Another year done and dusted and the cream rose to the surface once again. This year I include all the individual notes for the wine's that scored 94 or better during 2012.
Hope it's not too long a post for you. My WOTY fully deserved its status. This is a legendary vintage port that compares favourably with Hardy's 1956 Museum Release. Funny how VP's have been getting the nod in my WOTYA's, these last few years.
Lindemans Classic Release Vintage Port Bin 3740 1968 - I thought it would be difficult to surpass the 1972 Stanton and Killeen Vintage Port (97 points) tried last month but this phenomenal offering almost did it in spades. Boasts the darkest saturated colour imaginable for a wine of 44 years age followed by an extraordinary bouquet of dusty licorice, cassis and anise that leapt from glass begging you to go back to it time and time again. Lift from perfectly-judged brandy spirit added the final touch to a perfect olfactory experience. In the mouth this is a tour de force of sweet fortified winemaking. Massively concentrated with flavours mimicking those found in the bouquet and blessed with sensational line and delineation, this amazing wine flows through the mouth like silk, filling every part of the mouth with richness and mind-boggling complexity, finally tapered by glorious, subtle astringency only the very best fortifieds can produce. As long as the night and boasting a finish of unmitigated beauty, this stunning, incredibly fresh and rivetting example surpasses my ultimate Aussie VP’s of all time - the Hardy’s 1956 Museum Release Vintage Port, the 1967 Lindemans Classic Release Vintage Port Bin 3642, the Hardy’s 1975 Museum Release Vintage Port, the Stanton & Killeen mentioned above and Campbell’s 1972 Braeburn Vintage Port (my wine of the year for 2011!). Drink for as long as you’re alive. 99
Stonyfell Metala Langhorne Creek Shiraz Cabernet Vintage Port 1971 - 3 bottles of this nectar in 3 weeks! But this was the best bottle to date. I think a few tears were shed over the monumentality of this bottle. This bottle - 98 points on its ear. The freshest and most complex example of this wine I’ve ever tasted. Earth-shatteringly good fortified.
In 1993, I was lucky enough to be given a bottle of 1972 fortified shiraz from the late Chris Killeen from his family’s “bond store” - an odd free-standing old red brick building located near the cellar door on the Stanton and Killeen property just west of the township of Rutherglen. I remember Chris speaking fondly of this vintage, of the wine’s calibre, its amazing freshness and of the considerable way it still had to go (i.e. develop/mature) in the bottle. Some years later I opened that bottle and, not surprisingly, found the contents to be precisely as Chris had predicted.
So it was with great anticipation I purchased another bottle of this possible nectar from auction a few months ago for the princely (sic) sum of $19 (plus a small buyer’s fee). And when opened, what a wine it (still) is. Decanted at 5 p.m. last Saturday and drunk many hours later with members of my local wine tasting group, this wine makes some radical statements about the region and this period in fortified wine history. Namely, the quality of vintage fortified (dare not I mention the word “port”) from Rutherglen and from this era is generally nothing short of spectacular. Over the last year I have tried this wine style using a variety of red grapes (including some of Portuguese origin) from this amazing wine region made by Lindemans (1967), All Saints (1965, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1972), Chambers (1971, 1972), Campbells (1965, 1972) and now this Stanton and Killeen from 1972. The 1972 Campbells took out my WOTY award for the highest pointed wine in 2011. I rate the ‘72 S&K VP as good, perhaps even a tad better! Most of the above mentioned VP’s scored well above 90 points in my official rating with many sitting around or above 95. (Please try and remember I do not hand out such high scores with gay abandon). This feat almost defies logic and boggles my brain as, not only have all been purchased from unknown previous owners and of uncertain provenance, but never in my lifetime to date have I scored so many wines similar in style and of such considerable age at such consistently high ratings. “But that’s what port is all about”, I hear the cynics cry. But compare this performance to the supposed legendary fortifieds of Portugal and even the great names from McLaren Vale and I promise you the same consistency over so many vintages listed above does not apply anywhere to the same degree.
