THE AUTHOR WITH BEN DARNAULT AT THE VICTORY: IT TAKES THREE TO TANGO
photo MILTON WORDLEY
Holy Trinity Appears In Pub
Maris is of particular fascination to DRINKSTER on account of its winery being built of thermodynamic recyclable vegetables, as in hemp.
Milton Wordley, who contributes many fine photographs to DRINKSTER, had run into Ben and Kat at a lunch in T-Chow in Adelaide’s Chinatown, where he’d poured a glass of the Yangarra, triggering this second wave of thirst and hunger.
Ben spoke a little ruefully of how much easier it must be to biodynamically run a vineyard and winery in Australia. He thought our climate would make it a breeze compared to the struggle it can become in Minervois, which is in the Longuedoc-Rousillon part of the north-west Mediterranean coast, between Carcassonne and Bezier.He brought a bottle of his Chateau Maris La Touge 2009, and surprised me by suggesting that in Minervois, it was usually important to get the alcohols of his Syrah up near Australian levels for it to taste right, which reminded me of Gerard Jaboulet gazing south to Africa from his wee chapel atop l’Hermitage, explaining that he needed that hot summer wind from the Sahara to get the best Syrah.
La Touge 09 is mainly Syrah and Grenache, with a little Carignan. Four weeks on skins have given it a supple flesh that Australia does not seem capable of producing, perhaps due more to winemaking pig-headedness than any physical limitations. Rather than being granular and noticeably particulate, the tannins had more of a silky sheen, offering a great deal more sensuality than your average ocker.
To me, the 14.9% alcohol number was not reflected in any aspect of the wine. There was no hot exhalation; the whole thing was beautifully balanced and intense without offering any challenging angles to the sensitive palate.
Then Milton produced two great Australian reds that are hardly your average ockers: the Wendouree Clare Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 and Greenock Creek Apricot Block Barossa Shiraz 2003.
The best wine of the lunch was an equal-proportion blend of the Minervois with the Clare and Barossa. The magical violets and lavender of the infant Wendouree fell straight in love with the classical panforte of the Greenock, and wound in the Maris’s silky blackcurrant, fig and blueberry in a deadly sensuous ménage à trois.
A dozen years has seen the typically olivine tannins of the Wendouree polymerise to match the Maris, while the chunkier tannin of the Greenock Creek seemed to add to the sexiness of the wicked romp.
Impromptu lunch-and-dinner wine cocktails like this not only teach us much about the nature of their individual components, but are often savagely confronting with the fact that the intelligently-composed blend is quite often superior to its components.
And so, too, can be the randomly mixmastered fluke.
The exercise always makes me wonder why we are so obsessed with keeping vintages separate: these three were scary in the way they instantly interlocked.
It reminded me again of the great late Jaboulet. He came to lunch in the later ’eighties, bringing a case of his best vintages of La Chapelle, and another of his worst. I’d invited twenty of my most respected Australian Shiraz makers, who’d each brought a couple of bottles of their best. David Wynn, for example brought 1954 sparkling Coonawarras, Stephen Henschke his greatest Hill of Grace, Lehmann his legendary Saltram “Burgundies” from the ’fifties and ’sixties, and so on. I’d put a vast silver punchbowl in the middle of the table for emptying glasses – NOT spitting. The next day, that magnificent Franco-Ocker collision of regions and years was so dumbfoundingly good – in spite of a dozen crook La Chappelles – that I invited some of the throng back in the morning, and we drank the whole damn thing.
So, there’s no reason known why we avert our attention from trans-vintage blends. But then, the good folk at joints like Krug and Vega Sicilia don’t have any trouble with such dangerously nihilistic concepts, do they?
photo MILTON WORDLEY