Recently last July a wonderful Houghton shiraz 2008 from Frankland River took a trophy as best commercial red wine of the RNA Brisbane Ekka Wine Show. It was aromatic and juicy, showed little or no oak. Clearly this wine is not destined for very long aging but immediate drinking, and few of us care if the wine lasts past a year or so.

However there are concerns if wines from Houghton are advertised to be great agers but do not cut it. And how can that be as I discovered the iconic Houghton Gladstone’s Shiraz 2000 from Frankland to be falling apart and now an aged wine with its primary fruit transformed into “beef stock” and earthy, herbal flavours. Clearly the oak used has also integrated and is not visible on the palate.

Looking closer at the wine, all the six gold medals and the one trophy were awarded at wine shows in 2002 and 2003 when the fruit was at its opulent best and the classy oak, the sweetest smelling and nicely coiled around the soft tannins. You can buy this and other vintages at; an online Australian seller of rare and old wines for $54. The 1999 vintage sells for $65 and the 2001 for $55.

The selling aids for these wines at this site quote an external reviewer who says 96 points for the 2000, drink 2008-2018. Clearly this wine has accelerated in its aging to a good common mature drink without much more applause. This happens and in such a case I would not blame the cork either-the wine was fresh and un-oxidised.

This type of behaviour leads me to decide that the lineage and consistency of this style has not yet been bedded in by Houghton. The opposite is the case with their famous white blend from the warmer Swan region which ages delightfully (from verdelho, muscadelle and chenin blanc at that).

Australia’s most consistent red is Grange. One reason it holds its price, with the attendant increases with more recent releases is that it ages well-even the 1951 is a clear example. The people from Penfolds however regularly review each vintage, highlighting when the drinking spans are coming to a close. The Penfolds Rewards of Patience book is the publication which gives this guidance and there have been four editions. The greater majority of these reds in the book are wines from warm areas, and maybe the explanation is that these more robust wines are better aged investments than some of the cooler grown equivalents.

The Gladstone’s vineyard at Frankland was planted by an ex-mayor of Adelaide in the 1970s, managed ever since then by Houghton and is one of the oldest cool region vineyards in WA.

Some wines can just fall over-I wonder if all the other stocks of this 9 year-old-wine have faded equally as well, and that the Houghton winemakers are aware? The RNA Brisbane trophy wine from 2008 just shows how much enjoyment drinkers can have very early in the life of this vineyard’s production. The position of future releases of Gladstone’s top shelf Shiraz requires closer future scrutiny. Maybe I will have the chance to enlighten you someday.

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