A few wines over the weekend; brief impressions follow.
Starting with the best of a decent bunch, a 2006 Crawford River Riesling totally wowed me on Friday evening. It’s ageing slowly and superbly; nuances of toast and honey starting to intrude on thrilling, precise citrus, floral and mineral flavours. In the mouth, a clean thrust of green apple acid and dry phenolic texture, not ultra-fine so much as perfectly rough. Surely this and Seppelt’s Drumborg label are all we need to proclaim Henty one of our very best regions for this most intellectual of white varietals.
A 1990 St Hugo Cabernet did not fare so well. The bottle was in good condition, and the nose promised heady aged characters, but I’m afraid to say that, for my taste, the oak has taken too prominent a role, unbalancing and ultimately overpowering what are correct, umami-infused aged Cabernet notes. It’s great oak for sure, there’s just too much of it at this point.
I found a glass of the 2008 Clyde Park Chardonnay provocative, if not totally convincing. It’s a heavily worked style, with funky aromas sitting alongside plenty of oak and tight Chardonnay fruit. In the mouth, complex and somewhat cacophonous. I have a soft spot for worked Chardonnay, but this seems to fall between stools; the fruit did not strike me as ideally suited to this treatment.
A 2008 Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz demonstrates the best and worst of a certain winemaking context (large company, large scale, quality end of the market). This is so well made and regional in character that on first sniff I was tempted to start waxing lyrical. Yet a few minutes with this wine reveals a level of calculated perfection that is, ultimately, unattractive. This is a fashion model of a wine; perfectly put together but kind of faceless and not half as interesting as someone with a few well-placed flaws. Still, very solid and, in a sense, critic-proof.
Lastly, the 2005 Zema Family Selection Cabernet. This is self-evidently a good wine, with powerful fruit and clean winemaking. So why wasn’t I bowled over? There’s something about the scale of this wine that seems outsize to me. The fruit is so ripe, the mouthfeel so full, the oak so present. Clearly, some will go nuts for this style, and in a different mood I might too. But I was eating a nice steak and wanting a Cabernet with structure and a measure of elegance. This was simply de trop. Perhaps as much my fault as the wine’s.