Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wolfgang and I

My friend June called in the other night* with a bottle of Wolf Blass Gold Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon as a present for YHB. Me and Wolf Blass go back a long way.

When I first started buying wine as opposed to drinking it, I did as most people did and started with Australian reds. Particularly Wolf Blass reds. The yellow label Cab Sav, the red label Shiraz/Cab Sav and my personal favourite the green label Shiraz. There was also a "Presidents Selection" version of each of these, except possibly the red label, with the Shiraz version being the sine qua non of taste at the time.

The problem with the "Presidents Selection" wines was that they were nearly twice the price of the regular bottles (about 20 old pounds if I recall) and buying one in those days was reserved for special occasions, or if you were trying to get laid 8-)

I remember one evening on DNS with Herself and NOB, we opened a bottle of the red label and it was at that time one of the nicest bottles any of us had ever had. It was a big jammy monster but had an extra depth that we had never experienced from it before (or since). It was from the previous years vintage than that which was available in the shops at that time so maybe that was it, or else it was just a perfect storm of time and place.

There were many Aussie Shiraz and Shiraz/Cab Savs that we drank regularly at the time and most of them are still available; Wakefield, Wyndham Estate, Peter Lehman, Rosemount Estate etc. BE and I had a soft spot for Hardy's Nottage Hill, once making our housemate drive back to the off-licence to pick up another bottle, after we had enjoyed the first one so much. And yet these days I'd never in a million years buy a cheap new world Shiraz or Shiraz blend. How come?

My tastes have changed, simply, and the same for Herself. Given that I choose 95% of the wine that we drink this was probably inevitable. We simply find this style of wine too fruity, too jammy, too sweet. I now find this style of wine unbalanced, if you have that much fruit you have to have some structure to counterbalance it. As it happens, as you go up the price ladder the wines become much more palatable. Penfolds wines are a good example. At the cheap end of the range; the Rawsons Retreat, approx €12, another old favourite, is too jammy, but as you move upwards to the Koonunga Hill and thence into the BIN range the wines get much better. My current tipple is the BIN 389 (approx €30), expensive but big, bold, fruity and full bodied with a good balance of fruit, oak, acid and tannins.

There are some honourable exceptions, of course. D'Arenberg wines are almost universally delicious with The Laughing Magpie (approx €20), a Shiraz Viognier, standing out. I am not dissing all inexpensive New World wines, I'm sure most are made with care and attention and the style reflects what a large number of people want to drink: simple, fruity, easy drinking reds. They are just not for me...

As an exercise I may buy a couple of my old faves and see exactly how much my preferences have changed in the last few years. For now, I think I will open the Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon tonight (a screw top btw) and I'll report back soon.

* She had an altercation with a cow after leaving us and lost a wing mirror, don't ask.

No comments:

Post a Comment