Finally I got round to writing up a few wine notes, seriously you have to watch it, else you're surrounded by small scraps of paper with illegibly scrawled adjectives. Happily for now crisis has been averted, or atleast stalled for a while. I've popped these up together as one spurred me to tidy up the notes and both of these made me think about things a bit. Anyhow make of it what you will and I hope it's slightly less bland than some esoteric naked tasting notes.
These two bottles are worlds apart, literally, but I think that's good in both the drinking and in terms of discussion. Depending on what part of the world you source most of your wine familiarity with either locales will vary accordingly, though each region hardly needs an introduction. The Gigondas appellation is in the southern Rhone region of France and the Tyrrell's comes from the Hunter Valley in Australia.
Domaine De Longue Toque Gigondas 2008
Hailing from the Rhone, the wine is a GSM blend though I'm unsure of the exact breakdown of the various components. Deep ruby purple hue. Tight perfumed nose with hints of rose, spice, red fruit and meatiness, also a vegetal and flinty mineral note. Firm in the mouth, but with some generosity, there’s red fruit and herbal note of rosemary to accompany the initial features. A hint of violet, then flintiness comes through towards the back of the palate with firm but svelte tannins which frame the wine nicely. Medium bodied, savoury with some persistence, interesting and structured. 89-90.
Tyrrell’s Vat 11 Shiraz 1995 Hunter Valley NSW
On opening a little flat, smelt like old shiraz (well duh!) but it came alive after being open for an hour or so. The intensity surprised me, lovely ripe fruit and strength came through over the elegant aged characteristics of dusty shiraz spice with straw, leather and earth. The overwhelming thing in the mouth was how blended and harmonious all these features were along with the tannins, oak and acidity of the wine; the complexity was pleasantly challenging. To elaborate, all the features were nice, but you wouldn’t say for example there was a distinct red or dark fruit component such as blackberry and raspberry, rather they were there and so subtly integrated that you were grappling in your mind (in the best possible way, struggling!) to identify and separate different elements, rather like in a fine perfume. Rich texture in the mouth and tasty savoury qualities with fine but present tannin and acidity driving the tremendous length. Fine stuff in the bottle and pretty classic Hunter Valley. I didn't want to score it.
The exciting thing about a wine like the Tyrrell's is how ephemeral an experience it can be. One moment not much is happening and then the wine blossoms, delivering a moment in time and beauty as a heady flash, but then gone just as rapidly.
These two wines also got me thinking about wine and the differences between places and approaches to vinification. Both of these wines are pretty high quality, but I suppose my next point is looking at the lower end of the market for the obvious differences these days. The Rhone wine, whilst still having fruit presence is enjoyable for it's secondary characteristics being more to the fore than similar Australian wines. While I think there's a lot of cross pollination and changes in winemaking the world over, this is indicative of one of the main differences in appoach between Australian and Old world wines. Many Australian wines are driven by primary fruit and often fresh and bright, but perhaps lacking the savoury quality aimed for in the french example. Let me be clear I'm not saying one is inherently better than the other or that either place confound what I've just said and produce an opposite sort of wine to the stereotype I've mentioned. If only it were that simple, but I do rather like the fact that there is this stylistic difference and obviously individuals enjoy different wines just as different occasions and situation demand diverse wine styles. The contradictory factor to this as well is at the higher end of the market here in Australia, (I think) now having surpassed much of the world market in the way we have the complexity, but with the beautiful fruit quality integrated. Simultaneously there has been a move to a less austere style from the French, so perhaps we're all learning from each other.
Of course I feel slightly silly writing all of that because to me it would seem pretty obvious that, stylistic considerations aside, you want both qualities of fruit and secondary characteristics in your wine. The Tyrrell's really embodied that for me and set off that little rant...