Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Great Shiraz Tasting 2012 (2006 vintage)

The demands of business conspired to keep me out of Perth during last year's Great Shiraz Tasting at Peel Estate, and I spent an entire year regretting it.  So this year, I decided business be damned and I wasn't going anywhere on the first Saturday of September (which happened to be 1 September 2012), except to Peel Estate for the 21st Anniversary of this event.

And I am glad indeed that I made the effort: not only was the field of 20 shirazes outstandingly amazing (I refused to spit any of them out), the 2006 vintage has also renewed my faith in the Penfolds Grange Hermitage.

I am also ever grateful to Ian Harris who forgave me for skipping last year's event because I decided to prioritise business ahead of this vinophilic pilgrimage, and made sure that I had a ticket to this year's event (and thank you too Bill for organising everything and getting the bus to wait for me).

Anyway, I've waxed on and off in my previous articles about the shiraz tasting (Mr Miyagi would be proud), so I'll save you the grief of having to read through all that tripe this time around.  Suffice to say that all of the usual suspects were present: Neville Phillips, Mike Tamburri, John Jens, et al.  And so too was my old friend Lynton Barber (also an unwitting wine mentor to me over the years) of Sterling Wine Auctions who always has a few cryptic words to toss my way.

Other than the Grange, which was my favourite of the 2006 vintage, my other favourites were the Jim Barry Armagh (big, earthy and dense), the Torbreck Run Rig (big and bold Barossa style), the Yalumba Octavius (quite a sophisticated and tidy wine really), the Henschke Hill of Grace (which was plummy and almost savoury).  The Old World entrants also held their own, but stood out with their distinctly non-Australian flavours: Guigal Chateau D'Ampuis (smokey, acidic, cedary and savoury) and the Domaine Rene Rostaing La Landonne (dominant minty-leafiness and plummy savoury flavours).

Did I mention that my faith in the Grange Hermitage was renewed?  Well, that's because this is the first year I correctly picked it out of the blind tasting.  Yes, I'm rather chuffed with myself, but in my great modesty, I attribute it not to my prowess in wines (which is approximately non-existent), but to the standout quality of the 2006 vintage.

As soon as I put the glass to my nose, I knew this was a special wine: a rich, refined berry aroma, but not jammy by any stretch.  And then I poured some in my mouth and the fireworks began.  A massive attack of monster tannins inexorably overpowering everything, yet sporting the most ultrafine, tightly knitted texture I have ever experienced.  And that was only the texture.  The flavour evoked images of a monstrous sleeping dragon: dense, tightly wound cool steely blackcurrants and cherries.  And a big but fine tannic finish, tight, dry and forever lingering.

Wow.  As the years pass, I can imagine that the flavour is just going to keep unfolding.  Got to get myself a bottle or 6 to lay down - let's see what Lynton's latest auction has on offer ...

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