Speaking of styles that will have both friends and foes, this wine from Wild Duck Creek in Heathcote weighs in at 15.6%abv. I was sceptical too. But read on if you are open minded, because the wine holds the alcohol in balance and is, I think, a very good example of a regional style. A typically robust expression of Heathcote shiraz, the 2013 vintage has aromatics of plus and prunes. The palate has saturated long length and a textured full body. Some smart winemaking here. (Alc: 15.6%, Region: Heathcote, Rating: Good to Very Good, Would I buy it based on this tasting? Yes, but drink in moderation, Drink: now to 2027, Tasted: June, 2017)
I tasted this wine from hitherto unknown Moortangi Estate at the rather excellent new restaurant of Luxembourg in St Kilda. Grown on the Cambrian soils of Heathcote, it’s a moreish release, with aromatics of plums and spice. On the palate, the length is long and the impression balanced. This is Heathcote shiraz at its best: power with restraint. Very Good
It is fashionable to dismiss table wines that are at or exceed 15% alcohol. I’ll be honest, I can sometimes suffer from the same prejudice when choosing wines. But is this fair? Probably not – I find actually tasting the wine the only reliable indicator of quality and balance. Some varieties produce higher alcohol wines than others, as do some regions and indeed if terroir is truly important, some vintages. Personal preferences are a factor too. To that end, let me know your thoughts. Here are three heavier weight wines that I recently put to the test.
Occam’s Razor Heathcote Shiraz 2013
Occam’s Razor is produced at the highly regarded and on trend Jasper Hill in Heathcote. Accordingly, it is a slightly unexpected candidate for the heavy weight ethanol division, although Heathcote is generally not a source of shy and retiring shiraz. Weighing in at 15% abv, the 2013 shiraz has aromatics of plums and currants. The palate has similar flavours, and hides its weight well achieving a finely tuned balance. A good release. Good
This wine is a story of two impressions. On first impressions, I didn’t like it much. Its aromatics reminded of currant and spirit, while the palate had impressions of cooked plums, and a hot spirity finish almost like I’d unexpectedly eaten chilli seeds on bread. Tasted the next day, it was substantially better. Christmas cake and high toned spices had replaced the earlier jumpy aromatics, while the palate seemed to have achieved a balance, with pure fruit evident and good length on the finish. A little hard to rate, but I will give it the benefit of the doubt. What is certain is that this wine will benefit from decanting, and probably 5 years in the cellar to settle. Good
Clos de Jacobins Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé 2010
This wine surprised me. A Saint-Émilion weighing in at 15.5%! Yet despite the figure, it held its generous alcohol level without incident, although perhaps in the manner of a waiter treading very carefully with an overfull wine glass. The wine itself is a blend of 80% merlot, 18% cabernet franc and 2% cabernet sauvignon. Its aromatics are quite muted, reminding principally of cigar boxes. The palate is savoury, with cedar and blackcurrant characters most prevalent. The tannins are fine grained, the length quite good and there’s some fleshiness too, but overall I found the wine quite closed. Good, but could be better for the price. Good
At 11 years of age, this Heathcote shiraz from Wild Duck Creek Estate is in its drinking prime. I come across 15% alcohol levels such as this wine less commonly these days, but a decade ago, desired styles or probably more accurately fashions were a little different. The 2003 Springflat Shiraz has regional characters of plum and eucalyptus, as well as a core that hints at, but never quite resembles, a dry cherry liqueur. This is unashamedly a big and robust wine, but there’s a seamlessness to it that suggests some very good winemaking behind it. The component parts of this wine are in harmony and improved in the glass.
I instinctively started to type “shiraz” as I entered the label “Heathcote” for this wine. Of course, this is a mourvedre. The front and back labels play on the three names for the grape – mourvedre, mataro (South Australia) and monastrell (Spain), and settles on the former. The wine itself is a medium intensity ruby in colour and has aromatics that are gamey, with fresh notes reminding of a bouquet garnis and red plums. The palate reveals a quite an elegant expression of mourvedre, with red plums, gamey almost venison like notes and a medium length finish. This is a very balanced wine that disappeared quickly.
Well, this is just a very good wine and at a fair price too. From Wild Duck Creek Estate in Heathcote, the “Yellow Hammer Hill” is a blend of shiraz and malbec. It has aromatics of violets, dark cherry and dark plum. The palate has long length and is very balanced, with some fruit sweetness coming from the dark cherry flavours. Ready to drink now, this wine is easy to recommend.
I tasted this wine from Foster e Rocco back in 2011 at a wine dinner with one of this label’s winemakers, Adam Foster. It can’t have been long after bottling I imagine, looking back at the dates. I found the wine good, and noted some attractive length on the finish and classic sangiovese flavours but put an asterisk next to its tannins, thinking them a bit hard.
Fast forward to 2014, and the wine is lovely drinking. It has aromatics that remind of cherry, earth and wet roses. The palate is cherry and earth driven, with towards long length and is savoury and very balanced in the glass. This is one the better expressions of Australian sangiovese going around and it eschews the more typical full throttle expressions of Heathcote terroir.
I am probably alone in this view, but given the wonderful terroir of Heathcote, and even Coonawarra for that matter, I think while these regions have strong reputations, they don’t have the grand reputations commensurate with what they are probably capable of. That seems a pity.
Occam’s Razor is the label of Emily Laughton of the family that runs the famous Jasper Hill estate in Heathcote. The 2012 release is not shy, with aromatics of currant, cooked plums, pepper and dried spices. The palate has medium length, a full body and is a full strength rendition of Heathcote shiraz with flavours of plums and pepper. It however achieves balance despite its high abv.
This is an interesting wine in a couple of respects; for a start, it’s very good. But it is also more Crozes-Hermitage, than Heathcote. Which is something of an oddity, since well known winemaker Adam Foster adopts a non-interventionist style, uses natural yeasts and does not appear to fine or filter, among other things. He thus pays what would appear to be quite diligent homage to the tenets of terroir. Yet the result is distinctly Rhône Valley in accent, and northern Rhône more specifically.
As it happens, I like wines from the Rhône and I probably write more about French wine than many locally, and I also like shiraz from the Heathcote region and have tasted it over a number of vintages, including older vintages. I haven’t seen an example from either that could be mistaken for the other until this wine, and so my tentative conclusion is that the imprint of its winemaker is a factor here.
Whether that’s good or bad is of course up to you. The wine is really quite good and so therefore I suspect it probably doesn’t matter. What then of this wine? It has aromatics that remind of plum, dried rosemary and thyme and dried earth. The palate gives the impression of medium to high acidity and is rounded out by flavours of plums, dried herbs and carefully managed cedar wood characters. There’s medium length on the finish, and this is certainly a balanced and elegant wine that warrants serious attention. Not a typical Heathcote. Good to Very Good
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.
Subscribe: Subscribe to benefit from regular, considered and independent wine reviews from Grape Observer. Please enter your email address in the subscription icon on the right of screen to receive updates by email.
An independent Australian and international wine review. Since 2009.