25 March 2010

Chris Ringland Shiraz's's

Went to a quiet little tasting with Chris Ringland last week.

He made, for a very long time, what I unashamedly admit
is my favourite wine (the Rockford Basket Press Shiraz).

That was enough for me. But, under his own labels, particularly in the US, he has been elevated to somewhat of a demi-god on the back of perfect 100/100 scores from the kingmaker of wine, Robert Parker Jr, who described his flagship as "...the greatest Shiraz made in Australia".

If you haven't heard of him, it's because the Seppos
have stolen him to a large extent. Most of his wine is exported (under a dizzying array of eclectic labels) and generally sold out in smart fashion, with the premium lines being priced into the stratosphere on the secondary market.

Such is his popu
larity with the Yanks, I partly expected him to be cut in that mould - fat, loud, and possibly toting a handgun.

He was n
one of these things. He was genuinely interested in what people thought of his wine and talked unpretentiously about it. And while he was down to earth and friendly, I got the impression he'd have been far happier in his vineyard, with dirt under his fingernails and mud on his boots. Which is, of course, exactly the sort of thing you want in a winemaker.

He put on ten stonking reds (quite a few of which retail
for over $100) and a tidy platter of Barossan cheeses. I took full advantage of the generous four-finger pours and left nothing on the paddock.

I've written up the best three.

Chris Ringland 2007 CR Barossa Shiraz

One of the cheaper
drops on show, but also one of the best. I could have happily stuck a long straw in the bottle and saved them some washing up.

Black as a ditchdigger’s
fingernail, and shiny as an accused’s suit.

Smelling this wine made me think of meat. Bovine seared on electric
fence. Eating a cherry ripe. Sipping an espresso.

This is really good, solid drinking. Full of ripe fruit and smoky
interest. It will make you grow muscles and put hair on your chest. If you’re female, you’ll need to shave afterwards.

I get the feeling this is a
wine to be enjoyed young. Just don’t tell the old man from Hey Dad.

You’ll find it at The Wine Emporium in Brisbane if you're quick.

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: Nudge

Price: $22

R Wines 2004 'Evil Incarnate' Barossa Shiraz

One of the pedestal wines of the night. And really, the wines leading up to it were simply jugglers before the burlesque.

Carefully constructed from the fruit of octogenarian vines, then kept on French oak for three years, Mr Ringland has turned out something very special here.

Impenetrably dark in the glass, fumes of alcohol billow from the bowl and greet you with a heady mix of berries and truffly, earthy goodness. You could happily sniff at it for hours.

The drinking is even better. It’s a great big whack of perfectly ripe deliciousness that throws you hard against the wall, and then toys with your tonsils as it sends tingles all the way down to your man plums. It’s butt clenchingly good.

One glass of this was never going to be enough. Unfortunately, standing between me and the pouring table was a woman with teeth like a dead man’s fist and a head like a hippo’s yawn. She greedily clutched at the last remaining bottle and tried to engage anyone who would listen in some high level wine waffle. Her head was so far up her own ass, I'm sure she was tasting each sip twice.

In the end, we feigned interest and distracted her with a couple of cheese crackers as we helped ourselves to the last of the bottle. I love it when a plan comes together.

It’s rare as hen’s teeth, but happily I managed to get one on order. If you’re lucky I’ll save you a drop.

Rating: 9.25
Drink with: a warm fire, a leather couch, and deep pockets
Price: $125

R Wines 2004 'The Wine' Barossa Shiraz

The Anthony Mundine of wine. And much like The Man, it didn't quite live up to the hype for me.

Not that my opinion matters in the slightest. Chris is selling this stuff fist over hand to Uncle Sam. And Mr Parker Jr gives it a frightening 99 points (compared to 94 for the Evil Incarnate). But that’s the thing about wine. One man’s floor is another man’s ceiling.

It’s made from the same grapes as the Incarnate, treated almost identically, but barrelled in slightly different oak. The result gives an interesting insight into the impact the winemaker’s every little decision has on the end result.

It smells wonderful again, but with a more Asian, soy sauce feel. It also seemed much lighter, and slightly tannic.

It’s undoubtedly a great wine, but I preferred the Incarnate. What would I know. I’m obviously a heathen.

The label is cool - although it is so rare, I couldn’t get my hands on a photo. But if I told you Paul Smith’s lawyers will be lining up to claim a share of the profits, that gives you a fairly good clue.

Rating: 8
Drink with: Anthony Mundine

Price: $125

04 March 2010

Tyrrell's 2008 Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz

The Rufus Stone marks the spot where Sir Walter Tyrrell (accidentally) killed King William II of England with an arrow intended for a deer. King Billy Jr was fat and red. His nickname was Rufus. Hence the eponymous stone.

The Tyrrells are understandably proud of great great great grand-daddy Walter for knocking off old King Fanta Pants. And to honour the good man, they sell two very commendable Shirazes under the Rufus Stone label – one from Heathcote, one from McLaren Vale. Both are good, but the Heathcote is better.

In the glass, it’s as dark as a struck match and rimmed by a halo of redness that glows like a slapped ass.

It smells of ripe, spicy fruit and musky perfume. But, as it always should be, it’s the drinking that provides the highpoint.

It’s rich and flavoursome, but nicely rounded and balanced. Soft and velvety. Big enough to wash down a steak, but light enough to be quaffed mid-week on the couch if the mood takes you.

It’s good fun drinking and, quite simply, stunningly good quality wine for the price. At just over $10 a bottle, I’m all over this like Matt Dunning on a half-price pie.

The RRP is actually $24, but a couple of stores (including Uncle Dan's) are having a terrific sale on this at the moment. Six bottles at under $12 each, and they’ll throw in a free magnum. VCs have the same deal with the magnum, but you’ll pay the 50% "classy" tax if you shop there. Either way, it's cheap - and exceptionally good value.

As much fun as tickling a midget in Finland. And no, that’s not a euphemism - it’s a real sport.

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: a thick rib-eye

Price: $12-$24

Image from tyrrells.com.au

Brothers in Arms 2005 Langhorne Creek Shiraz

I admit it. I bought this because I love the Dire Straits song of the same name.

Having drunk it (well, some of it), I'm pretty miffed that I paid $35 for the bottle.

It's made by the Adams Family. In Langhorne Creek. I’m not sure if they have a Cousin Itt or whether he had any involvement in the making of this wine.

Smelt like dirt and went down rough. Very rough.

They describe the tannins as “approachable”. I'm sorry to say, but I’d have gone with “reproachable”.

Quite seriously, the only thing nastier than the taste is the price tag.

And so, by extensive experimentation, and in the interests of sharing the experience and saving you a few dollars, I’ve reverse engineered an analogous homebrew.

Roughly chop two fronds of rusted barbed wire. Combine with some freshly shredded shrapnel and give it a good pulse in the blender for a few minutes.

Stir in a finely chopped clove of thumb tacks. Season to taste with cayenne pepper, lighter fluid, and a good splash of Tabasco. Strain well.

Serves 4.

Rating: 4/10 (would have received an additional 1/2 point if it was 1/2 the price)
Drink with: Uncle Fester
Price: $35-$45
Image from visitvineyards.com