The last few days allowed me to compare the flagship reds of a number of leading producers and reflect on the issue of 'big reds' vs. more traditional wines.
On the first night, I drank the 1998 St. Hallett Old Block side by side with a 1999 Mt. Langhi Giran Shiraz. You can't say that the Old Block is an overblown wine, but it is clearly Barossa. It has weight, depth and some chocolate flavours. This wine drinks perfectly now, the tannins weave beautifully through the concentrated fruit flavours, in perfect harmony. The Mt. Langhi had typical Victorian characteristics: dark fruit, a lot of spice and a firm finish. Both wines were great, but the St. Hallett had the edge - what you would expect from a perfect Barossa red.
The Kalleske was a 2005 Old Vine Grenache. Obviously quite a different experience. The wine has 15.5% alcohol, but the strong fruit absorbs this pretty well. The wine comes from the significant vineyard holdings at Greenock Creek. Wines from this area tend to be very ripe, sweet and alcoholic. This wine was quite agreeable on all fronts, although clearly a 'modern' expression of Barossa wine. It had the typically soft characteristics of Grenache and good mouthfeel.
Finally, a bottle of 2002 Warner Shiraz by Giaconda. This wine has a 97 point rating by James Oliver, who is not a fan of big reds. It is grown in the high country of Beechworth and has characteristics very similar to Northern Rhone wines. A strong earthy feel, elegant, understated, and excellent length.
What is the verdict? I think all these wines are perfect for the right environment. I would enjoy the Barossa wines less in summer. They did not fight with the food, but could also be drunk on its own. The Victorian wines are great company to meat based food, but shine less on their own. Bottom line: I would be happy with any of these bottles most nights.