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Seppelt 1986 Sparkling Shiraz “Show Reserve” (Barossa Valley) – Right out of the bottle, there’s the baked soy and caramel thing that I loathe, and too often find, in Barossa shiraz. But that doesn’t last long, and after an hour or so of nudging and sipping, the last glass is by far the best. Moreover, I fear there was still more to come as the dregs are drained, though of course I’ll never now. The intended froth is still present but the wine is so full-bodied (and this is in a worldwide, not strictly Barossan, context) that you don’t much notice it after the first few sips. Luscious dark fruit, certainly sun-drenched but not overly so, and black pepper, with a more particulate and coal-dust texture than I would have expected. Fun just because sparkling shiraz is, but with a serious side as well. This wine, decades ago and from a different (and older) vintage, was the one that convinced me sparkling shiraz could be something other than a parlor game and the setup for jokes about goat sacrifice. I’m glad to see that little has changed. (11/10)

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)