The most reputable wines are generally not entered into wine shows. It is therefore not often that one finds an opportunity to compare the best wines of a kind in a tasting. This post reports from such a tasting. It compared leading current release Shiraz wines from the different Australian regions plus the Rhone. The wines were
- Auguste Clape Cornas 2008
- Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2010
-Giaconda Estate Shiraz 2010
-Bests Thompson Family Shiraz 2010
-Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2009
-Wolf Blass Platinum Shiraz 2008
-Gaelic Cemetery Vineyard Shiraz 2008
-Henschke Hill of Grace 2006
-Penfolds Grange 2007
Generally speaking, in such a line-up, the point is not to identify good and not so good wines, but to identify how the styles differ. In fact, two wines did not quite deliver, but more interesting was the wide spectrum which Shiraz can express. The order of the wines was supposed to reflect the increasing weight of the wine.
The Auguste Clape Cornas is from the most southern area of the Northern Rhone, i.e. the warmest area which delivers pure or near pure Shiraz in the Rhone region. Auguste Clape is one of the most highly regarded producers. As is nearly always the case, French wines do not come out too well in comparative tastings with Australian wines, as their fruit concentration simply does not match the Australian wines. However, this wine shows complex raspberry and cherry flavours and spice. It has a dry finish - an excellent food wine (94 points).
The Viognier component is very noticeable in the 2010 Clonakilla. The wine has a similar fruit profile to the French wine, but is more fragrant, with a lifted finish (94 points).
The Giaconda Shiraz is not from the Warner vineyard, but the Estate vineyard next to the winery. Kitzbrunner believes that this vineyard will ultimately deliver the better wine. I do not think this is happening yet. I found this wine disappointing and lacking in mouthfeel. It is a darker wine, tasting of blackberry and spice, but not much intensity. The finish is dry and not very long (92 points).
The Bests wine has a similar blackberry flavour, but more depth of fruit and length. It shows some mint on the palate and some traditional oak treatment, but it is a clear and vibrant wine (93 points).
The Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz is a step up in power. The wine is quite oaky, and the tannins are coarse on the palate. I find that the blackberry, plum and mint flavours do not quite stand up to this (93 points).
More sweet vanilla oak flavours come through on the Wolf Blass wine, as expected. However, there is good fruit underneath and some silkiness in the tannins coming through (92 points).
The second wine which disappointed was the Gaelic Cemetery from the Clare Valley. I am not familiar with this small production wine, but found it quite sweet and sugary, and not based on a great structure (90 points).
The Henschke Hill of Grace was as expected. A gentle wine, not dissimilar to the Cornas, actually. Raspberry fruit and spices (not pepper) lead to a complex flavour mix. There is good upfront fruit, and soft tannins lead to a sustained finish (95 points).
What makes the Penfolds Grange stand out from the wines before is the intensity and length of flavour. This is a big wine, less refined than some of the others, but a unique expression of Shiraz (96 points).
Given the price of these wines, there was a considerable tasting fee for this tasting - fair enough. In parallel, another tasting of less expensive Shirazes was held for free. There were two wines there which I could have seen in this group from a quality point of view.
The Seppelt St. Peters Shiraz 2008 is a lighter wine, quite spicy, and not with the same mouthfeel as the others, but fine tannins to finish off with (90 points).
The John Duval Entity Shiraz 2010 was a highlight. It has a complex fruit set, in the raspberry, blackberry, mulberry spectrum. The wine is very harmonious and has a firm finish. His best effort yet (93 points).
Within one hour, I tasted wine worth more than $2000. Yet overall, I did not feel elated, but rather flat and disappointed. Why? Did my high expectations make it hard to be excited? I do not think so. I was there to have a good time. Did the wines all taste the same? They certainly did not. So what was it? I think in the end it was the predictability of what I found. There were no surprises. And while the quality was good and the wines were not overblown, they strangely lacked personality, as if a robot went through the motions of producing the expected product, bottle by bottle.