Two Autumnal Australian greats
These two riveting Australian wines graced my dining table recently. What a luxury it was to sup and not spit, rather to spin out these wines over dinner, especially the remarkable Saltram Bin 88 Shiraz 1971. I don’t think I’d have appreciated it half as much if I’d simply tasted it, or just had a glass.
As you’d expect at 44 years old, the Saltram Bin 88 Shiraz 1971 (Barossa) was yielding – concave to the young Chardonnay’s convex, with spice, leather, warm terracotta and roast chesnut initially to the fore. But an inky and intense plume of blackberry and plum fruit built in the mouth. Together with ultra-fine, supple tannins, it sustained an exceptionally long, exceptionally balanced finish whose heady perfume of leather, bitter chocolate, ink and spice resonated beautifully with porcini and truffle tart. What a mellow fellow, as was I cradling my glass and eking out this wine in slow mo., or so it felt. It’s imprinted on my memory; I savoured every last drop.
No doubt this bottle benefited from having been stored in the cellar of the late, great Peter Lehmann and his wife Margaret. Checked and re-corked last year, it was in perfect condition. With so much still to give, it put me in mind of the first lines of Thomas Smith’s poem The Autumn Of Our Youth – “neither old nor young But somewhere in-between Lost wholly in the Autumn Of our youth.” Huge thanks to James March CEO at The Barossa Grape & Wine Association for this very generous gift.
Still in its exuberant youth, Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2013 (Margaret River) sprang into action on the nose delivering explosive cordite shot through with zesty, lively lime notes. It was the perfect, lip-smacking appetiser. But with great savoury depth, this intense, layered white also played well with our autumnal chilli oil slicked squash soup. Yesterday I tasted the follow up 2014 vintage – just as compelling. Notes to follow.