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Australian Wine: An Historical Perspective
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Australian Wine: An Historical Perspective

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  • 1. AN HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE James Halliday & Andrew Caillard MW 2 June 2009
  • 2.
    • An unrepeatable narrative of Australian red winemaking.
    • Very rare bottles – some possible the last few.
    • Wine not represented – either in previous tasting or unprocurable.
    • Possibly should have started at Maurice O’Shea and post-war.
    • Misses out on the emerging Victorian boutique wine scene of the early 1970s/1980s. Virgin Hills/ Knights Granite Hills difficult to find.
    • Other tastings will highlight innovation and philosophy across genres/regions.
    • 20 wines barely enough to tell the story.
    • Craft to science to science & craft.
    • Region to multi region to single vineyard to single vineyard/ multi vineyard and cross region.
    • Movement to alternative varieties.
    • Many producers have moved on to alternative closures.
    • Today Australia is making the finest wine in its entire history.
    AN HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE
  • 3. 1954 SEPPELT GREAT WESTERN HERMITAGE K72 SHIRAZ, GREAT WESTERN, GRAMPIANS
    • Donated by Ian McKensie, former Seppelt Chief Winemaker, prominent wine judge/ winemaking consultant.
      • Colin Preece Wine.
      • Regarded by Colin Preece as a Burgundy style although bottled into Claret bottles.
      • Labelled Hermitage but likely 50% Hermitage (Shiraz) and 50% Miller’s Burgundy (Pinot Meunier).
      • All sourced from the famous Midway Vineyard – south of Great Western village.
      • 500 gallon Vats.
      • A top Show wine during the 1960s.
      • Extremely rare – one of the last bottles in existence.
  • 4. 1955 PENFOLDS BIN 95 GRANGE HERMITAGE, MULTI-REGIONAL, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
    • Donated by Peter Gago, Penfolds
    • Max Schubert - Penfolds winemaking philosophy
    • - Open Fermenters/header boards
    • - American Oak
    • - Barrel Fermentation
    • Ray Beckwith - pH and wine stability.
    • Multi-vineyard sites.
    • 90% Shiraz, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.
    • Most successful Penfolds wine of the 1950s, multi-show winner.
    • The first vintage under Bin 95 – standardisation 1970.
    • Increasingly rare but more available than other 1950s.
  • 5. 1955 WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE MICHAEL HERMITAGE, COONAWARRA
    • Donated by Sue Hodder, Wynns Coonawarra Estate
    • David Wynn purchased Chateau Comaum from Tony Nelson in 1951.
    • One of the wines that put Coonawarra on the fine wine map.
    • Famous ‘Treasure Chest’ series released later.
    • Freak wine – no three phase power.
    • Matured in second-hand fortified wine casks.
    • Hugely successful wine show wine.
    • Extremely rare.
  • 6. 1962 PENFOLDS BIN 60A COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON KALIMNA SHIRAZ
    • donated by Peter Gago, Penfolds
    • One of the greatest Australian wines ever made.
    • Penfolds most successful show wine winning 19 trophies and 33 gold medals.
    • A confluence of oenological, physical and philosophical achievement.
    • A cross-regional blend exemplifying the emerging Penfolds house wine style and Cabernet/ Shiraz blend.
    • Andre Tchelistcheff (1901-1994) “Gentlemen you will all stand in the presence of this wine!
    • Len Evans (1930 – 2006) “one of the great reds I cut my palate on.”
  • 7. 1971 PENFOLDS GRANGE HERMITAGE, MULTI-REGION SOUTH AUSTRALIA
    • Access Economics used the 1971 vintage as an economic yardstick.
    • Don Ditter/ John Bird (celebrates 50 vintages this year) – volatile acidity adjusted down.
    • Beat the best Rhone Valley wines at the Gault-Millau Wine Olympiad in Paris in 1979.
    • An unusually low alcohol of around 11.5%.
    • 87% Shiraz 13% Cabernet Sauvignon.
    • Kalimna Vineyard (Barossa Valley), Barossa Valley, Magill Estate (Adelaide) Clare Valley, Coonawarra Blend.
    • “ If you had to point to a wine which fulfilled the ambitions of Grange it would have to be the 1971.” – Max Schubert, 1993.
  • 8. 1982 WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE JOHN RIDDOCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON, COONAWARRA
    • Coonawarra enjoying considerable fame in the early 1980s.
    • Terra Rossa Soils - mid 1970s; 1,359 acres
    • - mid 2000s; 13, 590 acres!
