I LOVE this time of the year, the business end of the season, if you like.
And spring is the season of new wine releases and wine shows, a time many of us in the industry relish.
One of my favourite days of the year is the annual Peel Estate Shiraz tasting, which features a showdown of great shiraz wines.
This year the focus of the Peel tasting was on the difficult 1997 vintage. After an exhausting yet extensive pre-tasting of about 70 shiraz wines, the final 20 for the day were selected.
Set up in four brackets the wines are given the silent treatment while they are tasted, before those at the tasting adjourn to the picnic table to listen to some chosen shiraz disciples describe their feelings on the wines of that bracket.
Punters eagerly peruse their own booklet of notes, nodding with approval or frowning with contempt as the disciples give verse.
A glance at my own notebook reveals the following information.
Tim Adams Aberfeldy 1997 Shiraz 17.5/20
After a big whack of oak, liquorice, prunes and ripe rich damson fruit aromas cut through the predominance of American oak. The viscous palate shows ripe plummy fruits with spice and anise notes. Integrated acidity and dusty tannins combine with savoury fruit through the mid-palate. Shows length and structure.
Tyrells Vat 9 1997 Shiraz Hunter Valley NSW 18.5/20
Secondary leathery aromas dominate in this wine, which also has an earthy fruit note. Ripe rich berry fruits are in abundance with briary, bramble, plums and chervil touch in balance with the ripe tannins and integrated acidity. The wine has balance and powerful finish with a degree of earthy elegance.
Majella 1997 Shiraz Coonawarra SA 17.5/20
Coconut and vanillin mocha aromas lead the charge out of the glass, followed by scented prunes, mulberry fruits with a square of chocolate dangled into the equation. On the palate are plentiful ripe fruits with generosity that flows through the wine. Tannins and acidity are integrated and the wine finishes with plenty of power.
Mount Ida 1997 Shiraz Bendigo VIC 18/20
Bright blackberry fruits with a good nudge of oak that is surrounded by perfumed cherries and a hint of smoky bacon. Sweet and savoury fruits flow through the palate, which displays spice, ripe tannin and great length. This is a wine that’s youthful in structure.
Gilberts 1997 Shiraz Great Southern WA 18/20
A fantastic wine unanimously voted as the bargain wine of the tasting. The aromas portrayed perfumed blackberry fruits with brambles and damsons. Underneath were secondary leathery and oak notes.
There were savoury sour fruits that showed some redcurrant fruit with a mineral and meaty undertone, some black olive complexity and complementing acidity running through the wine.
Peter Lehman Stonewell 1997 Shiraz Barossa SA 18.5/20
A stunning example of a wine with lashings of American oak, rampant notes of coconut that hide the ripe and powerful fruit found on the palate. A concentrated ball of ripe rich plum and blackberry fruits with firm tannins, anise notes and stopwatch-like length. A generous wine that typifies Aussie shiraz.
Peel Estate 1997 Shiraz Peel WA 17.5/20
Bright fruits with some secondary notes. Liquorice with some briary and fennel influences, touching on the Christmas cake spectrum of aromas. Delicious and powerful sweet spicy fruits fill the palate. Moreish plum, mulberry and bramble fruits entwine with dusty tannins and complementing acidity, finishing with sound length and plenty of persistence.
Best’s Thompson Family 1997 Shiraz Great Western VIC 18.5/20
A wine that greets with some vanillin perfume, damson, cherry and briary fruit notes showing a layered complexity. Rich fruits are displayed throughout the palate, although there is restraint and elegance.
Harmonious balance is shown with acidity and tannins linking in all the right places. Persistence and great length are a feature.
Guigal Hermitage 1997 Shiraz Rhone Valley France 18/20
Perhaps a little generous on the scorecard as this wine did display quite a green, almost mercaptan flavour. Displaying perfumed funky herbal and lees aromas with a slight mealy character. The palate displays cherry, violet and mulberry flavours that intermingle with a minerality and astringency.
Length shown but mid-palate flavours, which linger, are a concern, to the wine’s detriment.
Orlando Lawsons 1997 Shiraz Padthaway SA 17.5/20
Powerful oak aromas that coalesce with enticing prune, liquorice, blackberries, cloves and spice. The palate displays tannins that are ripe, and there’s some sweetness of fruit with an earthy edge, spice and anise yet with a savoury note across the mid and back palate. Shows some restraint and subtlety.
Henschke Hill of Grace 1997 Shiraz Eden Valley SA 18.5/20
A bright and perfumed wine with blackberry fruits and a spiced herbal anise-note oak in check.
Flooding the palate are dense viscous ripe fruits with briary and anise characters. The wine shows a complex yet still youthful structure, with elegance, length and plenty of persistence.
Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Northern Rhone France 19/20
A hedonistic delight from a difficult vintage. Enticing aromas. Violets, fennel, red berry fruits and leather characters combine with a lees note. Soft and elegant fruit lead the charge across the palate, savoury spice, redcurrant fruit complementing acidity and ripe tannins are all class. The wine finishes with finesse and length.
Jim Barry Armagh 1997 Shiraz Clare Valley SA 18/20
No disputing that this wine is Australian. Fruit aromas displaying blackberry, plummy and bramble characters with a vanillin, coffee and mocha oak notes. Enticing sweetness of fruit flows through the wine, while mulberry, plum and cherry undertones integrate with ripe tannin and a persistence of finish.
Penfolds Grange 1997 Shiraz Barossa/McLaren Vale SA 17.5/20
Some quite funky aromas were emanating from this Aussie icon, with hints of liquorice, wash rind cheese and secondary leathery fruit note. The palate presented sweet fruits with savoury elements that were a touch reductive, while chalky tannins combined with secondary fruits. Just a tad short of alluring fruit, showed persistence.
Elderton Command 1997 Shiraz Barossa SA 17/20
There are plenty of pronounced secondary fruit aromas with a baked cookie suggestion and vanillin coffee oak in this one. Displays vibrant sweet blackberry fruits on the palate with plums, liquorice and a clove spice popping up. The raspy tannins were a little drying, and there was some alcohol heat on the finish.
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