A little while ago, I had the opportunity to taste premium wines from the different brands of Treasury Wine Estate in Australia and New Zealand. Each brand could show up to a maximum of five different wines. Can you imagine the hard choices Penfolds had to make? In the end, they decided on Grange, RWT, the Bin A Chardonnay and two Cellar Reserve wines. The brands presented were Coldstream Hills, Devil's Lair, Leo Buring, Matua Valley, Penfolds, Saltram, Seppelt, St. Huberts, Wolf Blass, and Wynns. There were many absolute highlights. This showing would be tough to match from any combination of Australian wines.
Since I commented on Penfolds, let's start with them. The 2013 Chardonnay is a smart wine, with apricot flavours and a balanced structure. As you would expect, the oak is quite noticeable (94 points). The stars were the 2010 Grange and the 2012 RWT. But they were like chalk and cheese. The RWT is a stunning wine, the best I have ever tasted. The blackberry and plum fruit virtually jumps out of the glass. This wine is very approachable for such a young age. It is smooth, and the tannins provide a firm mouth coating. The new French oak is well integrated and the finish is very long (98 points). The 2010 Grange is not nearly as upfront and quite brooding. The flavours are very complex and developing. This is a bigger and stronger wine, but I think it will develop beautifully. I would not touch it for 10 years (98 points).
Another interesting contrast were the Cabernet Sauvignons on offer. The 2011 Devil's Lair 9th Chamber Cabernet Sauvignon is terrific. The redcurrant and dark cherry fruit is brilliant - a very elegant wine with super fine tannins. This is the first release of this single vineyard wine (96 points). Compare this with the Wynns offerings: 12 Black Label, 10 Messenger, 10 Alex 88, 12 John Riddoch. They were pedestrian by comparison, lacking charm and finesse (90-93 points). This was a big win for Margaret River, and not even one of the estates regarded as top tier.
On the Shiraz front, the Barossa dominated. But apart from Penfolds, it was the 2010 Saltram Moculta Road, which stole the show. This wine had cool climate characteristics with black cherry and white pepper notes (94 points). It was more impressive than the better known 2012 No1, and the 2009 Journal Centenarian, which were bigger, slightly sweet wines (90/91 points). The highly regarded 2012 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz impressed with its very elegant flavours. The plum fruit is quite concentrated and focussed (94 points). And then there was the 2010 Wolf Blass Platinum Shiraz. The colour of this wine is very inky, and the wine is quite overblown and unbalanced (89 points).
I found it disappointing that the two wineries who had made great improvements towards higher quality wines in the last ten years, Wolf Blass and Wynns, did not show any better.
A quick word about Coldstream Hills. Their Reserve Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs have become very good and predictable (in a positive sense) in recent years. The Deer Farm Pinot Noir, not shown here, may be the outstanding wine in its portfolio, but everything else has very high quality as well.