Browse Tag


Para dox

[vineyard]Seppelt 1939 “Para Liqueur” (South Australia) – One of the first press tastings to which I was ever invited was a Southcorp portfolio event that toured the U.S. Each represented producer was asked to bring something from their library stock. Seppelt brought two. The first was an aged sparkling shiraz, which I didn’t know was possible before that bottle. And the second was a Para Liqueur from the very late 1800s (the date is lost to memory). I still remember that wine: fig syrup, molasses, balsamic vinegar (the real stuff, not a cheap knockoff), and finish that seemed to last for hours. I mean that literally: two hours later, back at my desk, I could still taste the wine.

Thus, there’s extra meaning for me in this bottle, which is incredibly rare and an expression of remarkable generosity on the part of our hosts. It tastes of pure distilled brownness, dusty/particulate and burnished with antiquity, but still alive with remarkable intensity and persistence. There’s brown sugar, molasses, the sharp cling of balsamic something-or-other, to be sure…but also, a lively hint of honeydew melon, and a perfect note of bitterness contrapuntal to all the well-aged sugar. The finish is beyond incredibly long, it’s endless. An absurdly great wine. (3/05)

Birks in stock

AP Birks “Wendouree” 1997 Shiraz (Clare Valley) – Shocking. That’s mostly a comment about the nose, which is a little insane: blackberry dust, volatility, and a huge stonking wallop of eucalyptus. It’s as if someone distilled the air in the Blue Mountains into shiraz form. Once one gets past the eucalypt, however, there’s a lot more to discover: the darkest possible black fruit streaked with anise, a dusty tannin that develops increasing bitterness as the wine lingers (and boy, does it linger), though eventually this bitter streak starts to grate a bit. Striking and incredibly individualistic. Probably not mature, but I have absolutely no baseline for that judgment. I’m not sure I would say it’s a “great” wine, nor would I want to drink it every night, but I absolutely love it. All wines should have this much character. (3/05)

Shiraz on the Mount

[vineyard]Henschke 1990 Mount Edelstone (Eden Valley) – Rich and mature, showing some of the familiar soy, but this time infused with black pepper and soaking into the wine’s leathery texture. There’s blackberry and a good measure of black dirt as well. Starts sorta triangular, but as it airs it reforms into a more appealing roundness. The finish is long and earthy, with beautiful morel and black trumpet enhancements. And a hint of vanilla, perhaps? Fully developed. Very good, though I don’t think I’d hold it any longer. (3/05)

Tah for now

Tahbilk 1999 Marsanne (Central Victoria) – Honey, but more verdant than that. Honeysuckle might be more accurate. Rich peach flavors, well-spiced, rest over a foundation of clay. Nice early maturity, though there’s no hurry. Quite appealing. (3/05)

Kind of blue

[waterfall]We’re in a car, driving into the hills, with people we’ve never met. I’ve seen this horror plot at the cinema, and it never ends well for the passengers. It’s true that our hosts don’t seem particularly threatening…but I’m sure that’s just what they want us to think.

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Show don’t tell

Rosemount 2002 “Show Reserve” Shiraz (McLaren Vale) – No shrinking violet, this wine nevertheless avoids the usual shiraz flaws of over-concentration, soy, stew, and burn. And yet, to little purpose does it avoid them, because while it’s a fruity, fun drink with a healthy dollop of palate weight, that’s all it is. In other words, it’s a basic shiraz for everyday drinking…except that it’s not presented or priced as one. Could we at least get a dusting of pepper here? A clod of earth? Some leather? Any texture at all? (2/09)

A plea for marsanne-ity

[label]Tahbilk 2006 Marsanne (Victoria) – Friendly, appealing yellow fruit. Simple and clean, with fair acidity and not much in the way of additional interest, but definitely quaffable. (1/09)


Leeuwin “Prelude Vineyards” 2000 Cabernet/Merlot (Margaret River) – Red pepper, dark cherry, and cassis, with a dash of eucalyptus. Good weight and balance. Admittedly a little green (not altogether unpleasantly so, but it’s right on the edge), and already showing some early signs of development. Somewhere between OK and good. Probably not much of an ager, though. (3/05)

Margan for error

Margan 2003 Semillon (Hunter Valley) – Herbs and grass, with a semi-hollow middle but surprising length. Tingly, especially late. It seems insufficient, but I’ve learned the value of humility when it comes to assessing young Hunter semillon; I’m not aware of any other wine that blossoms out of its youthful ugly-ducklingness to such an extent. (3/05)

Funky, cold, & Medina

[qantas]It has actually come to this? So many great experiences, so many wonderful people (except for that one), so many unforgettable memories. And yet, New Zealand’s final farewell for us is this: for the second time in three opportunities, Air New Zealand has failed to put our bags on the same plane as us. Even with a three-hour layover in Auckland. How does that happen? Have they employed tuatara to handle luggage and cargo? Three hours is usually enough even for Heathrow, for heaven’s sake, and Auckland’s not exactly the world’s biggest airport.

“They’ll be on the next flight,” assures the man clicking away at a computer with the sleek lines and processing power of the eighties. The early eighties. It’s got a green screen, it’s slower than Air NZ baggage handling, and the printer issuing my lost luggage report is a noisy old dot matrix model. Dot matrix. And yes, the paper is the appropriate relic, which I wasn’t even aware was still produced: alternating green and white stripes with perforated holes down the sides. What sort of bizarre time warp have we entered? Have all the country’s IT consultants gone walkabout?

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