Stanton & Killeen Vintage Port 2001

A tasting earlier this year at the Stanton & Killeen cellar door was notable for a lineup of quite spectacular vintage ports (and for the relative lack of excitement generated by its muscats and tokays, usually the highlight of any Rutherglen cellar door). These wines are interesting in part through their mixing of Portuguese grape varieties with Shiraz, traditionally used in Australian VP styles, and Durif, a variety strongly associated with the Rutherglen. What’s pleasing is how achieved the resultant wines can be.

A light yet piercing, complex aroma showing grilled nuts, dried fruits, old wood, and a streak of banana-skin freshness that I’m probably describing badly but which strikes me as distinctive and attractive. In short, there’s plenty going on, yet there’s a mellow, relaxed vibe to the whole that suggests settled confidence and encourages contemplative consumption.

The palate is again both light and powerful. The wine’s essentially savoury character established by the aroma carries through here, with few stylistic concessions to the Shiraz component. Indeed, this is very far from a typical Shiraz VP, a style I happen to love but which typically shows much richer, fuller fruit flavours than are present here. So, the key to enjoying this is to observe more delicate flavour components and savour the transparency that comes with lighter wines. Deliciously savoury fruits, peel, nuts, nougat. A well-balanced line that maintains strength right through the rather long finish.

I had this with some plum pudding on the big day, and it was somewhat overwhelmed. It’s much better tonight on its own, a light yet utterly indulgent dessert.

Stanton & Killeen
Price: $A28
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

McWilliam's Barwang Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

I picked this up for a song at a local bottlo in the Lockyer Valley. Not terribly promising provenance, to be sure. But it’s drinking really well right now, so I guess this particular bottle hasn’t had too hard a life.

Calm, poised aromas of ripe foliage squished between the pages of old leather-bound books, cedar, vanilla custard, clean blackcurrant juice. A little volatile. It’s ageing especially well in terms of aroma profile, I think, although you’d need to be partial to a fairly high degree of oak influence to fully enjoy it.

Clonakilla Cabernet Merlot 2001

It probably won’t come as a relevation that Chris and I are fans of Clonakilla’s wines. I remember once visiting the cellar door and having a chat with Tim Kirk about this Cabernet blend, and was surprised to hear him express reservations. I suppose the Canberra District calls to mind Shiraz and, to a lesser extent, Riesling, with Cabernet-based wines tending to fall into the same “why would you” territory as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Still, I’m always on the lookout for glorious exceptions, and I’ve usually enjoyed this label a great deal.

High quality cork. Beautiful, heady aroma of violets, blackcurrant fruit, cedar and some underlying decay. It’s quite a thick, enveloping aroma profile, though it retains some of the angular elegance I associate with Cabernet Sauvignon. I love smelling this wine, and for my taste it is showing enough bottle age to add significant complexity without challenging those who have a distaste for old red wine.

Really good continuity from nose to palate. There are a few striking aspects to this wine as it currently stands. Firstly, the flavour profile echoes the aroma’s complexity and balance of aged versus primary notes. It reminds me a little of aged Hunter red wines, with some light earthiness alongside more classically Cabernet flavours. Secondly, mouthfeel is soft and gently textural, and for a moment hides the degree to which flavours adhere to the tongue. There’s a really interesting interplay between luxurious flavours and structure, which moves from slippery to textured to almost crunchy on the after palate. Here it becomes evident there’s still considerable acidity keeping the wine fresh, and I imagine guaranteeing it a few more productive years in bottle.

Cabernet may not contribute to the Canberra District’s renown, but here’s a wine that, eight years after vintage, is still continuing to improve. Not bad. A beautiful wine.

Price: $35
Closure: Cork

Château de Tracy Pouilly-Fumé 2001

It’s Sunday afternoon and the storms keep threatening to hit, but never quite do. Still, the air is thick with humidity and the smell of imminent rain, and it’s moments like this where I tend to reach for something in white. If it’s pungently aromatic, then so much the better.

Golden colour, pretty and showing signs of bottle age. A really striking nose, intoxicatingly rich with aromas of honey, tropical fruit and a little flint. There’s also a sour floral dimension that reminds me of the smell you get when you shake a flowering weed. Sharp, astringent, yet oddly pretty. Taken as a whole, it reads as a dessert wine with considerable edginess.

