Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2008 Margaret River

2009 Night Harvest Shiraz

2008 Night Harvest Shiraz, Margaret River

What's happening . . . LCF showing Australian shiraz? What? What??!!

Nothing personal against Australia; I mean I have relatives there. The wines? Not so great. And I'll tell you why. If you like Australian wine, you have to admit that you like fruit in your wine. Lots of it. Overripe, over-macerated, over-alcoholic, over-extracted, over-oaky . . . it doesn't matter, any and all fruit is good.

But that isn't complexity. And that isn't greatness.

Wine tasting of nothing but fruit is simple - it can be good to drink and all, but it will never be a great wine. Australians, like everyone else, abuse the concept of terroir by applying it to their wines. There is no terroir in fruity wines. These are wines that can be replicated anywhere in the world, from any grape variety. Shiraz is a brand wine, not a varietal anymore - and that is not terroir. And that's the issue I had with this wine.

Few wines can elicit an immediate physical reaction. Deep purple in the glass, the bouquet is so intense, so overwhelmingly viscous that I involuntarily recoiled at first smell. Good fruit, surprisingly fresh. The label reads 13.5% alcohol - showing some finesse! The wine doesn't appreciably develop over the three days I had it open. It's simple fruit, drinkable, but ultimately a simple wine.

One more thing. And this is a problem that the producers unfortunately can't control. I'm referring to the odours of reduction that can appear in wines bottled under screwcap. You see, the Australians are religiously fanatic about abolishing natural cork to stop their wines. They can quite convincingly argue that problems with TCA, oxidation, and ageability are all serious considerations to avoid using cork. And while screwcap may solve those issues (good ageability remains to be seen), they've traded one problem for another. You see, screwcap almost closes the wine too well. Sulphur added to the wine can permeate the bouquet, leaving an oily, rubbery aroma that stays in the wine. That's what happened here - hopefully an isolated incident, but instances of reduction are definitely a real problem for screwcaps, and an issue that probably is lost amidst all the foaming at the mouth ranting about the evil cork.

DF

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