Friday, December 20, 2013

Beauty and The Beast

We’ve been celebrating The Young One’s year of coming of age since February with a number of bottles from his bity year.  Some have been lovely, and some have been not.  The producers have been notable, but the vintage 1992 isn’t.  It really hasn’t mattered, as it’s just fun to think the grapes were harvested and transformed to wine around the same time he made his appearance in the world.  To mark the nearing of the end of this year SWMBO and I led an expedition with The Young One and The Youngette (a.k.a. JoLo) to a favourite local eatery with two more 1992 bottles, this time from the Land of Oz.

It’s a case of The Beauty and The Beast, the title not lost on us as we made a comparison with The Youngette and The Young One.  The Beauty was a 1992 Henschke ‘Hill of Grace’, made from 130 y.o. Shiraz vines from a single site in the Barossa hills, and The Beast a 1992 Penfolds ‘Grange’, a multi-regional blend of the most flavoursome parcels of Shiraz available to the giant of South Australia.  Both are iconic for sure, and the comparison is never fair, and subject to subjectivity.

The 1992 Henschke ‘Hill of Grace’ looking more mature with garnet and brick colour.  The nose concentrated and intense, but aromatic and elegant, quite ethereal initially.  Savoury red fruits, earth, leather, game and cedar, smelling brown and secondary, if not tertiary.  Medium full-bodied now, brown fruits, pepper and brown spices, meat and earth all intermingling.  Somewhat leaner, skinnier, and distinctly acid, and still with tannin structure and line, tending to dryness.  This changed, evolved and opened up, into seamless waves of secondary flavours and sweetness.  Over the evening this epitomised beauty, before the dreaded brett poked it’s head out.  Nothing major, but just enough to cause a little concern.  For a few minutes, this was glorious.

On opening, the 1992 Penfolds ‘Grange' was a behemoth.  All-conquering on nose and palate.  A dense and solid, impenetrable colour, bouquet and palate.  Ripe black fruits, plums liquorice, black pepper, minerals earth and nearly tar.  Hints of some bottle development only.  Masses of cedary oak, vanilla and VA too.  But sweet with it, lusciously so and almost decadent.  Thankfully all held in check by massive extract and structure.  It’s a monolithic monster for sure, but the perfect juxtaposition of components and balance gave it accessibility and drinkability.  Making a statement is Grange’s game and the monolithic dimension is the ultimate.  The unwavering solidness from start to finish and consistency is something to behold.  This will live for decades for sure.  It may dry out, and will definitely become savoury, but it’ll be remarkable all the way.

The Young One and The Youngette agreed with us.  There’s an intriguing fascination with the way The Beauty changed.  And the powerhouse nature of The Beast was undeniable.  Two different wines and both delicious.   

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Success is Sweet

Every year we head out to what is the back of beyond for many people.  But there, we party with the Why New Martians, and sometimes they’re off this planet!  They seem to be a peaceful and sedate group who may be a little older demographically, but there’s a twinkle in many an eye and a razor sharp wit and tongue, all bound with an infectious sense of joy and humour.  That’s why we make the trip.

This time of year brings the end of the year to mind, and it’s a good reason to think about the sweet victories and the successes.  The Why New Martians put on a real spread of food and there’s plenty of bottles open.  This year, SWMBO and I added a couple of older sweet wines to mark the finish of 2013, these having been found in the dark depths of the ‘long left cellar’, and wines which we had consumed recently, knowing they were still in good nick.  Who would think that local sweet wines made over a quarter of a century would still be good?  Sugar is a preservative, as we know, but you’ve got to have everything else there, and not too much of anything corruptive or out of balance.
The 1987 Penfolds ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ Late Pick Riesling, made from Marlborough fruit looked, smelt and tasted of caramel and toffee, honey and figs, and all rich, luscious, rounded and very alive with good acidity.  Late picked fruit with some botrytis?  Definitely raisined, but now well into its tertiary stage of life.  A ‘wahoo wine’.  The 1985 Montana Auslese wasn’t too far off it either.  Similar in all respects, but a little less fruit sweet, maybe beginning to dry, and somewhat more pronounced acidity.  It could have been Muller-Thurgau – or was it Riesling?  Maybe a mix and with other varieties too?  Who knows where from!  It had a feeling of freeze concentration, or maybe I’m guessing, as I think I remember these words used then – 25 plus years ago.  The bottles were sampled tentatively, then a little more gusto.  The sweet wines were a success.