So this wine will take some considerable beating in my wine of the year awards and if it does get pipped, whatever does the pipping will be well worth the experience! Without waxing lyrical, the Stanton & Killeen Gracerray 1972 Vintage Port fully deserves the 97 point rating I awarded it last Saturday night. To date, the only wine I have rated higher here is the phenomenal 1975 Chateau d’Yquem at 98 points. So my most humble thanks to Chris Killen all those years ago, may he continue to rest in peace, knowing what joy he, his forbears and hopefully, his descendants, have and will bring to those who sample these wonderful fortifieds from the winery of Stanton and Killeen.
Campbells Rutherglen Vintage Port 1980 - Another exceptional licorice dominant fortified displaying such amazing youthfulness, one beggars disbelief as to when this will be fully mature. 2040? 95+
Another riesling with impeccable pedigree, Hermann Donnhoff’s Oberhauser Brucke 1997 Auslese displayed kick-arse aromatics and taste with heavenly scents and flavours of honeyed peach, spiced apricot, apple tart, loads of ripe citrus as well as soft balancing slatey acidity to sure up the equation on a monumentally long finish and went down a treat. 95 points.
Houghtons Show Reserve Frankland River Shiraz 1995 - without a doubt, the best WA Shiraz I’ve ever tried, with this bottle in perfect condition and drinking better than any of the many I’ve tried before. Wonderful complex sweet berried fruit has now taken over and the brazen oak of yesteryear has fully integrated, now playing a quite sensational second fiddle. This has everything you’re looking for in a maturing world class dry red wine - balance, finesse - controlled underlying power with incredible strains of delicacy and subtlety (the old iron fist in a velvet glove cliche.) Couple this with the finest structure and awesome length and you have an absolute joy to drink. Drink now - 2020. 95
All Saints Rutherglen Vintage Port 1972 - opened at great friends’, Bill and Marg Beasley’s daughter’s 40th birthday party last night. Jaw-dropping, sensationally fresh with plum, chocolate but mostly licorice fruit abounding and buttressed by awesome structure and mouth-cleansing, but remarkably balanced, astringency. Long as the night. Up there with best of them. An absolute joy to behold, sniff and drink. 95
Seppelt Drumborg Riesling 2003 - remarkably underdeveloped bright straw colour. Pure and invigorating pithy grapefruit dominates the superior bouquet and palate with hints of lime and apple in support. Marvellous linear attack in the mouth with bracing mineral acidity providing the perfect foil to a brilliantly poised but focussed Australian classic riesling. Drinking incredibly well now but somehow I detect this will only get better in the medium term. Fantastic cellaring prospect. Exceptional. 95
Hardy’s Museum Release Vintage Port 1975 - an exquisite bottle. Dark colour, intense nose of blackberry, lantana and clean spirit - just so fresh and attractive. If anything the palate is even more exciting just add licorice, sweet earth and dusty oak. Amazing length. Will go for yonks. A marvellous piece of Australian wine history in a bottle - 95
Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 1992 - About 10% A/V and probably all the better for it. A rogue bottle from the depths of my very cool cellar, with a perfect fill level and a cork only minimally soaked. Preserved lemons, lemon butter, nuts, honey and lanolin on nose and palate - all perfectly meshed and stunningly attractive. Unravels with precision and grace in the mouth but loaded with perfect acid couterbalance to suggest this gem is far from finished. Exceptional wine from somewhat an unheralded year. 95
I now know Joseph Drouhin’s 2002 Chambertin can be a quite remarkable wine. To the eye this wine looks deceptively “old”, but put the glass anywhere near your olfactories and you’ll be graced by a superb, graceful and fresh bouquet that includes bucketloads of pinot sap, outstanding whiffs of fruit of the forest (mostly raspberries and strawberries), a dazzling array of Asian and baking spices and superbly integrated savoury “Rolls Royce” oak. In the mouth, this wine exudes identical class and breeding with a silky texture, lively sappy black fruit, great acid cut, sensational lacy tannins and a quite awesome prolonged departure. Worthy of a score of 95.
