Deen De Bortoli Vat 1 Durif 2006

Durif isn’t a variety you see too much of, especially outside the Rutherglen and surrounds. This wine, made from Riverina grapes, is part of De Bortoli’s value-priced “Deen” range. De Bortoli does better than most with its wines at the lower end of the market, so I’ve been looking forward to tasting this curiosity.

An attractive nose, with plum, some spice and a darker, slightly vegetal oak character that adds depth without any hint of unripeness. A bit of lift too. The fruit character is ever so slightly confected, but because the aroma profile is dark and dense, it’s not unduly distracting. The palate shows an interesting array of flavours. There’s a rich, very ripe plum note, teetering on overripe, held in check by a range of savoury influences (including quite prominent oak) that, together, create a flavour profile miles away from the sweetness of many cheaper red wines. Definition isn’t all that great, but it’s a very generous wine, with heaps of flavour and good presence in the mouth. Mouthfeel is interesting, being a little rough and almost spritzy, whilst also showing ripe, slightly chunky tannins. Intensity of flavour tapers off through the after palate and the finish isn’t all that long.

McWilliam's Show Reserve Liqueur Muscat NV

Uncharacteristically, I didn’t feel like any wine tonight. Well, nothing I had lying around, anyway. So I reached for the only known antidote for such vinous ennui: Muscat. This one is McWilliam’s top Liqueur Muscat, and has won about a million medals and trophies, for what that’s worth. It’s made from grapes grown in the Riverina district, a region not known for premium quality wine. Another bit of useless trivia: this bottle is number 01156 of the “limited release.”

Initially, this was unapproachably hot on the nose, to the point where it was difficult to discern any flavours as such. A few minutes’ swirling made all the difference. Now, the wine is showing mind-blowingly complex flavours that keep changing with each smell. First there are earthy, almost scorched flavours of mushroom and dirt. Then, it shifts to deep oak notes. Still further on to a spectrum of dried fruits. Then burnt sugar. And so on. Usually I don’t get caught up in too many descriptors, but it’s hard not to with this wine, as it throws so much at you. I should add that all these flavours are basically seamless in presentation, moving from one to the next with grace.

The wine’s entry reveals its next trick: the silkiest, most luxurious mouthfeel one could imagine. This wine practically caresses the tongue in a very physical sense. In fact, it’s so striking that it takes a few moments to realise that a whole range of intense flavours have slipped on to the middle palate. I would describe this wine’s flavour profile as relatively “high toned,” in the sense that we’re not dealing with deep, heavy dried fruits so much as aromatic citrus peel, the scent of plum pudding, dried flowers, etc. There’s depth too, with profound vanilla-oak notes underpinning the rest of the wine. The point is, it’s quite light footed without ever suggesting it’s anything but an old fortified wine (a component of this wine dates back to 1964). Line and length are impeccable, as the wine is basically one continuous experience from nose to oh-so-lengthy finish. I’m sitting here a good minute after taking a sip, and I can still taste it all through my mouth. 

This is a truly superb wine. It makes an interesting comparison with another fortified recently tasted, the Chambers Grand Liqueur Muscat. Whereas the Chambers is all about concentration and balanced power, this wine is more elegant and presents even greater complexity of flavour. Quite different in character, but both beautiful wines.

Price: $70 (500ml)
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: December 2007