Moss Wood Semillon 1999

If Semillon had fashion on its side, I wonder how many more interesting wine styles we might see? Moss Wood seems to stubbornly stand by its terminally daggy Margaret River Semillon and, on the basis of this wine, I’m grateful it does.

I’ve not previously had a Moss Wood Semillon quite this old, so was very interested to see how a truly evolved examples tastes. The aroma shows notes that evidently derive from time in bottle, but the trick here is these notes show no coarseness whatsoever; instead, remnant primary notes of lemon and grass move meltingly into butter and honey, the latter more suggestions than full-throttle renditions of these broad aromas. It’s still vibrant at its core, but the overall impression is soft and elegant, like soft fabric with a subtle, tasteful sheen.

The palate has good presence and body right down its line. There’s a bit of primary sharpness both in terms of flavour and structure, but mostly this wine’s flavours are soft and delicate, rich in their way but not at all cloying. Mouthfeel slips this way and that, a slight waxiness lubricating movement over the tongue. This is the pleasure of aged white wine: sharp meets mellow, muscle becomes flesh. Quite seamless from entry through to finish, this moves with the confidence of someone only becomes more attractive with age (and who knows it).

Thank you to Mark Gifford of Blue Poles Vineyard for donating this to the party.

Moss Wood
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 1999

I’ve been really impressed with the various Grampians Shirazes tasted of late – consistency of style, distinctiveness of character, at all price points. No wonder it is such a renowned region for this variety, though arguably lower in profile than it deserves. Swings and roundabouts, though; as attention shifts to cooler climate expressions of Shiraz, the role of regions like the Grampians may end up being disproportionately significant.

There’s more than a hint of Gimblett Gravels Syrah in this wine’s nose, though here the aroma is not so aggressively spiced/floral as some from Hawkes Bay. Still, there’s definitely a shake of potpourri within this complex aroma profile of pepper, blueberries and mushroom. Although it’s almost ten years old, it remains strikingly primary, with only some mushroom or leather notes to betray almost ten years of bottle age. I can only imagine it as a young wine. Overall, very aromatic, rich and exotic. 
In the mouth, an intense punch of fruit flavour. Again surprisingly primary, this wine is resolutely alive on the tongue, an impression to which all its elements contribute. The fruit is dark and concentrated, and frankly inseparable from the array of spice notes also present. The acid is quite firm, though certainly not dominant, ditto the tannins; there’s some of the clean flow of an older red wine, but it’s early days. What I like most here is an easygoing, almost casual, elegance. This isn’t some obsessive study in high style (though it’s extremely stylish). Rather, it drapes effortlessly and hence gives off a vibe of natural vitality. All of which adds up to a wine that is all quality but that is so easy to drink it’s almost quaffable. The finish is especially long and fine, laden with spice and hints of cedar oak. 
A delicious, benchmark Shiraz that is just starting to show some positive signs of age. Along with the 2004 Clayfield, this would be my favourite amongst recently tasted Grampians Shiraz wines.

Mount Langi Ghiran
Price: $A61.75
Closure: Cork

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Another wine from the cellar, this time a Coonawarra Cabernet from a vintage perhaps somewhat overshadowed by its immediate predecessor. 

A lovely colour that still shows flashes of purple in amongst its ruby clarity. On the nose, one’s first impression is that of sweet silage, backed by clean blackcurrant fruit. It’s a lovely nose and shows a nice mix of tertiary notes alongside a substantial chunk of fruited youth. There’s also a good dose of vanilla and spice oak, which accompanies the other flavours well and strikes me as assertive without being unbalanced. 
The palate is just lovely. A clean, mellow mouthfeel registers immediately on entry, and ushers in a range of flavours on the mid-palate. Here, more clean blackcurrant fruit sits alongside sweetly decaying foliage, some mint and another whack of oak. It’s medium bodied, really quite intense, and complex enough to keep my brow wrinkled with each sip. As a youngster, I’d say this would have been on the fuller side, yet its structure is still firm enough to give the palate shape and flow. As the wine moves through the after palate,  flavour flows quite linearly over the tongue. Grainy tannins also emerge, still quite drying and tea-like, and carry the wine to a persistent finish. It’s one of those wines that seems to settle on the tongue like a blanket and sit there most happily. The sweet leather of bottle age is most evident towards the finish.
I’m really enjoying this one for its complexity and generosity. Lovers of aged flavours will want to leave it for a few more years to allow further flowering, but it’s also a nice wine right now, with its mixture of young and old. 
Price: $A35
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: July 2008

Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 1999

Bottle variation has been an unfortunate hallmark of the lesser Mount Pleasant wines, something the use of Stelvin closures may ameliorate. This 1999 Semillon, though, is bottled under old-fashioned cork, and my experience of it has been up and down. The last bottle, opened perhaps two weeks ago, was dumb and lifeless. I thought I’d try my luck again tonight, and I think this bottle is more representative of the wine’s quality and character.

Lovely golden colour. The nose was initially a bit muted, with a little prickly sulfur. Closer to room temperature, and the wine is showing a range of elegant aromas, such as beeswax and a lightly herbal astringency, perhaps some buttery softness too. Still quite fresh at nearly ten years of age. The palate shows remnants of the spritzy acidity often observed in young Semillon, but this soon gives way to a waxy, slippery mouthfeel that lovers of aged Hunter Semillon will no doubt adore. This wine’s line is akin to a wedge that starts tight and widens progressively through to an expansive finish. On the way, classic notes of sweet honey and lanolin caress the tongue, along with some citrus-like reminders of youth. There are also hints of caramel and butter, and in some respects one could be forgiven for thinking this is a Chardonnay. Palate weight also accumulates towards the after palate, to the point where it’s really quite mouthfilling and almost chewy. Good length.

This wine is just starting to show at its best and, although not the most complex or most intense, shows brilliant typicité. Bloody good value.

Mount Pleasant
Price: $A12
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: July 2008