The renowned GW called my attention to the trophy recently awarded to this wine at the 2008 Hunter Valley Wine Show. Congratulations, Tyrrell’s. What better excuse to taste it now?
A deep, dark purple hue, dense and inky. I really didn’t get anything from this wine for the first hour or so. It’s so tight. I must admit, I shook the bottle up before pouring my second glass and, after some further mistreatment in the glass, I’m smelling a range of aromas. First, black pepper and spice, then blackberry, clean and deep. A bit of sappy oak, then aniseed and ripe brambles round things out. It ends up being quite distinctive and characterful, but it’s not a wine that reaches out to you. Not right now, anyway.
The palate shows an interesting mix of elements, all tied to a core of assertive but integrated acid. Despite its primacy, somehow the acid feels unforced and already it sits within the overall context of the wine, rather than apart from it. But back to the entry, which is dark and alive with tart, clean blackberry flavour. Things open up as the wine moves confidently through a medium bodied mid palate, and it gathers quite remarkable intensity of flavour along the way. There’s some fruit sweetness and savoury spice, all of which is currently subservient to acid. I love the way it widens in the mouth, creating an impressive sense of scale without any hint of heaviness or excess. In fact, the whole wine strikes me as architectural in the precision of its form. The finish lingers well, although it lacks a sense of weight that, I imagine, will come as the acid softens.
This is a very clean, characterful wine, and its quality is undeniable. It’s also an infant. I suspect it needs a few years, if not decades, to blossom and reveal the full spectrum of its personality. It is completely different in style from the 4 Acres, being a much darker, more brooding wine, less exuberantly fragrant and expressive.
Irrespective of whether you like this wine, it’s nice to be given the opportunity to taste the fruits of remarkable vineyards (or sections therein) that would otherwise disappear into larger production labels. Viewed from this perspective, the Old Patch and 4 Acres wines are an instant lesson in Hunter Valley Shiraz, its common character but also the range of styles that exist within its ranks. Perhaps the outmoded “Burgundy” nomenclature was appropriate in ways we’re only now beginning to see.
Date tasted: August 2008