Preamble Tasting January 2000 
Upside Down Under
John Pierce

A personal selection based on a combination of quality, availability, and how nice the people were when we visited their wineries!

1. De Bortoli Windy Peak Prestige, Pinot Noir Cuvée, Yarra Valley, Victoria
I won't try to convince you that this is superb Champagne, but it's a hell of a good effort. Not so impressive on the nose, this wine has a beautifully biscuity taste and is very refreshing. Unfortunately it doesn't last, and lacks any farmyard taste. De Bortoli is handled here by Greg Alken. He doesn't stock this, or their Pinot, which I believe to be among the best that I've tasted anywhere, including the best of Burgundy. There is a superb "Port Wine" Magnolia outside the winery - I'd love one - and a great restaurant. Overall experience superb.
Febvre?? (Bought at Cellar door for about £6)

2. Wynn's Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay, Coonawarra, SA 1997
You could miss the village if you blinked; a cluster of tiny cottages at a crossroads on the main "110 kph highway" off which are the vineyards. If you look closely there is a shop and a DIY barbecue restaurant. Even the nearest big town, Penola, is hardly much to write home about. Singular shortage of restaurants. Coonawarra is a cigar shaped stretch of terra rossa soil. Last week, in the Economist Christmas special, Paul Long of Southcorp, which owns Wynns, among others, was reported as describing a marketing campaign that he called SCAM (Soil+Climate+Aspect=Mystique), but known in public as Terroir. This was definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black; check Wynn's and other Southcorp wineries' websites. Still, I was most impressed by their1995 Cab Shiraz Merlot - and the 1997 Chardonnay is elegant, with melon flavours, and the promise of becoming smooth and buttery with bottle age. I think that the 1998 is an even better wine, so look out for it: richer, peachy, nutty, buttery, oaky and leaving a nice warm feeling.
Findlater's £10.99

3. Heggies Viognier, Eden Valley, Barossa, SA 1997
Heggies is at Eden Valley, more or less part of the Barossa. I had rather hoped to get some of their amazing botrytis Riesling, but this was not to be - I couldn't even get the Riesling, which is a most impressive wine. However the Viognier is a bit of an eye-opener. Apricots and hints of orange blossom on the nose. Intense flavours of lychees, apples, honey. The man on the label is Colin Heggie, astride his horse Jack. The vineyard was planted on land bought from him by his friend Wyndham Hill Smith. This was the wine of the night for many - go out and buy some.
Nicholsons/Cassidys, about £10.50

4. Hollick Sauvignon Semillon, Coonawarra, SA 1998
As you will see from the number of their wines in this presentation, Hollicks impressed us. It was also, with Charlie Melton's, one of the nicest places to visit. We didn't meet Ian but Wendy Holloick spent a lot of time with us. Unassuming, charming and personable, she didn't try to impress us with her importance, unlike another Coonawarra winemaker who shall remain nameless, nor tell us that she is chair of the grower's association. This is 60-70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30-40% Semilon, and intended for early consumption. Herbaceous grassy SB combines well with tropical fruit from the Semillon; intensely fruity, full. The Preamblers felt that this was lost after the Viognier, though.
Nicholsons/Cassidys, about £10

5. Hollick Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Coonawarra, SA 1995
I was bowled over by it; drinking now but likely to improve with age. Restrained, with good tannins, acid, 13.5% alcohol. Great fruit pastilles taste but with enough backbone to stop it being jammy. Mainly CS with 15-20% Merlot added for softness.
Nicholsons/Cassidys, about £10

6. Hollick Shiraz Cabernet Malbec, Coonawarra, SA 1996
This is your last chance to taste this; the Malbec is gone. A long discussion on how the Argentinians are making wine with Malbec only, which interested Mrs. Hollick quite a lot; it's not something they consider in Oz. Again, we tried the 1998, which was a little closed but woody, with good fruit and soft tannins. Lots of pepper and very elegant, not too heavy. One of the best. Matured for 12 months in one year old American and French barrles, it is usually 80% Shiraz, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Malbec.
Nicholsons/Cassidys, about £10

7. Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria 1998
The one the Aussies rave about. Owned by James Halliday, well-known wine writer, it is at the end of a lane, on a hill, with an "amphitheatre" from which the best wines come. Sterner than the de Bortoli, which is sumptuous strawberries and cream. