As should be evident to regular readers of this blog, I tend to view wine not only in terms of what’s in the glass, but also as a function of human input, circumstance, intent, and a whole bunch of other problematic considerations that are hard to pin down but which are, for me, always part of the experience of tasting.
This makes Great Western-based Seppelt’s range, exemplified by the multi-regional Chalambar blend, especially challenging. There’s nothing like visiting a region or two to reinforce the value of clear regional character in wine. After recently spending some time in the Grampians — one of my favourite areas for Shiraz — I feel invigorated in my appreciation of the special qualities of this region, and hence somewhat dismayed by what this wine is. Carrying a Great Western heritage, but made from a blend of Grampians and Bendigo fruit, the Chalambar label is a litmus test of sorts in terms of one’s view of regional distinctiveness versus straight mainstream quality.
And there’s no doubt this is a quality wine. It’s decent value at its recommended retail price (mid-$20s), and a steal at the sub-$15 price point one often sees at the larger retailers. The nose is spicy and meaty in equal measure, with a nice aromatic lift characteristic of Western Victorian Shiraz, but a level of depth and ripeness more suggestive of the Bendigo component. It’s quite juicy in terms of the character of its fruit; all plums and dark berries and pulp, with a leafy edge too. Moderately complex, there’s a gentle oak vibe that frames and gives shape to all that luscious fruit.
The palate continues in this vein, with plenty of generosity and good movement through the mouth, though it took a few minutes to lose the sense of hardness with which it opened. The entry has a mouthfilling quality and is thick with dark fruit flavour, so much so that it teeters on the edge of being full bodied. Prominent, fine tannins emerge on the middle palate, chalky in character and almost too perfect in form. Indeed, there’s a composed glossiness to this wine that is alternately impressive and frustrating. Where is the rawness, the edge, here? There’s an attractively bright sour edge to the fruit, reminiscent of plum skins, which I particularly like. There’s also a good whack of deeply ripened, Bendigo-style fruit that I like less well. The after palate and finish are dark and satisfying, leaving an echo of black berries right at the back of the mouth.
A tasty wine, then, and one made with consummate skill. Whether it satisfies your soul in addition to your palate is more a matter of philosophy than taste.