    • John Wade’s wine - a new and enduring genre of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.
    • Top Parcels (1%) of fruit - rich concentrated style with 24-28 months oak maturation.
    • Won Best Red Wine in Australia – Canberra National Wine Show.
    • Hugely famous wine - spawned a new direction in fine wine making.
    • Precursor to cult wine scene.
  • 9. 1985 WENDOUREE SHIRAZ, CLARE VALLEY
    • Roly Birks – 60 vintages.
    • 1974 Tony and Lita Brady – since 1981 Stephen George co-winemaker.
    • Unique original 1890s plantings producing small berries with thick skins and a very high seed content.
    • The fruit is vinified in stainless steel lined open fermenters. Maturation takes place in roughly 1/3 new oak.
    • Old fashioned style; emphasis on fruit power, concentration and weight.
    • tightly knit and incredibly muscular/ sinewy.
    • “ an iron fist in velvet glove”
    • Overall mass of fruit sweetness complements the toughness of the wine.
    • Strong identity of place and evokes a remarkable feeling of living history.
    • Older vintages – Merchant bottlings ie Seabrooks. Very rare prior to 1980s.
  • 10. 1986 HENSCHKE HILL OF GRACE SHIRAZ, EDEN VALLEY
    • 1986 – “coming of age” for Australian red wine.
    • Most famous Australian single vineyard wine.
    • Ancient Gene Pool – 1860s.
    • Prue and Stephen Henschke.
    • A derivative of Penfolds winemaking philosophy, but evolution is different.
    • Research and development of vineyard.
      • pH and colour
      • Conservation of old vines
    • American Oak – but movement to combination of American/French.
    • Sustainable/low input viticulture – but movement to Biodynamic Viticulture.
    • Despite evolution “always speaks profoundly of place”.
    • A foil to Penfolds Grange – Quintessential Eden Valley Shiraz
    • – Merchant bottlings ie Seabrooks
    • – Very rare prior to 1980s
  • 11. 1986 BROKENWOOD HERMITAGE GRAVEYARD VINEYARD SHIRAZ, HUNTER VALLEY
    • Continues the theme of coming of age.
    • A compelling example of single vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz.
    • Halliday/ Beeston/ Albert – purchased in 1978/ planted 1968.
    • Pokolbin Cemetery never eventuated.
    • Outclassed 86 Grange/ 86 Henschke Hill of Grace at a famous dinner.
    • Recognised as “an all time great” at auction.
    • Brilliant Hunter Vintage – rain/hail followed by dry weather all Feb/March.
    • Two Tonne open fermenters, cap plunging, barrel ferment in New American oak puncheons (old and new).
    • Style has evolved to around 80% new French oak and 20% American.
    • Shows the promise of Hunter Valley, the percolation of ideas and the foot print of a top contemporary single vineyard.
    • Very rare now!
  • 12. 1990 MOUNT MARY VINEYARD LIILYDALE CABERNETS QUINTET CABERNETS, YARRA VALLEY
    • Established by the Late Dr John Middleton in 1972.
    • First vintage 1976. Local Cult following in the 1980s.
    • Quintet based Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
    • 12.5 hectare vineyard planted on grey soils - sandy clay loams overlying degenerating Silurian shales.
    • “ Never over 22°Brix, never below 7.5 g/l total acid and never higher than 3.3pH.”
    • Often picked early compared to others.
    • The grapes are lightly crushed, totally de-stemmed.
    • Fermented in open and closed fermenters with careful temperature control and frequent pumping over. Some extended maceration takes place.
    • Oak maturation for two years.
    • It does not always find favour with critics.
    • Winemaking philosophy – based on science, craft, place and personality.
    • Quintet is still sought with almost religious zeal.
  • 13. 1995 CULLEN CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MERLOT, MARGARET RIVER
    • Donated by Vanya Cullen
    • Trial vineyard planted in 1966 by Di and Dr Kevin Cullen.
    • Vanya Cullen - prime winemaker since 1989.
    • Early proponents of ecological sustainability.
    • Central Wilyabrup sub-region of Margaret River.
    • Now rebadged Diane Madeline Cabernet Merlot (since 2001).
    • One of Australia’s greatest cabernets with beautiful poise and tannin structure.
    • Scott Henry trellis system critical to supple tannin structures.
    • 1995 a “tipping point”; Exemplifies sub-regional argument.
    • Biodynamic Viticulture to “achieve greater individuality of site through working with nature rather than against it”.
