Geddes Wines Seldom Inn Shiraz 2006

As unfashionable as it may be, I’m a true believer in the importance of people in wine. To be clear, I’m not advocating a brutish obliteration of place, but rather for the inclusion of humans, from viticulturist through winemaker to drinker, in our concept of what makes a wine compelling. Wine is natural only in the most basic, uninteresting sense, and it truly comes alive when its agricultural origins collide with a raft of cultural practices and, ultimately, with the aesthetics of the people who drink it.

The role, in all this, of the consulting winemaker, is problematic. Often charged with the task of bringing to life a client’s vision, the consultant risks losing his voice and becoming simply the guardian of best practice and sound outcomes. Which makes this particular wine interesting to me. Tim Geddes is the consulting winemaker behind some of the hottest young brands coming out of McLaren Vale. I’ve gotten to know Tim a little, as the winery I’m doing vintage with, Dowie Doole, makes its red wines in Tim’s winery. Though Tim is clearly in demand as a winemaker for others, I’ve been more and more curious to know what he might make under his own name. This wine is my first clue. The Seldom Inn range forms a second label for Geddes Wines.

The nose here is fragrant and spicy, with cedar oak and forest floor characters complementing fresh berry fruit. Brown spice and bottle aged notes back up higher toned aromas. As an aroma profile it’s all well and good, but what’s especially interesting is its finesse. This is no McLaren Vale fruit bomb. Rather, the aromas are subtle, intertwined, thoughtful, not light so much as well defined and nimble.

The palate creeps up on you, with fresh berry fruit the first flavour to register, followed by gentle brown spice, cigar box and elegant hints of bottle age. Acid structure is still very present, and the wine has fantastic length. Tannins are firm and drying, complementing attractive tobacco notes on the finish. As with the nose, flavours are well articulated and adult, with as many savoury as sweet characters. This is a wine of subtlety and, at this stage, notable complexity, and happily it does not overreach in terms of intensity.

In many ways this is a quiet wine, knitting together its flavours gently, never thrusting its qualities into the drinker’s face. If this is what Tim Geddes thinks good wine should taste like, I may just go along for the ride.

Geddes Wines
Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2006

I was underwhelmed by two recently tasted, fairly pricey Costco-procured wines, so thought for my next adventure into supermarketland I’d try Aldi, another import into the UK. At £5.99, this Rioja Reserva was the most expensive wine on offer at the Chester-le-Street branch of this brutally efficient supermarket chain.

While not a £50 wine in disguise, this drinks very well and in most respects was more enjoyable than either Costco wine. The aroma is settled and integrated, with calm notes of spice, strawberry, vanilla oak, savoury fruits and some bacon fat. It is expressive and well balanced, showing enough complexity to satisfy without being overtly challenging.

More of the same on the palate, showing a very clean flavour profile and firm acid. The interplay of sweet and savoury is especially enjoyable here, with fruit pulling in both directions, playing out primarily on the middle palate. Despite the interest in its fruit, it’s not a fruit-forward wine, and there’s pleasing restraint in all respects here. The downside of this is an intensity of flavour that could be greater. Other flavours, including a nice snapped twig note, continue on to a finish that is lightly touched by fine tannins.

For the price, this is quite excellent and a wine I’d be happy to buy again.

Baron Amarillo
Price: £5.99
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Yarra Yering Pinot Noir 2006

Happily, I have found myself drinking well of late. The lead-up to Christmas affords many opportunities to open those special bottles, and I am availing myself of every opportunity to do so. Last night, I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with friends and we sampled a range of wines, all of which were excellent. This stood out as the wine that changed the most with air.

When it was first poured, it smelled musty and closed, and I worried a little for the condition of our bottle. That worry was entirely misplaced; this soon blossomed into a stunning wine. One thing good wine can do is constantly change in the glass, providing a great ride for the drinker. This seemed to shift a bit every time I smelled it, aromas sliding around as if constantly forming and reforming. First, blowing off the residue of its life in bottle and becoming sweeter, cleaner and less awkward. Then showing meaty notes alongside its relaxed red fruits, some minerality too, one element folding into another and producing something new before for my next smell.

In the mouth, outstanding coherence and line. Once settled, the palate was a seamless expression of dark berries, minerals, toast, meat and a myriad other notes. Bottle age is beginning to make a contribution too, easing the wine into a relaxed phase of its life and adding truffled leather notes. While the flavour profile is delicious, for me this wine’s most notable features are its detail and balance, traits that allow flavours to be heard without having to jostle for attention. I felt drawn into this wine and tasting it was an exercise in looking more closely.Very fine wine.

Yarra Yering
Price: $A148 (wine list)
Closure: Cork
Source: Other

Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2006

I attended a satisfying dinner on Friday evening where the wines were wide ranging and the table’s reactions diverse. I was interested to note the styles that appealed in such a setting. They were invariably forward and aromatic, with fruit flavours that were clearer and more readily identifiable. No surprise there, but I was left wondering about quieter wines that don’t offer such immediate gratification but which can, when contemplated solo, provide tremendous pleasure.

