Dan's Blog


Friday, January 18, 2019

DON'T BE TOO PRECIOUS!!: On the Sunday between Christmas and New Year I got together with my “drinking buddy” as we do each Sunday and as it was my turn, I dug out a bottle of Orlando 1977 Coonawarra Cabernet. The bottle was ullaged down to the mid-shoulder and when opened it presented itself as a nondescript, somewhat tired dry red rather than as a gem from the Coonawarra.

DISAPPOINTED, we were going to tip it down the sink until I remembered that the previous day I had sampled and reviewed the St Hugo 2016 Coonawarra Cabernet (which was a sheer delight).

SO, I dug out this bottle from the stack of tasted bottles waiting to go to some of my local pensioners, who really appreciate good wine.

WE then topped up the 1977 bottle with some of the 2016 (probably around 25-30mls I would say), gave it a good shake and, lo and behold, we had a lovely old Coonawarra Cabernet in our glass. Sure, it still wasn’t a brilliant wine but it was plenty good enough for us to sip upon whilst we proceeded to solve all the world’s problems – as we do each Sunday – which would be grand except that some bugger re-instates them all by the time we wake up on Monday morning!!

THE amazing transformation that a modicum of fresh, vibrant material made to the old wine, made me think of the art of the fortified wine blender – such as the likes of Bill Chambers, or my dear friend David Morris, who do the opposite, by adding small parcels of increasingly older Muscat (or Topaque) to their younger material until they achieve the desired flavour profile. So that if you open a bottle of their divine non-vintage fortifieds (some of the very best in the world) it will taste pretty much the same as the last bottle you enjoyed. This is the “Art of the Blender”.

ON the flip side of the coin are a number of Aussie winemakers who believe that their wine has to be “pure”. By that I mean, 100% from the same variety, 100% from the same vintage and 100% from their patch of dirt. I recall that at the last Wine Australia event in Sydney, back in 2006, I was showing a client around and at the Limestone Coast Stand we tasted a Shiraz and Cabernet from a winemaker who proudly stated that his wines were 100% genuine and pure. The Cabernet was a donut wine, i.e. had a bit of a hole in the mid-palate. So when he wasn’t looking I tipped a few mils of the Shiraz into the glass of Cabernet to fill the hole and surprise, surprise the client preferred the blend to the 100% pure wine. When he mentioned this to the winemaker, he got all huffy and basically told us to buzz-off – Sale lost!!

SO, the moral to this little tale is that producers shouldn’t get too “precious” or “high and mighty” about their wine, and while keeping firmly within the Wine Australia rules, they should do whatever it takes to produce the very best wine possible. That way consumers can enjoy the best wine possible and the producer is more likely to sell it to them in the first place.

The wine needs to be “precious”, not the winemaker!!!


This week I am talking about Turkey Flat Grenache.

A while ago I reviewed the sensational Turkey Flat 2016 Barossa Grenache which won the Jimmy Watson Trophy – being the first ever Grenache to win Australia’s most prestigious wine award. Then more recently, I reviewed the follow up vintage, the Turkey Flat 2017 Grenache, which was also a cracker wine – slightly different in style from its salubrious predecessor but that was due to the variation in vintage conditions.

At an Adelaide wine auction late last year I was able to pick up some bottles of Turkey Flat 1994 Grenache Noir for a very realistic price.

This last Sunday for our weekly “drinkies” get together with my best mate when we usually enjoy a great older bottle of wine together, I dug up the TURKEY FLAT1994 Grenache Noir and opened it to see how it was fairing. At first it was a bit disappointing in that it presented as a tiring old dry red, drinkable but no great shakes and little if any Grenache character.

However, in keeping with the theme of this week’s Blog about not being too precious with wine, I rummaged around and found a bottle of 2017 Barossa Grenache that I had been sent to review. So we topped up the 1994 Grenache Noir with around about 5-10% of the young 2017 traditional style Grenache (i.e. not one of the thin, green pissy ones that some wineries are now making and calling “stylish and lower in alcohol”) and gave it a bit of a shake.

Well! We now had a lively, delicious, mature but not geriatric Grenache that was truly superb. It wasn’t long into our “world problem solving” discussions before said bottle was empty, having been thoroughly enjoyed. The transformation in the wine was amazing, it was re-invigorated and so much sprightlier than it had been just a few minutes earlier.

It is in fact the same thing, but directly opposite to what the winemakers of great fortifieds do, where they get their young Muscat or Topaque and go adding little quantities of older and older material until they come up with their magic elixir that is the “nectar of the Gods”.

So, all I am saying is don’t simply write off an old bottle of if it isn’t cork tainted or badly oxidized from a weeping cork, give it a chance. Infuse it with a dash of very young wine and see what happens. Hey! The young wine doesn’t even need to be the same variety (preferable but not mandatory). After all, Australian wine law gives us a 15% leeway for it to still be true to label.

Think about it. Try it sometime and don’t be too precious about your wine. Put an ice cube into your glass of red when you are sitting outside in 40oC heat. After all the wine is there to be enjoyed!!

Cheers and enjoy wine!