27th November 2014
Reviewed by Barry Weinman
Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to taste some of the world’s great wines. Interestingly though, the opportunity to try all of the red wines from Wendouree from two consecutive vintages proved to be one of the most memorable events that I have ever attended.
Wendouree is one of the world’s true cult wines. This reputation is enhanced by the Brady’s noble aim of keeping the wine accessible to their loyal mailing list customers. Rather than sell to the trade and allow profiteering/trading in their wines, they are only available via the mailing list. Whilst not cheap at $45 – $50 per bottle, they become real value when the quality is factored in.
Whilst the winery is perhaps most famous for its Shiraz and Shiraz blends, the Cabernet should not be underestimates.
The Cabernet generally needs more time to show its best. This was, perhaps, best illustrated by the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz that we had with dinner. With 15 years in the bottle, the Cabernet was really hitting its straps and was a delight to drink. Whilst both wines were magnificent, I would possibly put the Cabernet slightly ahead of the Shiraz. Coming from a very good cellar, these wines were in pristine condition and are only just approaching their best (and will hold for many more years).
The Shiraz-based wines are just as age-worthy, however they are generally more approachable now. This proved to be the case with the wines reviewed here.
Regarding the two vintages, 2011 was considered to be a challenging year. This resulted in lighter, more feminine wines. Still age-worthy, but not as dense as the best years.
2012 was universally applauded in South Australia and this was reflected in the wines here. These wines are truly great, and are at least the equal to the top wines from Penfolds, Henschke, Torbrek etc. There was more of the classic Clare Valley mintiness and remarkable poise.
Most remarkable of all was the alcohol content of the wines, with most being between 13.2% and 13.8%. This is in stark contrast to many of the wines produced in Australia that sit at 14.5%+. Here are wines of tremendous power, yet they show elegance, balance and restraint.
The tasting proved to be a unique opportunity to try some spectacular wines.
A P Birks – Wendouree – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – 2011 (17.5). Seductive and pretty nose, with violet-like fruit characters reminiscent of fine Margeaux. The palate is relatively light and elegant, with mulberry and spice over a touch of minerality. The tannins and acid cut through on the finish ensuring longevity. A pretty wine.
A P Birks – Wendouree – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – 2012 (18). Much greater density than the 2011 on the nose. Whilst this is closed, the potential is obvious. On the palate this is richer and denser, but nowhere near as accessible. The trademark tannins are there, but they sit much more comfortably behind the fruit. The fruit here is outstanding, with depth and density, yet the silky tannins do not hamper the mouth-feel. Clare Valley mintyness is more clearly expressed here.
A P Birks – Wendouree – Malbec – 2011 (17.9). A lovely wine that is fine, elegant, balanced and lithe. Thepretty, perfumed fruit coats the mouth, with the tannins and acid adding life. The tannins are extraordinarily fine and the oak is not apparent. This wine builds power and depth with air. It closes with a touch of forest floor characters and the tannins are almost chewy. This is particularly food friendly.
A P Birks – Wendouree – Malbec – 2012 (18.5). Again, there is pretty, fragrant fruit on the nose that is quite lovely, but the fruit weight is more apparent. Tending to dark fruits with plum, complex spice and earthy highlights. The structure on the palate stands out for the firm tannins which, whilst extraordinarily fine, coat the tongue and close down the fruit. Quite supple, yet the power really builds on the finish and the length is a standout. Even better the next day!
A P Birks – Wendouree – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011 (18+). Fine, elegant fruit characters that, like the Cabernet/Malbec, tend towards violet. This continues on the palate with fresh red fruits and a touch of menthol, sitting over silky, fine tannins. The elegance and length here are standouts, making this a lovely drink now. Superb effort!
A P Birks – Wendouree – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (18.7+). Closed, tight and dense, this really just hints at potential at present. The palate is savoury, whilst the fine tannins are plentiful. Outstanding, this has unbelievable depth, yet this is still elegant and balanced. With air, this really came to life, with classic mint, chocolate, and blackcurrant. The acid ensures longevity.
A P Birks – Wendourre – Shiraz/Malbec – 2012 (18.5). This has a beautiful nose redolent of fresh red berries; think fragrant mulberry. The palate is elegant, refined, long and silky, with amazing length and balance. Dusty, chewy tannins hide amongst the awesome fruit. A joy to drink, but sure to age gracefully for many years.
A P Birks – Wendouree – Shiraz/Mataro – 2011 (18). Lighter colour, with less density. On the nose, this shows plum and spice aromas. The palate is elegant, yet there is depth and latent power. The fine tannins are a treat. Whilst this is quite floral, the savoury peppery fruit is a highlight. Balance a feature!
A P Birks – Wendouree – Shiraz/Mataro – 2012 (18.8). Depth and obvious power on the nose, yet the intense fruit is still accessible. The palate is a highlight, with peppery fruit over earthy, forest floor highlights. This wine has the proverbial peacock’s tail effect, with the flavours and texture fanning out across the palate, with near seamless palate transition. A brilliant wine, with stunning balance.
A P Birks – Wendouree – Shiraz – 2011 (18.3). The most highly regarded of the Wendouree reds, and with this wine it is easy to see why. The fruit is succulent and ripe, yet elegant and balanced. The palate is seamless, with the tannins playing second fiddle to the superb fruit. The balance is outstanding, with the acidity carrying the finish but it does need time.. The best of the 2011s.
A P Birks – Wendouree – Shiraz – 2012 (19.3). A stunning, sublime wine! This is as close to perfection as one could hope for in a red wine. On the nose, this is actually very pretty, with floral red fruits. It is on the palate where the quality is truly expressed. Precise, perfectly ripe fruit slowly gives way to fine tannins, which add a savoury lift. The fruit is pretty, yet serious and closed, the length outstanding. The flavours keep evolving for the longest time. Remarkable for the drinkability, this is the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove. Is this Australia’s greatest red wine???