This is one such wine. Not an exalted label by any means, but it’s a whole lot of good things — expressively aromatic, well fruited, evenly structured. Yet it lacks a hook, something immediate and excitable, which would make me fear for its fate in a large line-up of wines. No matter; tonight, it’s the only wine on my table and I’m pleased to consider it at length.

The aroma shows definite tertiary characters which gives a mellow gloss to underlying fruit aromas. Dark berries and some snapped twig swirl at its base, while a range of other smells build on each other. It shares a gene with the sort of exotically spiced blend that might be encountered in a tea house. Here, spice is a link between fruit, oak and bottle age.

In the mouth, a sensuous wine; its structure caresses the tongue as dense fruit coasts above. The weight of its flavours edges on ponderous but detail and definition are sufficient to keep the wine from cloying. I especially like the integration of flavours, from dark berry to aromatic orange peel to leather; this ultimately tastes like a single, complex note. Structure is present, with acid in particular carrying the wine’s movement. The after palate is relaxed and the finish decent.

$30 is a bit extravagant for regular drinking, but if I had the means, my quaffing wines would be like this: humble, quiet and perfectly formed.

Marqués de Murrieta
Price: $A30
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Tyrrell's Vat 9 Shiraz 2006

The last few days have been spent blowing my nose, coughing and generally moping about. One of the boring things about being sick is that one can’t really enjoy much of anything, so all the spare time that results tends to go to waste. I still feel under the weather, but I thought I’d open a familiar wine, one that I’ve tasted twice before, to see if it might lift my spirits. Just one small glass, you understand.

I’d forgotten the richness these drought-era Hunters possess, and this wine is a potent reminder of how vintage conditions allowed a concentrated, almost liquerous expression of Shiraz to come forth. On opening, I was a little overwhelmed and thought the wine too much, too dense and too monolithic. That has changed fairly quickly, though, and the region’s typicité is very much in evidence here. This is simply a bigger version of the style. With a bit of air and swirling, the wall of liqueur breaks down into a variety of flavour components, some speaking of the heat of the year, others showing delicious freshness and vivacity. Tertiary flavours are starting to creep in, but these are very much in the background, and the wine retains large volumes of primary fruit. It’s interesting that the latest Tyrrell’s mailer suggests this is now a “mature style, drinking well.” I agree with the latter, but am not so sure of the former.

The palate’s luxe meshes well with the relatively rich flavour profile that flows coherently from the nose. Structurally, this is quite relaxed, though possessing abundant tannins, fine and velvet-like. Acid, often a hallmark of Hunter Shiraz, seems muted at first, but is very present; the wine’s density masks it at first. Flavours are of red fruits and leather, earth and gentle spice. So typical, so correct. Also quite nuanced, though it can be hard, at times, to see past the wine’s power. A lovely, even line leads through to a finish that sings with soft fruit.

This is a gorgeous wine in all sorts of ways – its sensuality, its transparency, its truth. I raise a glass to those of us with some in our cellars.

Price: $A32
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Domaine Dublère Puligny-Montrachet 2006

On reflection, I was rather too dismissive of this wine on first tasting for, although I clearly enjoyed it, I pegged it as a “drink now” wine, something it certainly was, but it’s now showing some bottle age to distinct advantage too. A wine not to be underestimated, then.

My earlier note stands, except now there’s both more volume and better integration. Any hint of restraint on the nose is gone; this is a minerally delight, complex and distinct and etched all at the same time. It’s still a lean wine in terms of its aroma profile, preferring angularity to flesh. There’s also a depth to it, in the way layers of glass can have depth as well as brilliance.

The palate remains powerful but has lost the boisterousness of three years ago that suggested a slight clumsiness of flow. This is now very much in the groove, with strong, clear melon fruit tumbling over firm acid and a range of savoury notes. The winemaking is here most evident, with a range of oak and lees derived notes, from oatmeal to cashews and more. The after palate fans out most pleasingly, and the finish is well extended.There’s no obvious bottle age here. The wine has simply relaxed and learned to express itself without angst, earning a sense of poise it lacked as a youngster.

Quite delicious.

Domaine Dublère
Price: $A63
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Domaine Jean Tardy & Fils Fixin La Place 2006

Ever chosen a wine because you liked its name? I was browsing through my “cellar” tonight, looking for pleasure, and came across a bottle of this. “Fixin,” I muttered to myself. What a funky village name. Equal parts slang and exoticism, I figured its catchiness was as good a reason as any to pop the cork. I have, in fact, pondered this wine before. It’s not a great wine by any means, and its value is questionable, but I still rather like it, perhaps even more in its slightly mellowed current form.

