agree with them. The 06 vintage in the barossa is up there with the 04 & 02 in terms of all round good vintages and it showed in the OB. Though some Australian wines have shown dead fruit characteristics in the last three vintages (07, 08 in particular), the 06 OP was an elegant wine with great length and structure.

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