Sunday, December 26, 2010

1990 Shiraz comparison: Grange, Hill of Grace, Wendouree

This tasting should provide a good insight into the differences of these three iconic wines, and so it turned out to be.

Day 1:

The wines were tasted after one hour of being decanted.

First came the 1990 Hill of Grace. The colour was brown-orange, a little bit disconcerting, but similar to Barolo, and we know what that can deliver.

The wine is very feminine, smelling of garden flowers, roses in particular. Drinking it is an amazing experience: multi-layered berry flavours, orange peel, a bit of chocolate and sweet spices. The wine is very pure, with a supple texture, very elegant and a long, long finish. Superb. Drinking at its peak. It conveys the specifics of the vineyard and old vines very well.

Score: 98/+++

Second was the 1990 Grange. This wine had a denser red-brown colour. It was clearly going to be a bigger wine. And so it was. The fruit flavours were dark cherry, blackberry and plum. The wine had a thicker mouthfeel than the Hill of Grace, quite satisfying. It did not have quite the same complexity, but was also well balanced with a long finish and slightly bigger tannins.

Score: 97/+++

Then came the 1990 Wendouree Shiraz. I put this last, because I thought this would be the biggest wine. However, it turned out to be similar to the Grange in this respect. The wine tasted of dark plum and blackberry, and a fair bit of eucalypt, often found in the Clare Valley. The wine was a bit rustic in comparison with the other two, but its structure is standing up well. The wine did not have the same complexity as the other two, but delivered a long fine finish with dry tannins.

Score: 94/+

Day 2:

The Hill of Grace tasted similarly. The key features being its smooth mouthfeel and the silky tannins. However, the flavours were not as differentiated as on day 1. The extra day was not a plus for this wine.

Score: 96/+++

The Grange impressed with its intensity of fruit flavours. This Grange has quite concentrated elements, but is not at all heavy. A great drinking pleasure on the second day.

Score: 97/+++

The Wendouree was slightly smoother on this day, but fell apart on the back palate. The alcohol was separated from the fruit flavours and quite prominent.

Score: 91/-

Day 3: The Hill of Grace is still very elegant, but is starting to weaken (95 points). I had the Wendouree next and surprisingly, it was much more together today (93 points). The Grange was still strong, but lost a bit of the fruit flavours (95 points).

Overall, it was amazing how well these 20 year old wines held up. The Wendouree came across as a bit old fashioned. While the other two brands have clearly developed their style over time, Wendouree appeared a bit same old, same old. Its rarity is clearly supporting the cult status, though.

Postscript 1: The flavours and structures of the wines changed significantly during these days. It makes you wonder how much hit and miss is in tasting reviews, depending on how long a bottle has been opened, what has been tasted beforehand, the kind of food etc. Not much is talked about changing flavours over time.

Postscript2: I just checked how much these wines would sell for at auction: Hill of Grace: $450, Grange $600, Wendouree maybe $200. Would I pay this? I don't think so. At these price levels, the wines have to deliver an absolutely memorable wow effect. The Hill of Grace came close ( and did so many years ago, as did the Grange), but unless this is achieved, you can get plenty of pretty outstanding wines for $50-100 per bottle. And the problem is, you never know beforehand.

I enjoyed the experience, hopefully I managed to share some of this with you.


Mark Wickman said...

Absolutely.. the personal flavour and experience of a wine can change with hormone levels; it can be very difficult to get a base level, consistent tasting experience.

Baz said...

Great post - thanks for sharing.

Alontin said...

Thank you, Baz. It is a pleasure.