Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Era's End

We see the world changing as it turns, evolving with the fads, fashions, needs and requirements.  It results in survival, and the wine world is no different.  Wine styles adapt and change to what are new norms, and invariably they are better norms.  The big, solid, hearty, dense and super-ripe Barossa red saw its era end over a decade ago, as the makers realised that thick, soupy, solid reds were losing ground to elegance, freshness and accessibility.  With the transition, they’ve managed to retain the expression of place and the wines still grow in complexity, but they are lighter on their feet and more enjoyable, and easier to finish a bottle.

It was fascinating to see a wine of the old era demonstrate exactly the benefits of progress.  I’m not taking anything away from the 1996 Yalumba ‘Signature’ Barossa Cabernet/ShirazIn its time, it was the bee’s knees.  A great growing season and vintage.  One of the vey best.  Beautifully ripened fruit lending great richness and extract.  The wine just superbly put together, the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz in approx. equal portions, given lovely oaking.  The result a complete wine in every sense, and one that could and will last for decades. 
But here, tonight, in this current time, almost an anachronism.  A drink of the past.  Hazza raised his eyebrows with a querying “what do you think of that?”  We were on the same wavelength.  It was a great wine, but in today’s context, too big, too dense, too ripe, too soft, too concentrated.  It was recognised as great wine.  But the seam of freshness and elegance that we crave just wasn’t, and never will be in it.  It’s interesting how the greatest Aussie red, Penfolds ‘Grange’ has remained big and stoically the same style it has always been.  But the sweetness and vitality that most of the other big reds just miss out on has kept its classic style alive today.  Today’s Yalumba ‘Signature’ has moved towards sweeter fruit, fresher acid and that balance that lifts the palate, rather than swamp it.  The 2012 is a marvel.  Evolution is truly knife-edge stuff.  One style keeps on going, others fall by the wayside.

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