Wine Reviews: McLaren Vale & Clare Valley
October 19, 2013
by Isaac Baker
Australia is an early stop on the wine lover’s journey, a testing ground for the development of the sophomoric palate. It’s a place where the rookie goes to fulfill the baser desires for ripe fruit and alcohol. But, as you grow wiser, you eventually come to your senses. You discover the Northern Rhone and Bordeaux and leave your childish Aussie-loving ways behind.
Of course, this is all a bunch of crap. Australian wines are amazing. Maybe I’m in the minority among nerds, but I’ve never outgrown Australian reds. And with the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder, a burly Shiraz sure hits the spot.
I recently tasted through some wines from one of my favorite Aussie producers, d’Arenberg, and another reliable producer, Wakefield. All these wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2002 d’Arenberg ‘The Galvo Garage’ Bordeaux Blend
At 12 years old, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc is showing remarkably well. Medium purple color with some slight brick red around the rims. The nose shows smoke and charcoal on top of sweet plum cake and black cherries, notes of beef and tobacco came out with some air. Full and creamy on the palate with finely polished tannins and a solid dose of acid. The cherry and currant fruit is fresh and still going strong, but those aged notes of tobacco, pickle and bay leaf come out in full force. Delicious stuff, and I’m really impressed by how well it’s holding up. (90 points IJB)
2005 d’Arenberg ‘The Coppermine Road’ Cabernet Sauvignon
A simply gorgeous McLaren Vale Cabernet. The nose is full of cherry, black pepper, red licorice, roasted red peppers, and it gets better and better with air. Juicy berry fruit covers the palate, but tangy acid keeps it balanced. I love the combination of cherry, blueberry, roasted coffee and meaty flavors. Powerfully long finish with menthol and rhubarb. Very complex, this deserves a decant and a good meal of roasted meat. Aged 18 months in new and one-year-old French and American oak. (93 points IJB)
2010 d’Arenberg ‘The High Trellis’ Cabernet Sauvignon
A blackberry-purple color. Lots going on aromatically, with plums, black cherries, red licorice and violets. The palate is surprisingly fresh and lively, with medium acid, dusty tannins and tangy fruit. Currant, raspberry and blackberry combine with hints of soil and flowers. A fruit-dominated wine, but the fruit tastes quite good, and the complexity is impressive for the price. (88 points IJB)
2009 d’Arenberg ‘The Laughing Magpie’ Shiraz-Viognier
Juicy plums and blackberries on the nose, along with some coconut, chocolate and rose petals. I like the mouthfeel on this wine a lot, a rich and jammy but really creamy. Polished tannins, noticeable acid. Black cherry, plum, kirsch, it all tastes fresh and juicy. Notes of roasted coffee, braised meat and flower potpourri add complexity. 8% Viognier is co-fermented with the Syrah, and it really adds some freshness and floral tones. (88 points IJB)
2010 d’Arenberg ‘The Blind Tiger’ Shiraz
Really complex on the nose, with wild blueberries and black cherries accented by caramel, roasted coffee, eucalyptus and sweet flowers. Firm tannins, medium acid, this wine is loaded with flavor. The blueberry and black cherry fruit is pure and delicious, but it’s all backed up by roasted meat, kalamata olive and charcoal. There’s also this wild herb and earthy aspect that I find really attractive. A big wine worthy of a long decant. Very impressive stuff from 87-year-old vines grown in sand and clay soils. (92 points IJB)
2011 d’Arenberg ‘The Stump Jump’ Shiraz
Medium purple color. Lots of fresh plums and blackberries, inky but also very floral. Creamy texture, the plum and black cherry fruit tastes fresh and juicy. Some vanilla and mocha, but also some serious black pepper and sweet barbecue sauce. Not life-changing, but solid stuff for the price. Damn, that black pepper lingers. (86 points IJB)