The just-concluded Royal Queensland Wine Show brought together 1998 wines to be judged from around Australia. It was the first show of the 2011 season (completes with RAS Sydney next February).
And there were 12 judges (four panels of three tasting) plus the chief judge, Hungerford Hill consultant Phillip John.
After dark it was the turn of the judges to do some tasting over dinner with the main event convened by Phillip. About three weeks before, an email arrives with your allocated style (two bottles).
This year mine was Chablis so it had to be a Grand Cru of course, only the best to share. It turned out that the night’s major drinking was to centre around chardonnay, Rhone varietals and a little cabernet sauvignon.
The chardonnays got off to great start with my wine, Chablis Les Clos (Fevre) 2008; 13% (USD 114); +++1/2; this wine will take decades to come around, from the high acid year of 2008, pale, austere nose (no evidence of malo-lactic), cleverly concealed oak, racy, minerally to the third degree.
Next in the bracket an equally exciting Burgundy, Meursault Les Genevieres (Henri Boillot) 2007; 13% (USD 174); ++++; compact nose not giving much away, palate just lovely, juicy then dry from oak, but not oaky, long and interesting flavours, touch of funk then linear acidity, pretty full wine.
Last was Lilydale Chardonnay 2008; 13.0% (USD 27); ++++; really on the mark as modern Australian stuff, pale, funk there, little oak and mainly complexity, a good dose of character, the palate a little peachy to give us the forward flavoured fruit but after that-excellent. And look at the price, what a steal.
A second bracket of chardonnay was even more beguiling. First was Brookland Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2004; 14.5% (USD 76); now tiring, going into the neutral flavour territory, oak still there but not a great deal more. Probably closed under cork.
Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay 2004; 14.5% (USD 90); +++; was not in good shape, the colour was simply advanced so the wine looked awkward, it has a punchy and slippery palate, and I thought I was drinking viognier. A big wine, but discussion around the table pointed to an old-fashioned habit of skin-contacting grapes at the crush-no longer done at the pointy end of chardonnay crafting.
The third was a revelation: Puligny-Montrachet (Leflaive) 2006; 13% (USD 133.50); +++1/2; heady, complex, pristine, pale, compact, drying out yes, but just a lovely palate, bright, talcy and drinkable (with the slipper lobster and mussel brawn).
The reds were even more exciting. The two Rhone-type brackets were killers.
Hermitage (Tardier Laurent) 2003; 14% (USD 126); +++1/2; great for such a stewy hot year, bristling with layers of flavour and substance, still tannic but a little juicy/porty too, fab shiraz.
Cotes du Rhone Chateau de Fonsalette (Rayas) Reserve 2002; 14% (USD 51); ++++1/2; outstanding; grenache based, rest cinsaut and shiraz, massive flavour but a contained palate, obvious warm region tastes of leather, licorice and stewed plum, a gem to drink.
The third was another gem; Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Pierre Usseglio)2008; 14.5% (USD 32.50); ++++; a big bold wine, still purple, very overt fruit as a grenache based blend, the rest, cinsaut, shiraz, mourvedre ; lovely close knit fruit and tannin, streams all over the palate with balance. Great.
Red bracket two was mixed: Stephen John Watervale Shiraz 2000; 14%; +++; now mature, browning, a big, bonoxy single vineyard shiraz with slippery mouth feel, little varietal definition but a great mature Clare Valley wine, nice to taste.
The standout was Gigondas (Domaine des Espiers) 2009; 14.5% (USD 34.75); ++++; fragrant and fruit saturated grenache on the nose, not the boiled sweets-type we find in Australia (Barossa Valley et al); just violets and red flowers, lovely wine made with care and little oak use which now shows (six months), the softest and fruitiest palate one could find. Take a while to locate a grenache/shiraz its parallel.
Eileen Hardy 2005 McLaren Vale ; 14% (USD 88); +++; now smelling mature, lots of oak work which shows up with some oiliness, chunky and drying palate plus lots of rich jam flavours, looks to be tailing off and in need of earlier drinking. However expect it to surprise and hold for another decade. Have tasted smarter vintages such as 1998, 1999 and 2002.
Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator www.uncorkedandcultivated.com.au
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