Jean-Jacques Confuron’s 1996 Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru is a wine made of small parcels of old vine pinot noir from two premier cru vineyards in the appellation of Chambolle-Musigny, les Feussellotes (0.23h of 40 year old vines) and les Chatelots (0.12h of 60 year old vines). Because Confuron’s holdings in both sites is so small, the Domaine blends the two to produce a “Premier Cru” with neither vineyard named on the label as per the regulations of the appellation controlee of the Cote D’or (Burgundy). Tonight, I experienced a bottle of vinous joy ….. the veritable “holy grail” of red burgundy.
(Fill level to within 1.5cm of a very good quality branded cork with only a few millimetres of light purple staining up the cork. Alcohol 13%.)
Holding a most beautiful rusty plum robe, this enthralling and still relatively youthful wine opens with a melange of spellbinding, integrated aromas highlighted by funky pinot sap, tomato stalk, rich, ripe red-fruited plums and sour cherries, freshly turned sweet earth, sous bois, Asian spices and an almost outrageously good gaminess as a lifted top note. Just beautiful. The palate is all silk and lace, layer upon layer of identical flavours mentioned previously, with gorgeous mulidimensional texture, phenomenal line, persistent refreshing acidity, lovely delicate tannins, great length followed by a peacock tail finish. Combine this impeccable balance and exceptional poise from start to finish and you have a very, very special wine indeed. Plenty of time to enjoy this - 95
I decided to open my first bottle of 2002 grand cru red burgundy from Frederic Esmonin - their “Ruchottes-Chambertin” from Gevrey-Chambertin. I’ve been lucky enough to try a considerable number of this fine maker’s wine’s going back to their famed 1990 vintage. And Esmonin’s Ruchottes from this vintage provided us with superior pinot noir drinking until circa 2005 when the last bottle from old friend, the late Tom Low was opened. This week’s offering opened with a surprising lightish, semi-transparent colour but adorned with a most regal robe. The bouquet utterly magnificent with a melange of sappy, sauvage red and black fruit with titbits of spice and classy savoury oak as top notes. The palate delivers a most similar theme - amazingly svelte and deadset gorgeous with glossy elegant red fruits (plum, redcurrant, strawberry), almost perfect oak usage and blessed with deft counterbalancing acidity. The standout feature, however, is the mesmerizing earthy, sappy, forest floor and gamy characters that make this grape variety, at its best, the most captivating of all. This wine has all of this in spades, but not in the blockbuster, take no prisoners style of some many of today’s false heroes - just the opposite - delicate and understated but with no lack of intensity or restrained power. Couple to this, the most endearing of fine tannin regimes and a peacock-tail finish of great beauty and superb resilience and you almost have the complete burgundian experience. 95 points with some scope for improvement down the road. 13% A/V and all the better for it. Drink now - 2022.
Leo Buring Eden Valley Leonay Riesling 1991 - Brilliant! Incredibly good light lemon gold colour. Toast and fresh limes in abundance with a bevy of subtle bottle-developed complexity in support. Bouquet and palate so incredibly alive and fresh without the slighest hint of its considerable age or impending maturity. An astonishing wine at the peak of its powers but, seemingly, with an inbuilt confidence for another ten years (plus) of superior drinking to look forward to. 95
Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 1995 (95 points) - utter perfection in a flute - everyone went ballistic over this.
Peter Lehmann Reserve Eden Valley Riesling 2002 - Utterly brilliant but, unfortunately, my last bottle (only managed to get hold of a few of these recently and must get some more). Ultra-fine classic and still relatively elemental lime/kaffir leaf/orange blossom characters with a mountain of subtle chalky acidity to burn for future nourishment. Astonishing balance and length with a mind-blowing finish. The best Riesling I’ve ever tried from this maker (imho - better than the 1993) - 95
With tarte tatin and a variety of ice creams including a gorgeous passionfruit gelato, we opened Ch. Climens 1986 - the best showing of this remarkable wine to date. Boasting a gorgeous and still relatively youthful light orange/apricot/gold colour this remarkably elegant but complex sweet wine hit all the right buttons for most of us on the table last night. There’s an almost enigmatic quality of this wine being so delicate, feminine and uniformly classy yet holding an intriguing core of reserved power and guaranteed extended longevity. The aromas and flavours here are a corncopia of pear, apricot, caramel, almond, coconut, baking spices (more cinammon, perhaps a wee twist or hint of nutmeg) and a gorgeous burnt orange character at the end. Needless to say, this was my wine of the night and with a nauseatingly slow development curve to date and stunning structure of linear acidity and marvellous astringency from the finest French oak, will bring great joy to anyone who has well-cellared examples for perhaps another two decades. Bravo! 95
The final standout of the night was a surreal vintage port from Lindemans. Their Classic Release Bin 3111 Shiraz 1965 (95 points) rates only marginally behind the almost perfect Lindemans Classic Release Vintage Port Bin 3740 1968 (99 points) and their otherworldly Bin 3642 Classic Release 1967 (97 points).
