The Langtons auction house classification tasting has quickly become one of the “must attend” tastings on the Australian wine calendar. The Langtons classification is a ranking of 123 of Australia’s best wines in the categories “exceptional”, “outstanding”, “excellent” and “distinguished”. To make the grade, the wine must have at least 10 vintages, and a judgement is formed (by Langtons) as to track record and reputation measured through market presence, consistency, volume of demand and price. There are few Australian wines of repute that are not on this list.
The tasting involves taking a glass and wending your way through the melee of Australian wineries pouring their classified wines (generously, I might add) into said glass. To have the benchmark wines of Australia (think Penfolds Grange, Hensche Hill of Grace, Bass Phillip Pinot Noir, among others) all freely available within metres of each other makes for an extraordinary event.
To follow are my impressions of the wines tasted. I have not offered gradings on the basis that in a huge tasting such as this, out of a single glass, it seemed more accurate to note down impressions and glimpses, rather than a serious study of each wine.
My wine of the night:
Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir 2010, Gippsland
I don’t often say this, but wow. And wow again. Aromatics of game, smoked meats, cherry and dried herbs. On the palate, opulent cherry, long length and game and bacon characters at the edges. The obsessive Phillip Jones at Bass Phillip has nailed this wine. Simply outstanding, and the wine of the night.
Three wines of great interest:
Penfolds Grange 2007, South Australia
I preferred this to the 2008 Grange. Similar aromatics to the 2008, except with dried herbs more evident. On the palate, the length was long and the balance and depth of plum fruit outstanding. A complete and outstanding wine.
Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 2008, Yarra Valley
Very left bank Bordeaux like, with medium intensity aromatics of blackcurrant and cedar. Very likeable. On the palate, blackcurrant, a touch of leather and medium to long length. Impressive.
Penfolds Grange 2008, South Australia
This is the fabled “100 point” Wine Advocate wine. It attracted much public interest – whether it was because it received 100 points, or was simply because it was “a Grange”, is probably moot. A medium to pronounced intensity saturated purple in colour. Aromatics of vanilla, plum, cedar, black brooding mulberry. The palate has medium to long length, with plums and a touch of stalk, and yet is full flavoured with the dash of cabernet sauvignon used to good effect. A little more austere than expected. Needs time.
And many more wines of interest:
Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 2008, Clare Valley
Aromatics of dried tea leaves, ripe plums and a medium intensity expression. The palate is soft and plush, with between medium and long length, and plum flavours dominant. I found this wine quite attractive already, with the expression almost merlot like.
Henschke Hill of Grace 2005, Eden Valley
Bottled under screwcap. Unusually for someone writing about wine in Australia, I am a screwcap agnostic. This particular Hill of Grace has some odd aromatics that might be attributable to its screwcap closure, as its expression is quite reductive, with strong notes of herbs and asparagus. The palate though is outstanding, with long length and lovely plum and Christmas cake flavours that run deep.
Yalumba Signature Cabernet Shiraz 2009, Barossa Valley
Aromatics with a touch of menthol, bay leaf and blackberry. The palate sees licorice, aniseed, black olives and unresolved chalky tannins.
Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir 2010, Macedon Ranges
Bramble, stalk and cherry aromas in an alluring expression. Restrained cedar. On the palate, medium length, maybe a little more, and flavours reminding of stones and cherry. The palate seems intermingled with a mineral edge with acidity at the sides. A good wine, maybe even impressive.
Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir 2000, Macedon Ranges
From jeroboam. Now, I don’t say that too often. Its aromatics are of game, smoked bacon, receding cherry, spice, dried thyme and herbs. Quite complex really. The palate has supple resolved tannins, and a quite ripe expression of cherry.
Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2008, Margaret River
Quite austere aromatics of capsicum, bay leaf and blackberry. The palate tastes youthful, with some plushness, medium to long length, bay leaf, and quite savoury. A good wine.
Jasper Hill Emily’s Paddock Shiraz Cabernet Franc 2006, Heathcote
Aromatics of pepper and peppermint. The palate is brooding, with notes of mulberry, plum, dried herbs, “Heathcote” peppermint and medium to long length. Of interest.
Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz 2006, Heathcote
Quite muted in expression, with plum notes. A structured palate with perhaps bitter tannins and plums to the fore.
Cullen Diana Madeline 2011, Margaret River
Dried herb, blackberry and some unexpectedly bright fruit by way of aromatics. On the palate, bay leaf, blackberry and fine tannins. Good without being outstanding.
Domaine A Cabernet 2006, Tasmania
Aromatics of mushroom, earth, leather and game. Some brett? A Bordeaux like expression of blackcurrant and dried herbs on the palate.
Dalwhinnie Eagle Series Shiraz 2010, Pyrenees
Aromatics of plums and dried herbs. High acid on the palate, and seemed to thin out a little. But otherwise pleasant.
Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet 2010, Coonawarra
Licorice, iron and blackcurrant aromatics. On the palate, medium length – maybe a bit more, with notes of blackberry and licorice. This is an intense but closed wine at this point in time.
Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz 2009, Barossa Valley
I’ve said this before, but what’s with South Australian wine labels? Aromatics of bright red juby fruit. The palate also speaks of red juby fruit and medium to long length. The wine felt quite taut and pulled against the edges, reminding of a southern Rhone blend.
Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir 2008, Gippsland
Aromatics of dried herbs, cherry and thyme, presenting in a restrained fashion. Smoke, cedar, cherry and spice. This is a good pinot noir, but the 2010 is stunning.
Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet 2010, Margaret River
Austere aromatics of bay leaf, cedar and blackcurrant. The palate reminds of French oak, cloves, blackcurrant, and is structured and closed with medium to long length. Early days.
Clarendon Hills Australis Shiraz 2008, Barossa Valley
Fruity aromatics of ripe plum. The palate is all about primary fruit purity showing plums with long length and full flavour. It’s a bit obvious in what it does but it nails the brief.
Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley
Thyme, dried herbs by way of aromatics. The palate has medium to long length and a dense plummy expression. A bit broody at this point, but certainly fruit driven.
Yarra Yarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Yarra Valley
Aromatics of leather and blackcurrant. A leathery palate, with soft pleasant blackcurrants. Brett?
Balnaves The Tally Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Coonawarra
Ripe blackberries by way of aroma. On the palate, medium to long length, structure and firm tannins. Of interest, but too young to drink.
Wild Duck Creek Springflat Shiraz 2011, Heathcote
My question as to why Heathcote’s star didn’t to me appear to be shining quite as brightly as it should be was parried away with denial. Aromatics of peppermint, plums. The palate shows eucalyptus, peppermint, plum, high acid and some structure.
Giaconda Shiraz 2010, Beechworth
Aromatics of clipped herbs and cloves. Quite pungent green/herbal aromatics. On the palate, this is a mean, lean and green shiraz.
Disclosure: I attended this tasting as a guest of Langtons.
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