Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Case for a 'Reserve' Wine

To produce a 'reserve' wine is appealing to wineries. The key characteristics are more fruit intensity and scarcity of product. Based on this, prices are high. In some cases, these wines are labelled 'reserve' (some wineries label anything 'reserve'), in other cases they have a special brand name.

Tonight's wine belongs to the second category. It is a 1998 Katnook Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon. This reserve has been established for a long time. The 1998 vintage demonstrates what can (and often does) go wrong with reserve wines.

Katnook has access to some of the best fruit in the Coonawarra, but this wine is overoaked and overworked. As a result, it does not have the charm of the regular Cabernet. The fruit is pretty dead and while the wine has a lengthy finish, oak, tannins and fruit are fighting with each other, rather than blending into a harmonious wine.

I was curious how Jeremy Oliver rated the wines at the time and interestingly, he gave the regular wine 95 points and the Odyssey 90 points. Pretty spot on, I think.

A 'reserve' is not automatically a better wine. You need to know what you are after and why you are paying the considerable premium.

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