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THERE are few certainties in life, they say, but one annual event I know I am guaranteed to enjoy is the Peel Estate Shiraz Tasting. Each year I find comfort and solitude in the winning formula that this fabulous event has created over the past 11 years. Each year the divine world of shiraz is explored in an afternoon of hedonistic pleasure.

John Jens welcomes shiraz devotees from all over, who soon become entranced in his verse as he describes the delights of the first flight of five wines. This year the tasting concentrated on the outstanding 1996 vintage, and John highlighted the joys of the Rothbury Brokenback (17 points), Vasse Felix (16.5), Mt Horrocks (17), McWilliams Brands Stentifords (16.5), and the Dalwhinnie (15). It was a very good bracket of wine and, with tickets to the event at a premium, the gathered few were most appreciative.

The second bracket of wines provided a stunning and seductive distraction. I am tempted to say this was my preferred bracket of wines. It included one of the highlights of the tasting – Seppelts Great Western (18.5) – followed by the very good Peel Estate (17), the Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde (18), Geoff Merrill’s Henley (18.5) and, to finish up, the an Aussie icon that is Peter Lehmann’s Stonewell (18).

Anne-Maire Banting of the Must wine bar professed to the audience her love of food and wine and highlighted the Guigal for special attention.

Heading into the premiership quarter, I found some of the wines held up to the pressure while others couldn’t quite live up to what was expected from them. Cape Mentelle opened the scoring with plenty of interesting flavour components (17.5), which was follow by the turning point of the tasting, a wine that received my early votes as best on ground. Trevor Mast’s Mt Langi (19) was awesome. The extremely hard to find Jaboulet La Chappell seemed to be under an injury cloud on our table and I found it hard to score above (15.5) points, even after looking at another table’s example.

Grange (18.5) will have scored top votes with many of the gathered shiraz congregation; it was a scrumptious wine. The last wine of the bracket has been a proven performer at this tasting in the past, however I found the Rosemount Balmoral (15.5) a little disappointing.

Heading into the final quarter and the best on ground (BOG) award was still on offer.

Four of the five proved very hard to separate, the quality was as good as any five wines I have sat down to drink this year.

Making an early claim in the quarter for BOG was the extremely desirable Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis (19). Best’s Thompson Family Reserve was a few touches behind (18.5), while gathering late possessions, the Rockford’s Basket Pressed (18.75) looked very good and shows no signs of retirement.

Not to be disgraced was the fantastic Hill of Grace (18.5), which is a wine showing plenty of form.

The final wine in the bracket, Yalumba’s Octavius (17.75), for me wasn’t fully fit and although it showed some signs of form was a little rough around the edges and not really to my taste.

As the final siren sounded my decision for BOG had to go to the Mt Langi 1996 Shiraz. However, if you were able to award points after further reflection, I’d give the Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis the gong, as it opened up over lunch to reveal further attributes and really show its class.

That made it difficult to ignore the Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis as the wine of the day.

Will Nairn and the Peel Estate team should be commended for their efforts.

The shiraz tasting is one of those days that I couldn’t miss, however I hope next year it doesn’t fall on the day after the Royal Show wine lucheon.

It was a demanding first bracket of wine for many of the congregation, if you take my point.

The quality of the 20 wines on offer was among the best shiraz collections put together in one tasting in this part of the world.

Having tasted a number of the wines that were left out, 1996 is living up to the reputation it has again as an exceptional vintage.

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