All Saints Hogshead Matured Shiraz 1983

[Editor’s note: as is our occasional habit, we here publish the work of a guest author, Simon Clayfield of Clayfield Wines.]

My son was out of bed unusually early last Sunday morning and presented me with a Father’s Day card and gift: a really neat waiter’s friend corkscrew. A lovely thought and truly appreciated, but a strange gift considering that most wines these days are sealed with a screwcap.

I have a moderate collection of corkscrews and my favourite is the “screwpull,” which has coaxed the most fragile and stubborn corks from many bottles. Teenagers often forget that mums and dads exist, let alone appreciate the slightest moments of love and caring, but this gesture made my day. Our boy is about to complete secondary school and if all goes according to plan will be moving away early next year to start a career in the defence forces. I will make a habit of carrying this tool with me at all times and not just for practical reasons.

Tonight we cooked a simple but flavoursome pasta carbonara. I went rummaging through my special stash of older wines and, after a few minutes, pulled out a bottle of 1983 All Saints Shiraz to accompany the meal. The cork looked to be in sound condition and still offered some resistance, christening the brand new corkscrew; it came out nicely and without any offensive odour of cork taint. I have a habit of pouring a little straight into the glass and sniffing it before decanting just in case, to avoid cleaning the decanter un-necessarily. Decanting left a small deposit and the wine had good clarity.

The initial aroma was inviting but somewhat closed from all the time spent confined; it needed a little while to reveal the beauty within. Its ruby red colour defied its thirty years’ age and, after a while, a brick red hue appeared in the meniscus — definite signs that the cork had done satisfactory job of protecting the contents from excessive oxygen. According to the label, the wine was matured in French Nevers Oak hogsheads; clearly evident early but not obtrusive and gradually changing into wonderful cigar box/cedary character. The fruit showed defining peppery Shiraz notes that soon morphed into attractive glazed fig and plum. These nuances carried onto the palate, balanced with grainy tannin and a slight aftertaste similar to Morello cherries.

Overall, I this wine is a splendid example of aged Australian Shiraz which was most likely made in the traditional way. 1983 was drought time. I think the winemaker made a good call to pick the grapes early, avoiding excessively jammy and overripe fruit characters, considering also that the vineyard is located in a relatively hot viticultural region made famous its fortified wines styles.

The wine made a good partner with dinner and a great excuse to use the corkscrew — something we don’t do often enough these days. Thanks son.

All Saints
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: George’s private stock

Chambers Rosewood Vineyard Grand Muscat NV

I love our fortified wines — in particular, Muscats and Tokays from North-Eastern Victoria. So when I saw this on offer, it was hard to resist. Material in this wine dates back to the 1950s. Consumed in lieu of dessert.

A brilliant deep brown, sparkling yet dense and rich-looking. The nose captured my attention for several minutes before I moved on to tasting this wine, so surprising is its mix of aged characters and fresh vitality. It’s one of the ironies of this type of wine that these older, concentrated versions simultaneously present a greater degree of both aged complexity and freshness than their younger, simpler and often more cloying siblings. In the case of the Chambers, a lovely floral note, slightly tea-like, but more exotically fragrant, sat prominently alongside intense aromas of dried fruits, plum pudding, etc. So balanced, such elegance and singularity.

In the mouth, the first thing that strikes one is the mouthfeel. The wine is so viscous that it doesn’t immediately unfold in the mouth upon entry. Instead, the wine seems to exist as a bubble for a moment or two, before collapsing and flooding the middle palate with flavour. The first sip I had of this wine shocked my palate with its concentrated flavour, and had the effect of drawing saliva from my mouth, in the manner of eating something tasty when very hungry. Amazingly, and as with the nose, the wine shows a floral dimension that adds lightness to the palate. This is aided by a surprisingly firm acid backbone which drives the wine’s line and helps it to be, ultimately, quite cleansing. The finish just goes on and on.

This is probably one of the best fortifieds I’ve ever tasted and, although it’s not cheap, it’s one of the best value wines I can think of. If you wanted to finish off a special dinner party in style, you could do a lot worse than pull out a bottle of this.

Price: $A60 (375ml)
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: November 2007