Largely, my earlier note remains valid. The nose is a curious mixture of the mellow and the coarse, lumbering nougat oak trampling over seductive, gamine red fruit. It’s the Noomi Rapace of Red Burgundy, petite frame disrupted by too-large boots and a generally put-on punkish demeanor. The palate is perhaps more attractive, and I especially enjoy the rough and tumble character of the tannin. Satin berries against spiky acid, sharp flavour atop blunt weight. This is, if nothing else, a clash of components and, whilst this could be read as a sign of coarseness, I find its discord exciting. The restraint I noted in my earlier impression has receded, and this is now flowing more freely than I remember. It’s all the more enjoyable for it.

Brash, clumsy and a good deal of fun.

Jean Tardy & Fils
Price: $A52
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Kurtz Family Boundary Row Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2006

This is the kind of wine I’d usually consume soon after release, in expectation of the sort of plush fruit that can carry 15% ABV; it’s interesting to try this now, after a little time in bottle. That a sub-$20 wine can age few years shouldn’t be taken for granted, so I’m pleased to note this is, at the very least, still very drinkable.

Whether it’s preferable now compared to as a youngster is less sure. There are definite signs of decay here, starting with an aroma that is somewhat liquerous, overlaid with autumn leaves and leather. It’s relaxed, speaking of middle age rather than boisterous youth, perhaps having lost the naive enthusiasm that can make Barossa reds so attractive on release. My only complaint is a thinness to the aroma profile, as if it has lost a tad too much stuffing.

The palate confirms these mixed impressions, from fruit character to leanness of profile. Overall, it’s a dark, brooding wine, treading on the right side of portiness while flowing over the mouth in a surprisingly elegant, quite seamless way. Acid and tannin are both fairly relaxed, creating plenty of space for a clean expression of gently ageing fruit to flow down the line. I wish there were a bit more roundness to the palate structure, more fullness of fruit, because its tendency towards leanness exposes the alcohol, which circles back around to further compress the fruit. It’s also pleasantly warm, though, and a hint of mixed herbs adds to the impression of rustic comfort.

Kurtz Family Vineyards
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2006

On release, I gave what now strikes me as a rather lukewarm impression of this wine in my original writeup. Its firm acid structure prompted me, at the time, to put a few in my cellar for a rest, and I’m now tasting this again for the first time in three or so years. Of all the wines one might age, an $18 Australian Chardonnay wouldn’t be considered a sure bet. Indeed, the question of whether any Australian Chardonnay can productively age still pops up now and then. I’ll leave that debate to those more patient; for now, I have this wine in front of me and I do believe it’s better than it was as a fresher, younger wine.

As with most things vinous, the point at which one prefers to drink a particular wine is very much a matter of taste. So, to help you decide whether your stash of 2006 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay is ready for you, I’ll observe that this wine is in the initial stages of becoming more complex and, at the same time, more relaxed. The acidic nervousness I originally noted has mellowed to allow a looser, more expansive movement over the tongue. Flavours, which at first seemed so citrus and oak dominant, now express more cohesively, are perhaps harder to separate from one another, are certainly more numerous. There’s an especially delicious honey note that is just starting to emerge on the after palate. This will never be a fat, old fashioned style, but it’s starting to inch towards a fullness of palate weight and flavour profile that, to be honest, pleases me a lot more than a simpler, tighter style, especially given the inherent power of the Yarra Chardonnay flavour profile.

More of everything except edginess and simplicity; I like.

Hoddles Creek
Price: $A18
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Blue Poles Allouran 2006

I’m enthusiastic about this producer’s wines. They are invariably informed by a seriousness of intent that makes them difficult to dismiss, even if the wines themselves are not always perfect. So it was with this wine when I first tasted it some time ago. 2006 was a notoriously difficult vintage in Margaret River, red grapes often proving difficult to ripen sufficiently to make an acceptable wine. I chose not to write this up initially, as I found it challenging to the point of significantly reduced enjoyment. Too green, too aggressive, too hard. But I pulled out a bottle tonight and thought it might be time to see how it has moved along.

As it turns out, it’s significantly more drinkable at this stage of its life. It will never be a charming beauty like the 2007, but the astringent aggressiveness I remember has faded significantly. The nose shows typically Cabernet Franc aromas – fresh red capsicum mostly – floating over the top of richer, more plush Merlot fruit and a pile of pencil shavings. It’s completely varietal, though certainly on the lean, mean side. I can still see the green edges that I found difficult, but they’ve softened into the wine, becoming part of its aroma profile rather than pulling it apart.

The palate tells a similar story, though the transformation is perhaps more dramatic here. Again, I doubt this will ever shed its fundamentally lean vibe, but the elements are now well balanced for drinking enjoyment. In particular, the acid works really well to create impact on entry and power through the middle palate. It’s the sort of orange juicy red wine acid that is mouthwatering and a bit edgy. Fruit flavours are bright and firmly in a red berry spectrum, though edges of oak drag the flavour profile in a somewhat darker direction at times. Light to medium bodied, there’s a slight lack of drive through the after palate and finish, and the wine threatens to expose its slightly green core at times. It manages to complete the journey, though, thumbing its nose at a bad vintage even as it works hard to deny the scars it bears.

A very pleasant surprise.

Blue Poles Vineyard
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail