June Wines of the Month: Australian stunners with more than 1847 in common
I submitted my copy for a Decanter Expert’s Choice feature last week, which is focused on a Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine tasting in London earlier this year. A great opportunity to catch up with among Australia’s most collectable wines (the classification is based on track record at auction), some rare as hen’s teeth. Rather happily, I had a couple of opportunities for ‘revision,’ catching up with Yalumba’s/Pewsey Vale’s Louisa Rose and Turkey Flat’s Alex Schulz this last fortnight.
Rose brought along Pewsey Vale The Contours Museum Reserve 10 Year Cellar Aged Riesling 2005, which Langton’s Andrew Caillard MW had shown at his April masterclass. Much as I enjoyed it then, it doesn’t get better than kicking back with a bottle with its maker over a relaxed dinner. It hails from the site of Eden Valley’s first vineyard, which was planted in 1847. Although the original vineyard did not survive the economic recession of the 1920s, The Contours comes from the original 1847 Pewsey Riesling clone.
Meanwhile Schulz was in town to show off a mini-vertical of Turkey Flat Shiraz, including the 2013 from the Langton’s tasting. Watch this space for my notes on an exciting stylistic shift from 2014. But the wine which blew me away with its elegance was Turkey Flat The Ancestor 2012. It is sourced exclusively from Turkey Flat’s 1847 vines, of which the Schulz family have been custodians since the 1860s.
Here are my notes on these two Barossa beauts:
Pewsey Vale The Contours Museum Reserve 10 Year Cellar Aged Riesling 2005 (Eden Valley)
Pewsey Vale The Contours Museum Reserve Riesling is released with five years’ bottle age. Double that for this cuvée – The Contours Museum Reserve 10 Year Cellar Aged release (it is the same wine, just held back for longer). The 2005 vintage still looks and tastes remarkably young, even within The Contours’ spectrum. I was surprised this yellow/gold Riesling retains green glints and fresh lime zest, lemon and musky florals to the nose, which follow through in the mouth. Lime cordial, salted limes and a whiff of toast remind you of its age, but the palate is precise, very linear and fresh – on a rail and still going strong. Impressive. 12.5% £27.49 at Noel Young
Turkey Flat The Ancestor Shiraz 2012 (Barossa Valley)
I felt very lucky to taste this wine from Turkey Flat’s original 1847 vineyard. Not only because just two hogsheads (around 600 bottles) were produced. But also because, of the 72 varieties which Johann August Frederick Fiedler planted in 1847, only the Shiraz survived. And, in more recent history, it survived the ravages of the 1987 vine pull scheme. The Ancestor is only made in the most exceptional vintages. The 2012 is the first; there will be no 2013 or 2014, but Alex told me hopes are high for 2015 and 2016. As for the 2012, it seems strange to compare it to the Pewsey Vale The Contours 2005, but I shall. This Barossa pair are fresh and beautifully composed, with terrific impetus and balance; citrussy acidity even. Herbal riffs intermingle with The Ancestor’s bright, intense red cherry and black berry fruit. With uncommon levity, this Barossa Shiraz dances over the tongue teasingly, before making its presence felt on a heavily scented back palate – as if the fruit itself never lands, though it certainly makes an impression. The finish is very long, perfumed and mineral, its rail of tannins firm and dry, but never drying, allowing this exceptional wine to flow. It gets a wow from me! The Ancestor is a blend of the very best old and new barrel from the 1847 vines (whose fruit typically comprises around 25% of Turkey Flat Shiraz). The wine spent 28 months in barrel (both French oak). 14.2%