Offcuts: Flight 3

I recall we consumed these wines over two or three nights. Certainly, it all happened in Queenstown, around Christmas.

Before heading off to the most unlikely (and wonderful) Christmas dinner one could imagine, we downed a bottle of Domaine Emilian Gillet Viré-Clessé Quintaine 2002. I think this wine’s a bit of alright and had been keen to share it with Chris since my first tasting. Gratifying, then, to observe Chris’s enjoyment of what is an unusual and delicious white Burgundy. According to Ross Duke, Jean Thévenet (who makes this wine) picks his fruit in tranches at quite different levels of ripeness, including late picked, Botrytis affected fruit. This is evident in the quite startling array of flavour influences, and a lusciously round mouthfeel. Fabulous wine, great value.

Thinking back, we also managed to drink a bottle of 1996 Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon, though exactly when I can’t recall. As per my previous note, this wine remains a beautiful baby, showing nascent signs of maturity but still prickling with youth.

At some point in the next twenty four hours, we opened a series of Shirazes. From the first sip, it was evident Chris’s bottle of Cayuse Vineyards Cailloux Syrah 2006 from Washington State’s Walla Walla appellation would be the wine to beat. I’ve never tasted Syrah with such a flavour profile before. Explosively fragrant, this wine smells of bright red and black fruits, spice, tobacco, some pepper and a cascade of notes I feel ill equipped to describe. The palate matches the nose’s level of impact with powerful flavour that steamrolls across the tongue. It’s not at all heavy, though. This wine is almost expressionist in its character — vivid, emotional, even a bit uncontrolled. I loved it and was very sad to see the end of the bottle. My wine of the trip, without a doubt.

Many wines might suffer in comparison to the Cayuse, and on the day this was the fate of a bottle of Seppelt’s St Peters Shiraz from 2004. Dan and I felt it was a little bretty — certainly, it never tasted quite right, with a thinly acidic palate and not much stuffing. My last tasting of this wine revealed a balanced, elegant wine of some luxury, so I can only conclude we struck an inferior bottle.

Not so much suffering in comparison to a particular wine as an entire wine style was our next bottle, a Lake’s Folly Cabernet from 1999. Note to self: don’t mix older Hunters with young, fruity Shiraz. Lots of regional stink here and, though it showed true to type, this wine requires the sort of leisurely, isolated contemplation that none of us were in the mood to provide. The next day, I retasted this wine and enjoyed it a deal more. As always, a polarising style, for which I remain grateful.

A 2006 Wendouree Shiraz was just the ticket to revitalise our palates. This is seriously young, yet not as forbidding as I had anticipated. Sure, there’s structure to burn, but the primary fruit is so clean, pure and deep, it’s a pleasure to taste right now. Very dark berry fruits and eucalyptus are the main flavour components. By the next day, it was tasting markedly better, structurally more integrated and with greater elegance. If it’s not yet a wine of overt complexity, its correctness and poise provide ample compensation. A wine with its best days ahead, and one that I’d love to retaste again and again.

I guess we were Shirazed out by this point, because our next bottle, also courtesy of Wendouree, was a fortified Muscat of Alexandria (a blend of the 2004 and 2005 vintages). Not a wine to pick apart, this is designed for easy, hedonistic enjoyment. This is an unusual fortified wine in the Australian context, being relatively fresh and light as a style. Piercing, rich floral and marmalade notes dominate. Delicious.

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