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d'Arenberg 1998 The Ironstone Pressings McLaren Vale GSM ($48.99)
Ironstone PressingsI broke the budget for a Christmas dinner wine that would evoke memories of one of the most scenic stops on my recent Australia tour, but I honestly can't call the expense fully justified. This inky dark blackish-purple wine is interesting and complex, but strong oak aromas and flavors are so dominant as to detract. Ripe raspberry fruit starts it off on a delicious note, but buttery oak aromas throw it out of whack; it's the same on the palate, where full, peppery berry fruit lurks behind sweet oak. Soft tannins turn a bit astringent in a long raspberry and bitter-chocolate finish. Interesting, complex, but klunky. The parts seem to be there for it to come together with time, but the oak is troubling. A blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Shiraz and 10% Mourvèdre. U.S. importer: Old Bridge Cellars, San Francisco. (Dec. 25, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: A decent match with a plump roast duck.

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