When sunsets arrive earlier and cooler breezes blow in, many a wine fanatic starts to have a thirst for red. Some of the biggest blockbusters in recent years come from Australia and we put together a few choice bottlings to duke it out in the glass and see who would come out victorious. The Maestros of McLaren Vale would meet in the ring with the Barons of Barossa, scrappy upstarts matching gloves against the undisputed heavyweight champion. Competitors in this case would need to show elegance and finesse rather than brawling overripe fruit to win in the final round.
We enjoyed a warmup with some Viognier from Paras Vineyard located high on Mt. Veeder along with some Vietnamese inspired appetizers provided by Chef Jared Whalen at Pho Paris, now at its new location across the Ohio River. Then it was time to lay on for a six way battle though three varietals and four vintages. Our wines were loosely paired, starting with a Coriole Lloyd Reserve Shiraz and JJ Hahn 1928 Shiraz, both from 2002. The next pair came from winemaker Dave Powell with a 2003 Schulz Marcus Old Shiraz and his own 2004 Torbreck The Pict Mataro. Finally came one of the latest creations from esteemed winemakers Sarah and Sparky Marquis, a 2006 Mollydooker Enchanted Path Shiraz Cabernet which was paired with the most famous wine in Australia, a 2002 vintage of Penfolds Grange Shiraz. It was obvious there were no pretenders in this bout but there was a ringer in the Torbreck. Made from Mataro, also known as Mouvedre, it came out swinging early leading with a floral nose to show broad rather than deep flavors of bright red cherry fruit and noted acidity. Unfortunately its $200 price was a sucker punch that left it on the ropes in this lofty group.
The Schulz Marcus was also a step behind, starting with spice, perfume, and leather fragrances that then stumbled to flavors that seemed a bit sweet and pudgy. The Coriole was a reliable veteran, smooth and well constructed with notes of chocolate while the JJ Hahn, from vines planted in 1928, had classic aromas of eucalyptus, spice, and perfume combining a 1-2 punch of broad fruit and marrow on the palate. But the main event was between the final contenders.
In one corner was the audacious Mollydooker with its festive label and screwtop while cross post stood the Grange, long ago a scrappy upstart but now established at the pinnacle of the world’s best. The challenger came out early with floral notes transcended by hints of roasted meat, exploding with rich deep fruit in the mouth and a satisfying dark chocolate finish. The champion started slower with time needed to take in a complex bouquet of flowers, perfume and sun baked earth. It flowed with a restrained fruit, very smooth and even on its feet while tannins were well hidden. In the final round flavors became more massive with aeration to finally deliver the knockout punch of pugilistic perfection. The scorecards gave the decision to the Grange but with the Mollydooker at $80 one could get four bottles from the same purse. Mollydooker also has their premiere “Velvet Glove” bottling waiting in the wings that could demand a rematch in the future. Wine fans stay tuned!
J.T. Mayer, Vice Chargé de Presse