January Wines of the Month: Australian Vintage Shiraz & Blandy’s 79 Verdelho
Inevitably, fortified wines played a role during December’s festivities. I must admit I feel like I’ve been hankering for more of Blandy’s 1979 Verdelho ever since showing it at The Yeatman’s Christmas Wine Experience. So it’s a shoo in.
There was some competition over my wine number two – between Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2008 (my last bottle superb with pan fried scallops). Back to fortifieds, Fonseca Vintage Port 1985 was right up there too. I love this Port’s balance.
But in the end, the wine which won the day delivered a pure shot of Barossa. And who wouldn’t want to warm their bones there this frosty english Christmas! Shared on two different family occasions, both bottles were attacked with zeal.
Blandy’s Verdelho 1979 (Madeira)
This 98 pointer bagged the Platinum – Best in Show: Best Sweet Fortified over £15 award at Decanter World Wine Awards. It is a particularly elegant, complex Verdelho with knife-edged tension between its sweet, spicy, sour and mineral notes. Exuberantly spicy tropical chutneyed fruit, dried fig, tobacco, tamarind, jaggery, iodine and salty kelp nuances, vie for attention – colour pops on the palate. Yet it never loses focus or harmony. With superb length, it is bottled electricity. I could not bear to spit one little bit of this vinous elixir of life. £110 ex VAT at Turville Valley Wines
Peter Lehmann Vintage Bin AD 2016 (Barossa)
The Blandy’s (thrillingly) demanding palate keeps you on your toes but, if you’re after a big warm hug, this fortified Shiraz delivers. Having enjoyed a bottle on Boxing Day, I knew just which wine to pull out the bag and enjoy after a long drive down to Somerset to celebrate Christmas with my in-laws. I bought both bottles when I managed Oddbins Farringdon Fine Wine store a dozen Christmases ago or more. If memory serves me correctly, my original tasting note was along the lines of blackcurrant chewits (a childhood sweet) on steroids – a proper slice of 90’s hedonic fruit-driven Barossa (Peter Lehmann AD 2016 hails from the 1995 vintage)! So I was interested to see how it had matured. And to put to the test the winemaker’s recommended coming of age – its 21st birthday. The answer? With maturity, in both senses of the word. While there is no denying this vintage fortified is more fruit-driven and sweeter than the Portuguese equivalent, at 21 years old it knows exactly where it’s coming from. Even decanting it, the heady aromas of sweet blackcurrant and plum with a hint of eucalpyt and warm earth shout BAROSSA loud and clear. Not least because, unlike the current vintage (AD 2023) – a blend of Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon – AD 2016 comprises 100% Shiraz from the Koonunga Hill district. Aged for 12 months in seasoned oak and for 20 years in bottle, the palate introduces spicy liquorice and a lick of bitter chocolate to the hedonic sweet but not jammy plum, dried plums and still perfumed blackcurrant. The spirit, once fiery, has assimilated ever so smoothly with the fruit to provide that warm hug, which is so deliciously off-set by a cool but subtle menthol edge of eucalpytus. Most definitely in a good place to drink now, but I reckon it has another 5 years in it yet. Not half bad for a wine which cost about the same as top end LBV Port. 20% abv