Sunday, October 2, 2011

How well do premium Torbreck wines age?

There has been a question mark about the ageability of Torbreck wines because of their richness and ripeness of fruit and their relatively low level of natural acidity.

I like to drink Shiraz when it has developed complexity, but still shows levels of freshness and fruit. My usual drinking window for good Australian Shiraz is 6 to 9 years, with 7 the sweet spot. I prefer the leading wines more mature: Grange 20 years (depending on vintage), Hill of Grace 15 years.

Recently I drank a number of mature Torbreck wines: 2002 RunRig, 2001 Les Amis, 2002 Struie. How did they shape up? In summary, pretty well. The concentrated fruit was still there, although a bit drier than I would have liked. The tannins had lost some silkiness, but the structure of these wines was holding up well. The RunRig still had its sweet core, the Struie was quite smoky, whereas the Les Amis had lost some of its richness and was on the downhill slope.

Where does this put these wines? I think they are middle distance runners. Drinking them at 7 years is probably better than at 15.

1 comment:

dfredman said...

While I certainly understand where you're coming from is-à-vis the aging curve of Torbreck wines, I would suggest that going back to 2001/02 isn't quite enough of an experiential database to correctly assess the aging potential of these wines.

I'll admit to a lack of impartiality on the subject: I am the California-based PR geek for Torbreck., Before moving into flackdom I was working with one of Torbreck's previous USA importers when the wines first sprang into prominence with the 1996 vintage. Prior to that (and to put things into perspective), I toiled in wine retail beginning around 1979 and first really became aware of Oz wines back when the 1981 and 1982 Grange were selling for US$32. This was a time when the 1980 Guigal La Mouline was in the $28 range and Hill of Grace was available for around $20.

Bona-fides and disclosures out of the way, it has been my experience that for the most part, the Torbreck wines have an aging curve similar to that of the old-school Rhône wines (north and south). They show well for a couple of years after release and then shut down for a couple of more years. Around 10 years after being released (not vintage date) they come out of their shells, showing secondary characteristics that you’d find in properly aged Côte-Rôtie. I would suggest that once they've broken through the fog of adolescence that they'll show evolution of the sort that one would expect with great Rhône wines or (dare I say it?) Burgundy.

Penfolds Grange bottles from before the mid-1990s show a similar progression; it’s as if after a decade in the cellar, the influence of the terroir has transcended the influence of the winemaking.
The downside of all of this is that these classically styled wines tend to accentuate aromatics and texture over primal fruit sensations. Drinkers with a preference for overt fruit would probably do well to enjoy Torbreck wines on the early side, thus your reckoning of them as middle distance wines is on the mark.

Cheers- DF