25 August 2011

Penfolds 1994 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon

In 1994, I was 17 and it was a very good year.

The Reds won the Super 10. The Maroons won the Origin.

The world’s best band, Oasis, arrived with a bang. Kurt Cobain, sadly, departed with one.

My hair was fair. I was thin. And I started to properly enjoy drinking beer (even if it was Hahn Ice).

But, as of this week, I’ve turned a positively ancient 34 years of age.

And while, happily, the Reds and the Maroons are again #1, so too, sadly, is Katy Perry.

My hair is also turning silver (ok, grey), I’m carrying a couple of extra kegs, and the only upside to my drinking is that I now enjoy far more wine than beer.

So, to make myself feel a bit better, I decided to take a tasty 17-year old out to dinner. The missus come along as well. You know what they say: two might be company, but three is a result.

The 17-year old in question was a ripping Penfolds 1994 Bin 707 Cab Sauv.

It was one of the first good bottles of wine I ever bought to lay down. She’s followed me for almost 15 years, living under the stairs and waiting patiently for her day to come.

And did she what.

In the glass, she was as red as a Greek balance sheet, and far brighter than I expected. She smelt sweetly like a fistful of raspberries packed into your grandfather’s pipe.

She was a cracker when she was bottled, and she is simply astounding now. I tell you what; if you have the stamina to keep wine for this long, the reward is well worth it.

The length and structure remains, but all the tannin has long gone; suffocated and softened by a decade and a half without oxygen.

And with the pucker gone, the deliciousness explodes from the tip of your tongue all the way down to your big toe.

For me, cabernet always goes best with a steak, and this old girl was no exception. She wrapped her legs around a ball of beef and danced like she was being paid.

Of course, at almost $200 a bottle (these days), it’s a drink-your-cheque-at-the-bar kind of wine for most people.

But what are birthdays for, if not for being spent with old friends and getting drunk on fine wine.

She made a happy man feel very old. And I loved it.

Rating: 9.75
Drink with: Grace
Price: $190 these days (although I think I paid around $100 in about ‘96/’97)

11 August 2011

Torbreck 2007 The Steading GSM

By all accounts, the collapse of society as we know it is imminent.

The world seems to have finally come to the realisation (for the second time) that our financial system is potentially just one massive Ponzi scheme built on nothing more than make-believe money and a steaming pile of bankers’ bullshit.

And then there is London, where the degeneration of social order has plumbed even greater depths, with the streets on fire and young men in hoodies eagerly engaging in a spot of heavily discounted late-night shopping.

All of this goes to show two things: firstly, that The Kaiser Chiefs are very good at predicting current events, and, secondly, that the stability of our comfortably civilised society is in fact perilously balanced on the knife edge of calamity.

The only sensible solution I can come up with in the face of the arriving apocalypse is to sit down and have a good drink. And so I shall.

Torbreck’s “The Steading” is that most classic of Barossan blends, a GSM. 60% grenache, 20% shiraz, 20% mataro. 100% yummy.

What I love about GSM, and The Steading is no exception here, is that it is invariably just such an enjoyable, easy-drinking drop. It smells like a party and tastes like purple.

It’s warm and ripe and full of fruity, spicy flavour; but it’s also soft and round and smooth. And while it lingers pleasingly in your mouth, there’s no burn or tannic pucker to speak of at all (despite a big 15.3% dollop of alcohol).

This is the sort of wine you can drink just to have a drink, but equally, it would be more than a match for a Sunday roast or a dirty great ball of rib-eye steak.

Drink it to warm up, or just to chill out. On a Sunday, or on a Monday. Any which way you pour it, if you’re pouring me a glass, I’ll be in there like swimwear.

And no, I don’t know what a “steading” is either.

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: Your stockbroker (your shout; he won’t be able to afford it)
Price: $35


03 August 2011

Baileys of Glenrowan Winemaker's Selection Old Muscat

As I was walking between bus and business this morning, I crossed paths with a bloke all trussed up with a trendy scarf wrapped around his neck and ears. No coat though mind you. And a scalp that had been shaved totally nude in an apparent attempt to disguise the fact it was prematurely balding.

Granted, it’s a bit cool at the moment. But this chap appeared to be doing everything he possibly could to be cold, presumably just to justify the wearing of his natty little scarf.

I felt like slapping him and shouting, “Godammit man, get a hold of yourself. This is Brisbane, not Melbourne. Men don’t wear scarves here. Unless we’re watching the Lions play AFL, which of course no-one has done since the bandwagon left town in 2004.”

All Uncle Fester really needed to do was stop trying to be cool and simply don a jacket. Or pick up a voucher for some sew-in hair from Ashley & Martin. Or maybe just sneak a little bit of fortified plonk into his morning latte. A nice little bottle of Muscat would do the trick nicely here.

A friend generously gave me a bottle of Baileys’ Winemaker's Selection Old Muscat last year, and it has been keeping me company into the wee hours for the past few weeks as I fought to stay awake to watch Cadel climb the Alps, and then go on to sip his champagne on the Champs-Élysées.A superb effort. And an absolutely superb little drop.

Sometimes I sipped at it with stinky cheese and fruit. Sometimes I had it with a chunk of dark chocolate. It didn’t matter. It was good all the time, and I was as happy as a bloke with a contract to import Lycra® cycling suits into Australia.

It’s the colour of bright, boiling caramel, and warms you up as soon as you give it a sniff and twirl it around the glass. It is a particular pleasure of mine to spend some time watching the legs drip themselves down the inside of the glass, and this baby has legs like tree trunks that stick to the glass like thick rivers of golden syrup.

I didn’t so much have this wine, as it had me.* Over and over again. Roughly and then smoothly. It had me at hello. It had me at goodbye. And then again at all points in between.

The drinking is like liquid Christmas cake. As smooth as brandy double cream, but as dry as Stephen Fry’s wit at the same time. It coats your mouth thickly, then palpably tingles as it evaporates about the inside of your cheeks. All set to an aroma of one of those fancy citrusy candles your missus likes to use when she takes a bath.

I’m almost certain it’s not possible to make anything more delicious than this stuff. It’s easily the equal of every glass of Noble One I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting.

Baileys sits smack in the middle of Kelly country, and produced their first vintage just outside Glenrowan in 1870 when Ned was but a boy. It’s clear they’ve learned a thing or two about making wine over the years.

On a final note, I just noticed that James Halliday rates this wine a stupefying 98 points (I think he’s only ever scored one wine higher, and it cost $1000). In truth, that’s pretty much all you need to know, and you can therefore disregard my waffle above.

Bet he’s never compared wine with a rough shag though.

Rating: What Mr Halliday said, divided by 10
Drink with: Kevin Muscat
Price: $65-$75 (375ml)


* with all apologies to Lennon/McCartney (in that order) for this bastardisation