Friday, April 1, 2011

New Normals

Our catch up with The Chairman and Marvellous Marie as they settle into a new phase of life was very pleasing. New situations become the norm, and it also may be analogous to happenings that may be occurring in the Aussie wine industry. There seem to be questions on how traditional wine styles made are now less in tune with modern life, and the desire to be up-to-date vies with how tradition should be kept. I see both paths important. Wines should be great to drink with contemporary food, and be healthy, but the styles of the past are so characterful.

A good starting point was the NV Mumm 'Cordon Rouge' Champagne Rose. Mumm has cleaned up its act and put some real fruit and yeasty autolysis back into the wines, the Rose deliciously soft and rich with the faintest red wine fruit and texture. Drinking now and great as an aperitif. If they didn't keep up with todays needs, they would have been gobbled up (again).

The Aussie starting point was a 2009 Pikes 'Traditionale' Clare Valley Riesling. Instead of being hard, tight, firm and needing time for full accessibility, this was softer, less acidic and more elegant. Only 12.0% alc., and gently dry. This makes it approachable and broachable. Next in line was the 2008 Shaw+Smith 'M3' Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. Delightfully elegant, and not overly lush, tropical or sweet, but if anything, restrained and with reined-in complexity. Very European in structure, and very food-friendly. And without too much of those 'in-vogue' complex sulphides. I like the 2009 of this too, broader and a little richer, maybe more forward and open. These two seem to be pointing the way to a new norm with the varietal styles, and there is the same movement with Barossa Shiraz.

Maybe the Shiraz and indeed backbone reds need the modern outlook. A Wine Society-made 2008 Razor's Edge McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon was old-fashioned, what used to be consumer-friendly, sweet and jammy and a little to sickly for fresh drinking. Maybe good with heavily reduced sauce and hearty roasted red meat with lots of glaze. We don't eat this type of meat that often nowadays. Don't get me wrong; it was nice, but a relook at the everyday red style here would be a positive?

But to give credit to the unmatchable of tradition, a Seppelt 'D64' Museum Tokay was glorious. Dark mahogany with the prized-green edge. Dense and concentrated with molasses, preserved prunes and balsamic-like character, rather than the tea and fish-oil ethereal style, this could be left to mature in cask another half century to become even more complex and layered. I wouldn't mess with this time-honoured style!

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