    • Between 10- 50% of the wine is partially barrel fermented.
    • Rest given extended maceration before maturation in 30% new, tightly-grained French oak.
    • Freshness and complexity, structure and suppleness.
    • Cullen is a strong advocate/early leader:
      • - screw cap technology
      • - carbon neutral practices
      • - biodynamic viticulture
  • 14. 1996 CLARENDON HILLS ASTRALIS VINEYARD SYRAH, McLAREN VALE
    • One of Australia’s original international cult wines.
    • Roman Bratasuik.
    • Robert Parker; 1994 vintage.
    • Sparked controversy at home; propelled success in the US and Asia.
    • Asian collectors ‘first growth’ in the same way as Le Pin and Valandraud.
    • Changed the fine wine landscape irrevocably.
    • simple goal of making “something equal to the best in the world”.
    • Based on single vineyard and a laissez-faire winemaking approach.
    • Old vines up to around 75 years old.
    • Matured in 100% new French Barriques for 18 months.
    • Derives from a mixture of clay, ironstone and gravely soils.
    • Distinguished vineyard site to the nth degree.
    • Enhanced the reputation of McLaren Vale.
    • Inspired a whole generation of young winemakers.
  • 15. 1996 PENFOLDS BLOCK 42 KALIMNA VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON, BAROSSA VALLEY
    • 1888 Block 42 – oldest cabernet plantings in the world.
    • Alluvial sands, rich brown soils.
    • Neither provided enough fruit nor the required consistency every vintage.
    • Only released in 1948, 1952, 1953,1961,1963,1964, 1996 and 2004.
    • Block 42 played a critical role in the development of Grange and Bin 707.
    • 1952 and 1953 Grange Cabernet.
    • 1963 Bin 64 Cabernet Sauvignon (100% Block 42) – Jimmy Watson Trophy.
    • Stainless steel tanks/ wooden header boards to submerge cap.
    • Fermentation completed in new American oak hogsheads. Approximately 13 – 18 months maturation.
    • 1996; a renewed focus on trial winemaking, new styles, individual vineyard character and new varietals.
  • 16. 1996 BEST’S WINES THOMSON FAMILY GREAT WESTERN SHIRAZ, GREAT WESTERN - GRAMPIANS
    • Great Western very important during the 1950s and 1960s - Colin Preece.
    • Cool Climate Viticulture during the 1980s; renewed focus on Victoria – many boutique wineries established.
    • A synthesis and model of heritage and modern small winemaking.
    • Best's Concongella Vineyard 1860s plantings at Great Western.
    • 15 Rows of dry grown Shiraz vines planted circa 1866.
    • Open-fermented in small ‘tubs’ and then matured in a 50/50 combination of new and old American oak for approximately 24 months.
    • First released in 1992 (to commemorate a century of winemaking at Best’s).
    • Sandy limey loams over deep clay, was acquired in 1920.
    • Viv Thomson believes that there are two types of wines, “...talking wines and drinking wines”.
    • Great Western also known for Sparkling Burgundy.
    • A strong swing back to Great Western during the 1990s.
  • 17. 1998 PETALUMA COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT, COONAWARRA
    • Established by Brian Croser in the late 1970s.
    • Petaluma captured the imagination of the wine world.
    • Distinguished Vineyard sites.
    • Originally Cabernet Shiraz – but opted for Merlot very early on.
    • A leading Coonawarra wine; did much to define the character and potential of the region.
    • The fruit is derived from the Evans Vineyard planted in 1969 on terra rossa.
    • Purchased by Petaluma in 1978.
    • “ hand pruned, canopy trained, crop moderated, handpicked and dry land managed amongst a sea of mechanised convenience managed vineyards"
    • Coonawarra has since gone through a major revamp of vineyards!
    • Closed headed down fermenters and roto-fermenters.
    • Matured for 20 months in French oak.
    • Very elegant and true to vineyard. Never fashion orientated.
  • 18. 1999 TORBRECK RUN RIG SHIRAZ VIOGNIER, BAROSSA VALLEY
    • 1994 - David Powell, a former lumberjack turned winemaker ex Rockford.
    • Run Rig (first vintage 1995) dramatically challenged traditional thought.
    • New Barossa genre and compelling house style.
    • derives from a Scottish distribution method of property.
    • 80 to 125 year old dry grown vineyards located on the western ridge of the Barossa.
    • “ great wines are made in the vineyard” leads to a laissez-faire approach.