In fact, it’s a dry wine that tightens considerably on the palate. Immediate, intense flavour on the tongue as the wine enters the mouth. Acidity provides immediate textural interest and accentuates the wine’s fruit flavours early. In fact, this wine’s acidity is worth a few more words. Sauvignon Blanc-based wines often have quite aggressive acidity, which can be fun, but here it’s on an altogether more sophisticated plane. If one were to consider a wine’s acid visually, this wine would show a straight line from left to right, fine and firm and absolutely mouthwatering. Fruit weight gathers steam and, by the mid palate, there’s a gorgeous richness washing through the mouth. More honey and sharp tropical fruits, with a sideline of minerality that blends well into the acid structure. The sweetness of fruit and bottle age resonates through the after palate and continues well into the finish. A slight bitterness here is the only element that disrupts an otherwise harmoniously balanced flavour profile.

This is surely drinking at its peak, with a range of youthful and bottle aged characters existing in complementary fashion. I love this expression of Sauvignon Blanc and would happily drink this as an aperitif or with smoked salmon canapes.

Château de Tracy
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: November 2008

Mitchell Sevenhill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

How things change. I tasted this a couple of years ago and found it lean, mean and a little green. It’s still the same wine, of course, but time has been kind.
A heady nose of powdery, dusty cabernet fruit, tobacco, eucalyptus leaves on a hot day, perhaps a hint of oak. There’s some bottle aged complexity in an edge of leather, but the wine is surprisingly youthful in its aroma profile. Quite complex, but certainly not one for those with an aversion to eucalyptus/vegetal aromas.
Good presence on entry, with an attractively clean run over the tongue. Cool cabernet fruit and dusty eucalyptus beat a path to the mid-palate. Texture begins to roughen up at this point, and some additional flavour elements introduce themselves. There’s some varnishy oak, a bit of dusty library, some bramble. In short, it gets a whole lot more interesting. Medium bodied at most, and with still-prominent acid, there’s a rough and ready character to the mouthfeel and structure of this wine that suggests additional bottle age will be of benefit. Overall, the flavour profile is quite savoury, with cabernet fruit distinctly sweet but largely subservient to the other elements. Fine, powdery yet slightly raw tannins are a dominant element on the after palate, and the wine does hollow out a bit at this point. The reasonably long finish is consequently quite dry, with little fruit weight to counterbalance the tannins. A lovely counterpoint of bottle aged sweetness emerges at the back of the mouth.
An angular style, then, and not the most elegant. But not at all bad and worth a try if your tastes lead to the more intellectual face of Cabernet. I have one more bottle and will let it sit for year or two before retasting.
MitchellPrice: $A30Closure: CorkDate tasted: August 2008

Mount Ida Shiraz 2001

An older Shiraz from one of Australia’s more renowned regions for this variety, Heathcote in Victoria. This wine is, interestingly, sealed under Stelvin, which is somewhat unusual for red wines of this age. Although Mount Ida is a famous vineyard in Heathcote, I’m not especially familiar with its output, so this tasting was quite exploratory for me.

A savoury nose, some volatility, with earthy minerals, some astringent eucalyptus, roasted meats, slightly edgy oak. Far from a fruit bomb, this one. I find the nose complex and a little challenging in its angularity. 
The entry has good impact and delivers flavour early in the wine’s line. There are lots of distinct flavours here and, unusually for me, I found myself identifying a fair few. At last count, we have: pepper, sappy vanilla oak, some sweet leathery bottle age, dusty dark fruit, some cedar and slight ecualyptus character, plus a dash of sweet granite-like minerality. Phew. It’s medium bodied and presents its flavours assertively. It’s also curiously flat and almost cartoonish in its “surface level view” of flavour. The wine lacks a sense of depth and stuffing that, even in a lighter red, assures continued interest beyond any initial impact. So, despite a lot of qualities usually regarded as positive (complexity, intensity, distinctiveness) I wasn’t especially drawn to the wine’s flavour profile or structure. Fine tannins help the wine’s dry finish to linger well.
This wine (or perhaps this bottle) isn’t really my style, although some elements of the flavour profile (the minerality in particular) are pleasing. The other half loved it.
Mount Ida (Fosters)
Price: $A30
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: July 2008