April Wines of the Month: Jim Barry Watervale Rhine Riesling 1977 & Luis Pato Tinto Bairrada 1980

Luis Pato's first Baga

Luis Pato’s first Baga

It being the season of new growth, perhaps my April Wines of the Month should have been ingénues? However, I cannot help myself but select two gracefully ageing wines which simply blew me away this past month. Both would have cost very little indeed on release. And even today, for wines which age so brilliantly and give so much of themselves with time, they are among the wine world’s bargains. They are Clare Valley Riesling and Bairrada Baga.

Jim Barry Watervale Rhine Riesling 1977 (Clare Valley, South Australia)

jim barry museum tasting 008

Gold with amber glints. This is exceptionally fine, pure and delicate for its age – even more so than the preceding 89 and 86 vintages which I tasted the same day and which, texturally and flavourwise, showed the (attractive) marmalade and toast notes you’d expect after 25 years or so. Peter Barry was delighted that in this, his first wine, you could still detect lime in the mouth of the 77, such is its freshness. With ripe rolling pink grapefruity/stony acidity, it finished long and very pure. A joyous wine. Outstanding. 6g/l residual sugar. Read more about it here. And if I was to dip into my pocket and purchase a Jim Barry Riesling today, I’d pick The Florita – click here for my tasting note on the 2010 (and notes on 44 other recently tasted tip top Aussie Rieslings).

Luis Pato Tinto Bairrada 1980 (Bairrada, Portugal) 

Unbelievable colour & this 33 year old wine kept building in the glass

Unbelievable colour & this 33 year old wine kept building in the glass

This, another first for the winemaker (Pato did not embark on winemaking full time until 1985), flies against just about every innovation the Baga master was subsequently to introduce. For starters, Pato did no green or precision harvesting to lighten the vine’s load and help the fruit ripen earlier in the season (before the break in the weather). And with a lack of labour to pick the grapes, this wine came in late – at 16 degrees potential alcohol by volume no less! So the cellar snake came into play (it was watered down). Nor was it de-stemmed or aged in oak barrels to mellow its tannins. This wine was whole bunch fermented and aged in cement tanks (though Pato did use pump overs – an innovative technique back then). The colour of this wine is quite incredible – dark and luxurious – the colour of black plums. In the mouth, it’s really plummy too – confit of plum with dried spices, a woody (not unattractive) firmess (grape tannins?) and a touch of ripe tarriness. As it opens up, the sweetness of the fruit – ripe raspberries and plums – becomes more pronounced and it unravels layers of dark chocolate, cassia bark, orange peel and oyster shell (as if returning to its chalky soils). The tannins become suppler – seamlessly supportive. I’m bowled over by how well this 33 year old wine not only holds it shape in the mouth, but also continues to build in flavour. No sign of drying out whatsover; still supremely well balanced. It’s a treasure. Again, if I was to dip into my pocket and purchase a Luis Pato Baga today I guess I’d be drawn to one of the two sources of the fruit for this wine, which came from Vinha Barrosa and Vinha Pan – Luis Pato Vinha Barrosa 2005, from Pato’s oldest vines. Or if I had a bit more patience (and time in this world!), I’d wait for the 2011 – a fabulous vintage judging by the samples I tasted during last month’s visit. The 2005, one of My 50 Great Portuguese Wines (reviewed here) costs £30 at The Wine Society

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