I’m in the UK enjoying a rather overdue holiday. My current locale is the North East — County Durham — where each day is marked by lashings of rain, wind and the occasional burst of lovely sunshine. Certainly a dramatic change from the floods, cyclones and general sub-tropicalness I left behind in Queensland, but no less invigorating for it.
One thing I didn’t leave behind, though, was this bottle of wine. I brought it along to share with my host here as (what I hoped would be) an example of one of our great Shiraz styles. Three nights ago, we sat down to to a richly aromatic lamb pot roast and I thought it the right occasion to crack this open.
What a disappointment (bear with me, though). On opening, it was disjointed, overly chocolatey and lacking in the particular Grampians fruit character that makes this style so enduring and exciting. Surely this couldn’t be a representative bottle. Simon Clayfield is a painfully talented winemaker, so I had difficultly interpreting this wine’s ungainliness, as did my host, who felt it smelled overwhelmingly of dusty Christmas ornaments in musty packaging (and he’s not even a wino… impressive). We left it aside after a glass each and it’s only now that I’m returning to it, on the chance that something interesting has happened in bottle.
And boy, has it ever. The lesson here is to give this wine plenty of time and air. Three days after opening, it’s just beginning to sing with the most charming and typical plum fruit character, brown spice, flashes of red berry, brambles, dust and cocoa powder. Such complexity and luxe, it’s a wonderful wine to keep smelling. I should note, though, this is definitely a product of its vintage, being a richer wine with less classically cool climate character than is sometimes found in wines of this region.
The palate is most dramatically changed from a few days ago, showing an elegance of line that simply wasn’t present at first. It’s also pleasingly fresh, the bright fruit character and juicy orange acid contributing most to this impression. Overall, it’s medium bodied in weight and brisk in movement, scattering fruit, freshly ground spice and subtle oak across the tongue. It all culminates in a long, rustic finish whose tannins rasp the tongue coquettishly, both sweet and rough. There’s some heat on the palate, unsurprising given its 15.7% abv; whether this is an issue may vary from drinker to drinker.
So glad I waited.