For aperitif we drank Pol Roger Chardonnay Brut 1996, still remarkably fresh and zesty with copious quantities of citrus and melon fruit, pastry shop smells alongside the most gorgeous digestive biscuit character. Frighteningly good persistent acidity, wonderful swirling mousse on a interminably long finish. Fantastic start. I thought it worthy of 94 points and a drinking window of up to 5 years.
Ch. Coutet 1983 - Some “hit and miss” bottle variation with this vintage. Big hit yesterday - a fully resolved, but still fresh wine in an extremely good place. Elegant and poised, with a drop-dead gorgeous bouquet of not overripe white and yellow stone fruits, acacia, beautifully integrated fine French oak and hints of honey and coconut. The palate similarly endowed with a smooth, svelte mouthfeel, excellent balancing acidty, just the right amount of oak astringency and a very long satisfying finish. 94 points and WOTD.
Langmeil Riesling 2002 - Bought a case of this for next to nothing years ago and have tried the odd bottle or two with not too dissimilar notes, although this bottle is now way up there in drinkability. Still only a pup, although the aromatics have grown in complexity and weight over the last several years. Infantile but hugely impressive colour of bright lime straw green; magnificent nose of lime, kaffir leaf, unripe pineapple, honeysuckle, slate and mineral. In the mouth this sits beautifully but still exudes a slight excess of perky acidity in the mildly phenolic slate- and mineral-laden finish. Otherwise, there’s an abundance of explosive, crunchy riesling fruit similar to what I described in the bouquet, startling poise and tension as well an expressive and satisfying persona. If you have any, leave it alone for 3-4 years if you can keep your hands off it and then drink it for the next decade. Great effort from a relatively unknown maker. 94 points. Screwcap. 12.5% A/V
I neglected to add a terrific Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay in my initial report, but its high quality deserves a belated but most important inclusion. Kooyong’s 2005 Estate is a freakish wine that still had considerable time to go in the bottle. Its youthful pale straw colour, complex barrel fermet and cool climate varietal fruit provide exciting, fresh and vigorous aromas and flavours with plenty of acidty keeping things zippy on the palate. The balance between fruit and barrel is exemplary and the wine possesses a near faultless line and sensational carry. Walk-in 94 pointer from my perspective. Drink now - 2017.
