d’Arenberg: The Deadarm Shiraz, a vertical

When I joined Oddbins, if there was a name on everyone’s lips, it was d’Arenberg.  Flagship Shiraz The Dead Arm was referred to in hushed, reverential tones and its limited annual allocation keenly anticipated by staff and customers alike.  As the Parker scores drifted upwards, so did the price, though it seems to have stuck at around £25.99 since I left Oddbins in 2005.

And what of the wine? Today’s Dead Arm seems a little more refined and lifted to me.  Earlier picked fruit, more ruthless selection, less oak and less racking (to keep the fruit) is part of the explanation.  Winemaker Chester Osbourne also reckons that, as a result of not fertilising in the last 15 years, wines are showing more minerality because the vines have to work harder to assimilate nutrients from the soil.

d’Arenberg the Dead Arm Shiraz 2008 (McLaren Vale) – this pre-release is positively floral with a beautiful bouquet of roses.  In the mouth it shows youthful intensity as opposed to puppy fat, with liquorice spice and lovely balance and length.  Excellent promise – a sinewy, not muscular, Dead Arm.

d’Arenberg the Dead Arm Shiraz 2007 (McLaren Vale) – in this challenging drought year, low yields and berry size accounted for a “high seed volume” and there’s no shortage of muscle here.  Plenty of thrust on the attack, with creosote and spice notes to its concentrated core of black currant and berry fruit supported by powerful, ripe tannins.  Well balanced, this has a long life ahead.

d’Arenberg the Dead Arm Shiraz 2006 (McLaren Vale) – much more in the style of the 2008, this is floral, mineral, long and lithe – just starting to mine its seam of concentrated dark fruits, which builds on the finish.

d’Arenberg the Dead Arm Shiraz 2004 (McLaren Vale) – bigger, tarrier and warmer, this generously built, expressive vintage shows an ample concentration of sweet dark fruit.  Long, lingering and intense, if a little less interesting than the others.

d’Arenberg the Dead Arm Shiraz 2002 (McLaren Vale) – in a cool but dry year (only 4 days above 32 degrees celsius), the fruit was picked late towards the end of April.  It’s quite subdued on the nose but, in the mouth, there’s a lovely purity and saturation to its mineral shot black fruit.  Long, long with fine gritty mineral (iron) layers.

And while we’re on the subject of d’Arenberg, d’Arenberg The Ironstone Pressings Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2006 really impressed me too with its complex floral nose of turkish delight and wet earth.  In the mouth, these traits keep Grenache’s confectionary excesses at bay without compromising its depth of concentrated red cherry/cherry liqueur fruits, the whole elegantly harnessed by a ripe seam of tannins. £25.99

d’Arenberg wines are quite widely available but it’s worth noting that importer and retailer Bibendum Wines have a range of vintages, as do Winestore who also have a magnum of the 2005 and a half bottle of the 2002.  The current 2007 vintage is £26.37/bottle at Bibendum (with a 10% discount when you spend £250 or more inc VAT) and $26.95 at Winestore.

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