There are few things in art, and indeed life, more tantalising than a mistaken first impression.
The bottle in front of me is festooned with gold stickers (much more so than in the accompanying photograph); so much bling threatens to overwhelm a striking label design. To certain weary enthusiasts (that’s me), it might also signal an unsubtle, “show” style. So its true character, when revealed, comes as a surprise. Indeed, what is remarkable about this wine is its powerful intimacy. It draws you in quietly, peeling itself back one translucent layer at a time, until you’re lost in its grasp.
I was advised by this wine’s mother to give it a good hour and a half of air before attempting serious evaluation. In fact, I left it overnight to breathe, and feel on day two its expression is close to complete. At first, a nose that is all mocha oak and deep, ripe plums. It’s complex yet utterly restrained from flowing as it ought. A couple of hours later, the aroma profile is wider and more expressive, though still deeply coiled and suggestive of untold generosity. Finally, a day on, there’s some freedom, structured yet moving without restraint, a multi-coloured kimono of aroma. Black fruit, complex spice, hot sun on brambles, some vanilla. It’s all quality, with good integration and poise, yet it’s subdued and subtle, in a positive sense. There’s no yelling, just sweet harmony and rhythm.
The palate is equally seductive, and it’s difficult to tease each element apart. Flavours are in line with the nose, though a successful balance between sweet and savoury fruit is more evident here. There’s a voluptuous slipperiness to the mouthfeel that is also notable. On entry, inky fruit and coffee grounds create a dark flavour profile that carries through to the middle palate. Here, it lightens a little, red fruit and plums emerging alongside orange juice acidity and brown spice. There’s a lot going on. The after palate is positively fruit driven, and very clean in presentation. It sustains the momentum of the front palate through to a musky, powerfully soft finish of ultra-ripe tannins and sweet fruit.
What a lovely wine. It’s striking and intense and all of those good things, yet somehow manages to communicate with understatement. A most intriguing, satisfying wine.
Balthazar of the Barossa