16/09/2010 - 00:00

Setting the benchmark

16/09/2010 - 00:00

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EVERYONE in the wine trade hangs out to get an invite with the words ‘benchmark tasting’ written on it.

Setting the benchmark

EVERYONE in the wine trade hangs out to get an invite with the words ‘benchmark tasting’ written on it.

It means the winery in question is pitting their wine against the best of a particular region or country, or the world. The resulting tasting is usually choc’ full of cult wines, hen’s teeth bottles and sublime drops.

So I was suitably excited when my gilded letter arrived from the team at Voyager Estate. The thing with these tastings is that the hosting winery usually gets carried away and sources the best examples from around the world to pit their brew against and, more often than not, the winery in question pales a little in such august company. Not so on this day.

The event was held at Steve’s in Nedlands: all the important wine merchants, writers and other industry luminaries were there, tasting note pads at the ready. Luckily there must have been a cancellation so I got a last minute call up.

We looked at six 2007 chardonnays in a line-up: the wines were the best the world had to offer from Leeuwin here in WA to New Zealand’s Craggy Range Le Beaux Cailloux; a $250 dollar bottle of Corton Charlemagne from Burgundy; Giaconda; a little ripper from the US and of course Voyager Estate thrown in there somewhere.

The wines were in no particular order, all the bottles masked – or ‘blind’ – when served so we had an unbiased comparative evaluation. Regular readers of my column will know of my love affair with Chardonnay and so this bracket of wines was particularly exciting. The Frenchy was the most fine boned and elegant whereas the wine from the US was so over the top and aggressive it felt like John Wayne had made it. The Giaconda and the Leeuwin were easily the two best wines but I have to admit that I was surprised to see the Voyager just a smidge behind them in both finesse and fruit quality, overall a great result for Voyager especially considering at $45 it was only one of two wines under the $80 mark.

The last part of the tasting lined up eight of the great cabernets from around the world: there were names like Ornellaia, Cullen Diana Madeline, Balnaves Reserve, Pichon Comtesse, Stags Leap and of course Voyager. Wow, what a bracket, the wines were all from the 2005 vintage, which was stunning for cabernet globally. The highlights were the Ornellaia, the Pichon Comtesse which both retail at over $300 per bottle and the sublime Cullen Diana Madeline, but as with the chardonnay bracket, quietly standing half a step behind this most esteemed of company was a fiftyish dollar bottle of 2005 Cabernet Merlot from the guys at Voyager.

For me Voyager has always shown glimpses of brilliance, loads of promise and has made some great wines, but seeing their wines in this context alluded to a coming of age, a consistent level of excellence across their range of wines that puts them firmly in the top echelon of great Australian wine producers.

John Jens and Kate Lamont are hosting a replica of this exciting benchmark tasting on the October 14 at Lamonts in Cottesloe – get there if you can!

 

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