Wine Words & Video Tape

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London Wine Fair 2011: Barossa Valley

Written by JW. Posted in Australia

Wine Australia’s Barossa Valley ‘Winemaking of the Decades’ masterclass was one of the highlights of this year’s London Wine Fair. Hosted by James March, of the Barossa Grape and Wine Association the panel featured winemakers Ben Glaetzer [Glaezter/Heartland Wines], Matt Gant [First Drop] and Toby Barlow from St Hallett. The wines demonstrated the ability of Barossa Shiraz blends to age gracefully into silky, cashmere old age. Two fascinating tawny ports were shown, the Saltram Rare Vintage Tawny 1959 being an absolute stunner.

Top Barossa Shiraz is a beast that can be enjoyed at any age. If you like to sink your teeth into something dense and rich then First Drop Fat of the Land Greenock Shiraz 2008 was a beauty as was Glaeters’s 2005 Amon-Ra Shiraz. Most interesting perhaps was the middle flight Elderton’s 1992 Shiraz, alongside St Hallett’s Old Block from the same vintage and Henschke’s Mount Edelstone Shiraz from 1991. The Elderton and Henschke were terrific examples of mature Oz Shiraz. The real surprise for me was how well Saltram’s 1984 Mamre Brook Cabernet /Shiraz showed, still with lots of fruit and freshness. Yalumba’s 1974 FDR1A Cab/Shiraz was warm and mellow but still alive and Orlando’s 1978 Barossa Valley Shiraz had some muscle left and was fascinating. The verdict overall? Don’t worry about forgetting Barossa Shiraz in the cellar.

The panel were also interesting and honest on the challenges of the wet and humid 2011 vintage that has just been completed this year in the Barossa.  Ben Gleazter compared it to the tricky conditions of the 1974 vintage that we began with [the red wines being tasted old to youngest]. Interestingly his feeling was that those growers and estates that intervened less chemically in the vines faired the better than those that did. There is no doubt rot was a major problem at various stages. Toby Barlow of St Hallett described reams of pink tape festooning their vineyards marking off which sections to pick and those which were simply left on the vine. Vigorous selection in the winery was also needed. It will be interesting to see how the wines turn out but given the passion and determination of this bunch you can expect them to have wrestled some sort of victory from the jaws of defeat.

The following wines were tasted at the Barossa Valley, ‘Winemaking of the Decades’ Masterclass 18th May 2011 at the London International Wine Trade Fair:

Bethany Semillon, Barossa 2004

Green gold; waxy, butterscotch notes with some citrus; very attractive; quite complex already; honey and butterscotch; attractive; palate quite elegant, surprising given the suggestion of weight on the nose; some smoke and minerals; lacks a bit of zip maybe. 87/100

Yalumba FDR1A, Cabernet/Shiraz, Barossa Valley 1974

Mahogany red; looser at the edge; tea, some dust, spices; golden Virginia tobacco; feels mellow and nicely old but not at all oxidized or tired, though fading a tad; some herbs; tobacco, dust, some tea and spices; palate very mature; old and mellow; tea, tobacco and leaf; almost lapsang souchong; nice mellow old wine 89+/100

Orlando Shiraz 1978 Barossa Valley

Deeper colour; more density than the Yalumba; strong and firm nose still; meaty; some real roast notes, camphor and earth; gravelly quality here; meaty palate and still with some tannic bite at the end; chewy with tea and tobacco on the finish. Chewy and very much alive 91+/100

Peter Lehmann Barossa Valley Shiraz, 1981

Red/brown; some banana; quite silky nose; golden Virginia tobacco notes; earth and dust; falls away on the palate and feels slightly hollow relative to the Orlando; bit faded but pleasant. 86/100

Saltram Mamre Brook, Cabernet Shiraz 1984

Deep colour; mature red at edge; eucalyptus, cassis and blackcurrants on the nose; still real fruit here; some liquorice too; blackcurrants on the palate – still great fruit here; good chew, real density, some liquorice notes; flesh and grip – this is still working well; hint of sourness at the end but a great effort. Complex red and very much alive. 91/100

Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, Eden Valley 1991

Mid red; still dark at the core; quite polished wine; neat and still very vibrant on the nose; tar and liquorice but also some animally Syrah notes; meaty and layered; quite exciting; still feels fresh; full palate; really satisfying wine, savoury note but very cashmere on the palate; caressing; some mint and menthol but palate quite mid-weight; complex wine; round and harmonious but still with life under the bonnet; very good length. 92+/100

St Hallett Old Block Shiraz, Barossa 1992

Deep red; black at centre; warmer; more chocolate notes; mature and slightly looser feel than Edelstone and older looking; earthier; palate has some density and more earth and dust; tobacco and meaty note; some gamey edge and some volatility creeping in. Goodish 88/100

Elderton Estate Shiraz, Barossa Valley 1992

Red at edge, some brown; legs, dark looking at the centre; quite powerful, some liquorice and vanilla from the oak; quite attractive; layers here; nicely done, dense and holding its fruit well; reminds me a bit of a good mature Penfolds. Lots of chocolate and concentration on the palate; really very good to my mind. Attractive warmth at the end. Oak evident but it has integrated with age and adds sweetness. Like this. 91+/100

Rockford Basket Press Shiraz, Barossa Valley 1996

Red at edge; dark core; legs; quite ripe, some alcohol; prunes, some banana, fig; little monolithic at first; strawberry later; palate quite attractive; some silk, cashmere fruit; quite satiny palate; very mature but not cracking up; some spice; palate and a ripe tannic twist at the end. Excellent. Refined. 90/100

Charles Melton Nine Popes, Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre 1999

Mid red with some brown at edge; rather strange steely, metallic note; Bovril and blood? Palate feels a bit flat and faded; the least impressive wine for me; some dust and earth; bloody Bovril note persists. 84?/100

Amon-Ra by Ben Glaetzer, Shiraz 2005

Dense and deep; right to edge; legs; very ripe and attractive on the nose; lush and deep; red and black fruits; easy and lush palate; silky and perfumed wine with polish. Lots of depth and layers. Extremely good. 92+/100

First Drop Fat of the Land Greenock Shiraz 2008

Very deep and saturated look; opaque; legs; silky notes; very polished nose; very plush and layers of fruit; some liquorice; ripe and rich on the palate; unctuous; very classy. Creamy and layered. Excellent length. Glowing example of Barossa Shiraz. 93/100

Saltram Rare Vintage Tawny 1959

Amazing yellow green tinge; almost florescent; orange; dried apricot and nuts; very attractive and alive; not overly sweet; quite brilliant. Tawny can’t get much better than this surely? 95/100

Jacob’s Creek, Barossa Tawny 1947

Brower, more cognac coloured; nutty; less fruity; lifted; very sweet palate; nutty; interesting but bit heavy footed and cloying and eclipsed by the Saltram. 88/100 

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