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Top gong to Jindong’s juice

EVANS & Tate may have chucked a cat in with the pigeons by being named the makers of the world’s finest red wine at the 2000 International Wine Challenge in London recently.

The company’s 1999 Margaret River shiraz fought off almost 5000 international reds to win the overall trophy as the Best Red Wine at the world’s largest and very credible wine judging forum, Britain’s International Wine Challenge.

Rumour has it Franklin Tate had a Cheshire cat grin when he accepted the award at the presentation dinner.

“This is the first time a WA wine has won an award of this magnitude and it speaks volumes for the quality of the wines coming out of Margaret River – in particular the Margaret River Shiraz,” the executive chairman of Evans & Tate said.

This is where the pigeon’s feathers might fly with some commentators and Margaret River purists. Why? Because the bulk of the fruit in this newly famous red was grown at Jindong. In fact, 75 per cent of the shiraz was sourced from this region, which is some 25km northeast of Margaret River.

I see Jindong in a different light to some other commentators who argue that this old potato-growing region shouldn’t be in the Margaret River appellation. To my way of thinking, Jindong has all the qualities to add a commercially viable fruit source to the region. The only dark cloud in this theory was confirmation of quality.

It would seem that the 550 interna-tional judges have established that at the London Wine Show.

Beneath Jindong is a huge aquifer of pure water in enormous qualities; this and the heavy, rich loam soils have proved Evans & Tate’s move to build its new winery and develop large vineyard plantings was a smart move.

Grape harvest yields are abundant and way higher than along the Margaret River shopfront of Caves Road.

Jindong receives less rainfall than Margaret River proper – only three quarters of Margaret River’s precipitation level falls on Jindong. But because of the subterranean treasure house of aqua, the Jindong viticulturists can give the vines a controlled drink whenever they choose.

We all know too much water might lift grape yields but it can reduce fruit intensity and quality. It seems Evans & Tate got the formula correct in 1999.

With the Jindong component of the blend, good herbaceous shiraz came from Red Brook Vineyard and the Wright’s old vineyard. Both of these are Willyabrup situated. There was even a tiny fraction of Swan Valley fruit included.

I tasted the Evans & Tate 1999 shiraz at Perugino’s in West Perth with some experienced palates and the initial reaction is it’s a beautiful, purple, absolutely faultless baby. Of course, this red isn’t even due to be released until October.

Winemaker Brian Fletcher and his assistant winemaker Rob Marshall have superbly crafted the wine, both of who have since moved on in their career paths.

This shiraz is so well put together there isn’t a hair out of place. The components fit together like fingers in a velvet glove. The nose is slightly closed but it will develop, the fruit is rich with plummy-spiced character and the full-bodied red shows soft but firm tannins.

You don’t catch your breath with expectation when you taste it, but it’s impossible to find fault with the wine and I would expect some bottle age could show up its full personality. The truth is, we Western Australians are spoilt with fine wines and this 1999 shiraz is proof of our good fortune.

And as for Jindong’s detractors – bad luck. It’s here to stay and perhaps keep Margaret River wine prices down to affordable levels.

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