    • Batch vinification in open concrete fermenters.
    • Offbeat ideas about ultra-violet/gravitational pull on polymerisation of tannins, fermentation speeds and Baume levels.
    • Viognier (3%) component and American oak matured Shiraz pressings profoundly influence aroma and flavour profile.
    • Matured in 40% new French coopered oak for up to 2.5 years.
    • Originally cult – now mainstream.
  • 19. 2001 BASS PHILLIP RESERVE PINOT NOIR, SOUTH GIPPSLAND
    • partially donated by Phillip Jones, Bass Phillip
    • Prime dairy country near Leongatha in South Gippsland.
    • Vineyards; north-easterly aspect / deep silty loams with high iron content.
    • Low input viticulture and winemaking moving towards biodynamic.
    • Originally planted to Cabernet Sauvignon!!
    • Inspired by Henri Jayer.
    • Planted to 9000 vines/hectare and yields roughly 270 grams of fruit per vine.
    • A typical ultra-fine Australian vineyard at 2000 vines/hectare will yield around 2.5 kilograms per vine and a Grand Cru Burgundy vineyard at 10,000 vines/hectare will typically yield around 500 grams per vine.
    • "The difference between good and great Pinot Noir is texture.”
    • For technocrats the Bass Phillip Pinot Noirs are maddeningly different and difficult to define.
    • Incredibly complex and sinuous wines.
    • Can be hit and miss but always interesting. Outside the Pinot Noir mainstream.
    • 2001 a recognised vintage – 2007 back on track spectacularly.
  • 20. 2001 CLONAKILLA SHIRAZ VIOGNIER, CANBERRA DISTRICT
    • donated by Tim Kirk, Clonakilla
    • Tim Kirk’s ethereal and evocative Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier.
    • Profoundly captures the essence of country & imagination of Australian winemakers and fine wine drinkers.
    • Located in a gentle south facing fold of the cool southern tablelands at Murrumbateman near Canberra.
    • Un-blinkered by the constraints of a technical background.
    • Determined to “capture the wonder and beauty” of his own place.
    • Mentors Bailey Carrodus and Phillip Jones!
    • - Pre-fermentation macerations
    • - varietal blending options
    • - high fermentation temperatures
    • - whole bunch fermentation
    • - extended post fermentation soaking
    • - partial barrel fermentation
    • - new oak maturation
    • Now approximately a 93:7 blend.
    • Matured in one third new French oak to let “our cool climate profile fruit lead the wood.”
    • Hugely successful collector’s wine.
  • 21. 2002 SEPPELT ST PETERS GREAT WESTERN SHIRAZ, GREAT WESTERN – GRAMPIANS
    • donated by Seppelt
    • Epitomises contemporary winemaking and reinvention of regional definition.
    • Multi Trophy winning wine/ one of the top wines of the year.
    • A Victorian icon connection with the past and a compelling future.
    • Low yielding vineyards and planted on weathered volcanic soils.
    • St Peter’s Vineyard and Imperial Vineyard established in the 1930s.
    • Police and McKenzie Vineyards established in the late 1970s.
    • Cold soaked before batch vinification in static and open top fermenters.
    • A combination of pump over and rack and returns.
    • Left on skins for between 10 and 20 days post ferment to extract “beautiful powdery tannins”.
    • Matured for a period of 18 months in around 30% new and 60% one/ two year French oak.
    • Strong regional quality and stamp of place.
    • Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz is both an Australian Classic and a curiosity. Nowadays it is a sparkling version of St Peter’s Great Western Shiraz.
  • 22. 2004 BALNAVES of COONAWARRA THE TALLY CABERNET SAUVIGNON, COONAWARRA
    • donated by Pete Bissell, Balnaves
    • 2004 is a waypoint in Coonawarra’s history. Many good wines made.
    • Precision viticulture/ winemaking and contemporary thinking ie science and craft.
    • 120 acre vineyard – Balnaves supplier to other producers.
    • The Tally – best parcels; not produced every year.
    • Each block managed according to soil profile, clonal selection and trellis system.
    • The vines are mostly machine pruned and harvested.
    • Fermented in vinimatics and open-topped static fermenters. Some barrel fermentation.
    • Maturation 18-22 months in fine grained new and used French oak barriques and hogsheads.
    • “ Coonawarra reds are naturally very refined wines. Those elegant fine tannins are particularly associated with the local terra rossa and transitional soils. After 10 years, regardless of style, all Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignons show this common thread.”