The same evening I attended the monthly wine-ark tasting. This is a wine club where you get to taste a portfolio of three usually high quality producers. The tastings tend to be attended by 100-150 people. This night the first producer was Jacobs Creek. Jacobs Creek? I hear you say. Well it was my first Jacobs Creek tasting too, but they have now grouped a number of premium brands under this label. Their presenter was apologizing for this fact all the time, so the wisdom of this is not yet very clear. First up were two Steingarten Rieslings from 2006 and 2002. This wine is probably amongst the top 5 or 7 Australian Rieslings. Both had predominantly a lime flavour, the younger one was very crisp, whereas the 02 had mellowed without being flat. They had a smooth and slightly sweet finish (this comes from someone who likes his whites bone dry). Clearly well made wines, but not for me.
Following were the 2004 and 98 St. Hugo Cabernets. The first wine had very sweet fruit and obviously lashings of oak. It fell a bit short on the back palate. The 98, from a stellar year, tasted predominantly of redcurrant fruit, it had better length and structure finishing with soft grained tannins. Then we drank their top premium wine, the 2001 and 98 Johann Shiraz Cabernet. I have not tried this wine before, but was positively impressed. The 01 had quite dark and concentrated fruit, quite a harmonious and long wine, however lacking a bit of mouthfeel, which I had expected, given the concentrated fruit and the Cabernet/Shiraz combination. Sadly these wines are not made that often anymore in Australia. This combination is unique to this country. The fleshy Shiraz and the more tannic Cabernet make a great combination, in my view. The 98 was similar, although not as powerful as the 01, it seemed to me. The 01 displayed really excellent fruit.
The second winery was Redbank from Victoria. The Sally's Paddock is a wine with a long tradition and good standing. It is a blend of predominantly Cabernet, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc. These wines are light to medium bodied. To me, the evening demonstrated how the times have moved on (and they haven't). We tried the 06 and 05. Both wines were very high in acid and somewhat harsh - clearly too early to drink, but I doubt that they will develop into a harmonious package, given the timid fruit.
Finally it was Songlines. I was particularly interested in these wines. This is a project where a group of international winemakers have come together and are developing a portfolio of wines from different parts of the world. The Australian contribution is of course Shiraz. The wines are made by John Duval, the ex-Penfolds and Grange winemaker, and David Fatches. They come in three tiers. First the 06 Leylines. This is the entry level and proved to be good value for the $22 price tag. Then 06 Bylines. This wine had powerful fruit, tasting mainly of plum, quite sweet and upfront, but having good length as well. The flagship, at $96 per bottle, was the 06 Songlines. This wine was more closed and elegant. It had some eucalypt (which I don't like), and fell off the back palate a bit. My pick was the Bylines. All the wines come from McLaren Vale. They are impressive, but so are their prices.