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Counting down to that one day in September

EVERY year around football finals time my hands start to get a little sweaty, my mouth a little dry and my feet a little itchy. I get an overwhelming feeling of nervous excitement.

This year my preparations going into that one day in September are rock solid. I have researched the opponents and am prepared for any wildcards that might be thrown up in the blind challenge facing me on September 1.

I am talking about my annual journey of discovery down to Peel Estate winery for Will Nairn’s premium shiraz tasting. Unlike for an Eagles, Dockers or Collingwood game, you can book seats at this fantastic tasting, confident that you are guaranteed enjoyment during the sometimes-gloomy September days.

This year will be my fifth visit and not even a date with Anna Kournikova would keep me away from swilling down a few glasses of some of the world’s great shiraz wines at Peel Estate.

This year’s tasting is the 10th at Peel Estate and will focus on the 1995 vintage. Each year the tasting selects wines that are six years old from some of the world’s best shiraz producers. Needless to say the majority of the wines are Australian. Penfolds’ Grange, Henschke’s Hill of Grace, Guigal’s Cote Rotie and Orlando’s Lawsons are among the high calibre of wines presented each year.

Entering the winery for the first bracket of five of the 20 wines you will taste blind, you are overcome with a hedonic aroma that sets the tone for the rest of the day. At the completion of each bracket of wines you move outside to indulge in some friendly banter with your fellow wine connoisseurs, comparing your notes and choice of wine from the bracket.

There are no bad wines at the tasting, but some show better on the day than others, and all wines are pulled apart.

During each break, as the next bracket of wines is poured, you are given a brief address from a member of the assembled tasters.

The day would not be the same without the occasional address from John Jens, which is always an enlightening experience.

At the completion of the tasting, host Will Nairn holds court over the jesters below and rattles off the wines in order. Throughout the tasting you are compelled – through force of habit as a professional wine writer to identify what you think the wines are.

Will, therefore, tends to be greeted by moans of delight and disappointment as he divulges the identity of each of the wines.

In the past, speakers at the lunch following the tasting have included luminary figures such as John Glaetzer, James Halliday, Stephen Henschke and Peter Lehmann. This year the guest speaker is Geoff Merrill, who will know doubt entertain the group as we mop up the leftover drops of shiraz.

This year the tasting is to be held on September 1. Tickets are very limited so, if you are interested, call the winery immediately. It really is one of the wine highlights of the year for me.

To celebrate Peel Estates 21st vintage last year I was treated to a glass of the first commercially released shiraz Will Nairn made. The 1979 shiraz, which was made at the Paul Conti winery in Wanneroo, was a gold medal winner at the Perth Royal Show. My tasting notes indicate that Will would have realised from those early days that he was on to something pretty good with his plot of shiraz. The Peel Estate Shiraz is always a consistent performer at the annual tasting.

Here is a look at some of the wine currently available from Peel Estate.

Peel Estate Shiraz 1997 rrp $39.00 rating 17/20

Powerful wine showing hints of plums, cherries and a touch of chocolate oak complexity. I also picked up a few strange phenolics that I put down to the individual bottle. The palate was full of ripe fruits, black cherries, damson and some prune characters. The acid and tannins are working towards balancing with the fruit that will evolve given a little more time. This is not a shy wine.

Peel Estate Wood Matured Chenin Blanc 1998 rrp $21.00 rating 18/20

This was so good it went straight to the poolroom of my belly. It is vastly different to most of the commercially produced chenin blanc wines in the current market.

There is a complex array of aromas tangled up just waiting to be discovered and the excellent use of oak shows right though this wine. The palate is awash with ripe fruit and has a viscous, creamy texture with plenty of length.

You can confidently cellar these wines for a number of years as this wine will be a mere spring chicken in four or five years’ time.

Peel Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 rrp $32.00 rating 16.75/20

You are immediately engulfed with ripe berry fruits, touches of mulberry and black berry fruits with a tomato leaf herbaceous aroma.

Soft and elegant with fine, almost chalky tannins that integrate with the ripe fruit characters and herbal touches. There is a persistence of finish. This is not a wine built for the long haul, but will reward after short-term cellaring. It is pretty good drinking right now, in fact.

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