Wednesday Wines – Episode 150 – Three extraordinary Aussie wines
I recently returned from a whirlwind five-day trip Down Under, where I tasted a couple of important preview portfolios, conducted my annual The Great Australian Red competition with Tyson Stelzer, and attended a magnificent 60-year celebration of Henschke’s Hill of Grace. I will elaborate on these extraordinary events in due course, but today I have three wines that I hope will make it to our shores, even if they are only available in minuscule quantities.
(the current exchange rate is $1 AUD = £0.56)
2019 Deviation Road, Southcote Blanc de Noirs, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (AUD 65).
As this thrilling Pinot Noir attests, Kate Laurie’s sparkling wines are reason enough to get on the plane to Australia. There is a balance here that is exceptional and unexpected in a four-year-old wine. First, the colour is white but not white. Hold the glass up, and a light coral nuage appears. Drop it down to a tablecloth, and it disappears to bright white. Try again, and this pale pink mirage appears over a piece of white crockery, but not in mid-air. It is a magical wine with so much Pinot Noir flair that you continue to reach for, but it is always just an inch from your grasp. I have not tasted a BdeN like it in years, and with its nostalgic perfume, gossamer texture, and faint hedgerow flavour memory, it cast a spell that lived for my entire five days on the ground in South Australia. 18.5/20 (Drink now)
2016 Deviation Road, Beltana Blanc de Blancs, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (AUD 105).
Awarding the same score to Kate’s incredible elite Chardonnay might seem churlish, but both wines left me feeling elated and intrigued. This time a deeper, more commanding flavour takes control of the palate marking nougat, lemon tart and palmier imprints on your senses. This arrestingly dry wine stands upright and proud but also allows moments of indulgence and exoticism when you least expect it. There is more to come from this magnificent vintage, too, as I feel it has kicked off in style, but the crystalline acidity promises to keep it on track for five or more years. There are sure to be more flavour chapters hidden in the fruit folds that will keep you riveted to its progress, curious to experience the dénouement of 2016 Beltana. 18.5+/20 (Drink now – 2030)
1923 Seppeltsfield, Para Vintage Tawny, Barossa Valley, South Australia 100ml bottle (1650 AUD; £1200, www.bancroftwines.com).
Yes, you read this right – this is a century-old wine, not a wine with the ambition to taste like a 100-year-old creation, nor one with a mere dribble of 100-year-old wine somewhere in its DNA. This is a genuine vinous artefact picked in the year that Tutankhamun’s burial chamber was finally opened. It was the year when the first issue of Time Magazine was published, and 1923 also marked the first successful flight of an autogyro, the predecessor to a helicopter. So, while sipping a teaspoon or two of this wine, while pondering the life it has led, I found my mind performing a series of arresting flashbacks – not historical scenes, nor black and white newsreels, but my own vinous compendium of ancient flavours from as far back as 1811, the oldest vintage drink I have tasted which, for the record, was a Pierre Chabanneau Cognac with Bonaparte’s own signed ring indented ‘N’ on its bottle neck. It is clear that this is a wine style like no other on the planet, and yet it has reference points drawn from all corners of the earth in its prodigious flavour. You cannot avoid the all-pervasive depth of fig and burnt toffee that seeps into your senses while remaining confusingly ‘bone dry’ at all times. Fragrant tobacco, green walnuts, drunken prunes, Swedish liquorice, wakame, Peccary leather, smouldering vineyard prunings and sticky toffee pudding are among a panoply of flavours found in this prodigiously indulgent creation. And while this is, in its simplest form, most likely a fortified GSM, it is, in reality, a delicious time capsule of flavour like no other, and it will take your palate to places you never dreamed of. 20/20 (Drink now and for the next 100 years)