Gnadenfrei Estate "The Waldemar" 1999

I began by peeling wax off in tiny flakes, trying to get to the cork, before I remembered that I probably should’ve just attacked with the corkscrew, which worked a treat. The bottle signed a quick whiff of nail polish remover, which dissipated quickly; the cork seemed in relatively good shape for an oldish bottle like this, still intact (albeit well stained).The color of the wine is definitely old: decrepit, even, a mouldering shade of dark rust brown, not particularly appealing (but then again I’m American, right, so I’m never supposed to drink wine that’s any older than a year or two, right?). The nose is, well, old. Really old. It smells like smoked meat (think MontrĂ©al) with a side order of truffles and old shoe leather. Overall, it kind of seems like a one-note wonder at this point, and I’m wondering if I was a fool to buy this (more on why later on). In the mouth, it’s surprisingly full-bodied for such an old wine, but the taste is not particularly attractive, tasting of not much more than “old wine” with no complexity. The finish is a bit better, though, with fairly fresh red fruits, a bit of sourness, and a fairly long finish of tobacco leaves with a sweetish edge to it.To be absolutely honest, I’m not sure how to feel about this wine. Is this normal? Is this the kind of thing the English drink and enjoy? I think I’m going to set this aside for a few hours and come back to it later on to see if it’s become something that I innately enjoy; as it is now, it seems more an intellectual exercise than something I’m going to drink with my supper.Gnadenfrei EstatePrice: US $19.95Closure: CorkDate tasted: February 2008—I first heard of Gnadenfrei back in 2001, when the local bottle shop (K&L Wines) carried this exact wine. At the time, I was working for Netscape Communications Corp., and I had a coworker by the name of Waldemar, so I always thought it’d be a hoot to give him a bottle of this. I didn’t – I wasn’t even sure if he drank wine – but I did have the pleasure of visiting Gnadenfrei in October 2002. The experience was entirely unlike any other Barossa winery I visited: Malcolm Seppelt himself poured the wine, rambled on about importing to Pennsylvania, and his wife was upstairs with more tourists. It was decidedly odd, standing there in that dingy basement drinking wines I didn’t know much about at the time.—Even coming back to this wine thirty minutes later, it’s very much improved, and I think I’m almost enjoying it now. If anything, it’s a welcome antidote to the drink-me-now 16% Barossa reds we get in these parts; there’s a definite oddness to this bottle that makes it stand out.

1 thought on “Gnadenfrei Estate "The Waldemar" 1999

  1. I like it… it’s definitely odd, but well made. Is this what wines tasted like in the 1970’s?

    Sniffing it, it smells “AUSTRALIAN” in that funkified earthy all-out manner, but in the mouth it’s much different than a mammoth Barossa wine. There’s a pleasant sourness, not too much, with a taste that reminds me of pomegranate juice. There’s a slight pepper prickliness, but it’s not hot in the mouth, and it’s filling without being chewy. And the wine finishes with a pleasant minty tobacco finishes it off that lingers for a long while.

    I like this wine very much, even though I wouldn’t have expected it. I *do* remember visiting the winery in 2002, and the winemaker himself muttering on in a corner his musty basement, and thinking “Whatever wine he makes will be super strange, but it might be interesting and perhaps even good.” I rate this wine as more than good.

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