Roux Beauté Roussanne, Ironheart Shiraz and High Sands Grenache after the first gentle rain of the autumn. Or the first rain in six months, for that matter. At the risk of losing the label detail, I photographed the bottles here to illustrate the massive slab ironstone the first two wines were grown on. That's the Ironheart vineyard in the background. Scroll down to see the contrasting High Sands ... photo Philip White
The wine has a beautiful viscous texture, even at the cruelly cold temperature I started at. And then tannins, very much along the lines of the Chinese bitter melon, Momordica charantica, picked green, before its bitterness becomes extreme and it still retains some of its lovely cooling cucumber/Issey Miyake characters. It is this texture and these tannins which make me think many would imagine it to be a red wine if it was served in a black glass. I suspect they'd be so convinced by the unctuous texture and dry tannins that they'd not even miss the blackberries and mulberries and whatnot.
I suspect the Roux Beauté will chug along like Good King Tut in the appropriate tomb. It deserves its own pyramid. Have it with any of the foods mentioned above. Or a good dry goat or sheep cheese.
Yangarra High Sands Grenache 2012
$125; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 95++ points
This vineyard was planted by my neighbour, Bernard Smart, in 1946.
The vines grow in deep nutrient-free wind-blown sand, not marine, with ferruginous clay at the bottom, where the roots drink. It's never been watered, and it's years since any conventional petrochem vinicides have been squirted at it. Like all Yangarra, it's a certified biodynamic and organic site.
2012 was a very good year.
Sour cherries have crawled all over my sensories these past weeks: the best Grenache from the majestic 2012 seems stacked with this pickled Morello/Montmorency cherry thing, whether the wine's from the Barossa or down this southern way. It's sour cherries big time, and they ain't goin' away. This wine has more of it than any other I can recall: characters so strong and edgy they even overwhelm the lovely florals, pashmak and musk of the wine's decorative top note.
There's just the faintest whiff of old harness to add some past to all this bright future.
But it's the flavours and textures of this Grenache that really scratch me out.
The wine is austere and dry and velvety. It has great intensity in a supple, slender manner, and relentless dusty--no, it's sandy--tannin. So all at once it manages to tease and tantalise and give you a good solid whacking like you've never before had from a Grenache. It's the Gretel Penninger/Madame Lash of Grenache. Bit more please, Gret. Oooh, that's better. A bit further down.
I understand Mr Croser was on Mornington recently, wisely lecturing the Pinotphile assembly that Australia needs more tannin in its Pinot if it wants to get serious about that felicitous grape. With Grenache like this, why bother? I'll get shit for this, but I'm gonna say it anyway: this is La Tâche territory.
From the highest part of the High Sands vineyard, where the sand is deepest, this fruit was hand-picked and then mechanically sorted to remove inferior berries and protein. The fruit was macerated in open fermenters, cold-soaked to entrap all those pretty water soluble topnotes, and then left to the yeasts of the vineyard and the air to ferment. It spent a year in old French oak on its lees.
Yangarra Estate Ironheart Shiraz 2012
$100; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points
This wine reminds me immediately of the mysterious, deep reds Jim Ingoldby made from Blewett Springs Shiraz in the 'seventies. And the old ones from the 'sixties that I was very lucky to encounter. In its reluctance to let itself go, it's also a little like the intense long-living Shiraz Diana Genders still makes on McLaren Flat. On opening, it lets loose an array of powdered flesh pretties, but then settles into a sullen slumber, daring you to look again for cheap thrills. Now it's been open for three days, it's finally getting ready to converse.
It's a surly, soulful, essence of Shiraz, dusty like the summer winds, irony like that smell of a rusted galvo shed in a sprinkle of rain, and all plum pudding below, oozing suety dough, partially-dried fruits, like glazed cherries, figs and molasses. It's not nutty, like the panforte of the best Barossa Shiraz from the irony bits of Greenock, which it's a bit like nevertheless, but more moist and stewed to inhale. And I believe I get a whiff of Jim's pipe smouldering away across the table.
All that aromatic complexity aside, the wine is dense yet elegant to drink. Which is where even more of the Jingoldby/Genders recollections arise. It is never gloopy or jammy, but velvety and lingering. It is dry. It is devoid of silk and gloss. It is not at all shiny. It makes me hungry. It really does remind me of Jim's piercing, questioning stare. Like when I first encountered him on his twin Cleveland 351ci V8 Hamilton jet-driven houseboat with the planing hull that would get up and pull two skiers roped to its back veranda rail.
"Do you understand finance?" was his opening shot. Like I'd known him for years, but this time I was visiting with his fair but fierce daughter on my arm. Correction. I was on her arm.
"No," I said.
"Good," was his response. "Now we can talk."
So it's good to talk again to dear Jim, who's been dead for years, through a glass of Shiraz that quite literally grew in nutrient-free sand on solid slab ironstone a few feet from my front veranda. That'll be my planing hull as I limit myself to another glass per day til the bottle's done. The wine will still be rubbing the sleep from its eyes even then. As it draws my drinking arms from their sockets.
This wine was hand-picked. 25% of the bunches were left intact, the rest de-stemmed and mechanically sorted to remove the oddballs and any protein, like the bugs we normally drank in the days before these amazing berry-sorting machines. It was fermented by wild yeast with the whole bunches in open fermenters, plunged regularly and aged for fifteen months on lees in 40% new French barrels, the rest older. Then a precise barrel selection was made for this final blend. Selah.