Fritz Haag Juffer-Sonnenhuhr Spatlese Riesling 1997 Almost impossibly good youthful bright pale green colour; fantastic haunting aromatics of white citrus flowers, slate, lemon meringue, a little redcurrant, a whiff of light toast, perhaps the merest hint of emerging petrol then kicks back with probing hints of white nectarine and lime. Wow, what a great journey and still so impressively fresh and vibrant for a 15 year old! In the mouth, this wine jumps to an even higher plane …. as this just glides through the mouth with such purity, perfect symmetry and mind-boggling delineation. The M-S-R thumbprint of counterbalancing sweetness and acid cut could not be better exemplified here. There’s plenty of punch but beautifully bridled by an awesome line - add the sleekness of pristine ripe fruit, the raciness, the minerality, the balance and you have a very special wine indeed. 94 points. And it will last for donkey’s! 7.5% A/V
Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Pauilliac) 1979 - words can’t do this inexpensive wine justice. In terrific nick, I shared this with several of my jazzo friends on NYE and all went gaga over it. Threw up a tiny bit of barnyard at first and then morphed over the next hour or so into one of the best ‘79 left-bankers you’ll find. For a lowly classified growth from an unheralded year, this Chateau overperformed in this vintage to the hilt - 94
Orlando St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 - I’ve sat on this wine for a dozen years and it has budged very little until now. Consider it ready for business but with a long drinking window ahead. Only 13% A/V and every aspect of this wine says “Classic Coonawarra Cabernet”. Amen. 94
Mount Pleasant’s 2001 Elizabeth Hunter Valley Semillon (cork, 11% A/V, 5 gold medals on the bottle) reveals a glistening light lemon gold colour with youthful greenish tinges, a nose awash with classic aged semillon notes of honey, toast and nuts over glorious grass- and lanolin-tinged pithy citrus (mainly grapefruit and lime) fruit. Almost paradoxically, the bouquet is all about envigorating lift and freshness and nought about decay or a hint of reaching a mature plateau. The palate delivers an even more backward mind-boggling equation - incredibly limey (verging towards cordial intensity!) in flavour with amazingingly lively grippy acidity and astonishing length; this has a such long way to go, I’m hesitating to suggest 10 years as a minimum cellaring proposition. Almost freakish, this wine has such unlimited potential, I’m unsure of what great heights it may achieve. On today’s showing I’m happy to award 94 points with double plus signs for future reference. Drink 2015 - 2025+. I’m flabbergasted! Now, if McWilliams, had only sealed this in screwcap, I’d be giving everyone the big thumbs up. Caveat emptor with these being under cork!
Lastly, I opened an old bottling (750ml) of Campbells Isabella Tokay. An amazing example, and in terrific shape without a skerrick of staleness evident, especially considering the time this has spent in bottle and its underlying ancient base material. Unlike the heavier Morris Old Premium Tokay style, this wine was particularly impressive for its superior aromatics and slippery, silky but sensationally concentrated flavours of the finest English toffee, cold tea, butterscotch and faint hints of dried raisins (muscatels). Couple this with an awesomely long and incredibly delicate and balanced departure and you have one of the best examples of Rutherglen “Rare” Liqueur Tokay. 94
To finish off a fantastic night we served up some quality dark chocolate treats that went well with a one hour decanted 1964 Saltram Mueum Vintage Port. In A1 condition, this blend of Shiraz and Cabernet, mainly sourced from Langhorne Creek, surprised us with its very dark colour, superb aromatics of cherry kirsch, dark Jamaican chocolate, licorice and lifted clean brandy spirit followed by an amazingly smooth, but still fresh palate of considerable class with very similar nuance to the bouquet with an added Christmas cake complexity running amuck. Smoothly resolved astringency was found throughout the wine’s unmitigating and most impressive finish. A real eye-opener, and, I’m guessing, well-kept bottles with live for some considerable time to come. 94 points.
Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 1984 - my last bottle. In terrific condition and drinking superbly. Quintessential Coonawarra with an array of complex aromas and flavours. A case of the whole being substantially greater than the sum of the parts. Leafiness, wet earth, cigar box, herbs, capsicum, weedy blackcurrant, hints of creosote, road tar, old leather, iodine, even a bit of sweaty saddle!!! … quite thrilling in the mouth with great moutfeel, plenty of fruit and wonderful integrated savoury oak backing, a terrific line followed by a smooth but resolute finish wrapped in a shroud of cleansing acidity and soft, cuddly tannin. Outstanding bordering on exceptional. 94
Zind-Humbrecht Clos Jesbal Pinot Gris Selection de Grains Nobles 2001 - burnished gold colour, surprisingly low in alcohol but unctiously sweet with decadent extraction levels redolent with apricot, caramel, peaches, almond meal, honey and sweet baking spices. Beguiling minerailty in a distinguished mouthfilling departure of great length. Almost comparable to a fully blown, high calibre Sauternes just without the oak. This paired very well with a sticky date pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Although the colour is a bit of a worry, I expect this wine will hold until the end of the decade. 94