Tag Archives | Australia – NZ

1998 Wynn’s Riddoch Cab

Shaded canopy = v strong herbaceous nose. Bottle-age gives great complexity against evergreen backnote.

Tasted in Art & Science of Fine Wine class in Menlo Park (see Class Descriptions). Wine sells for around US$100, but would be hard to find in an American retail store. I use this wine to illustrate a lecture point on pruning and trellising decisions. The wine is very unusual, and not everybody likes it, but personally I always find it enormously impressive.

Background Wine Education

     1998 Wynn’s ‘John Riddoch’ Cabernet Sauvignon is from Coonawarra in the state of South Australia. Many people consider Coonawarra to be Australia’s finest Cabernet district. It is about a day’s drive south of Adelaide, and perhaps two day’s drive west of Melbourne. In short, it is way-the-hell-and-gone away from civilization. The first time I visited, in 1980, the only pub in town was still divided into separate men’s and women’s sections ~ smoke in either. Of course that was nearly two generations ago. The point is Australia has a very meager viticultural labor force under any circumstance, and Coonawarra’s isolation exacerbates the situation there.
     Things have changed somewhat in more recent vintages, but in 1998 anything a machine could do to replace manual labor was something the vintners of Coonawarra employed machines to do. That would be the polar opposite of (say) Chile, where men do so much of the work machines do in Australia. Up through at least the 1998 vintage, in Coonawarra the vines were frequently hedged rather than pruned. ‘Hedged’ implies something akin to a military haircut. Continue Reading →

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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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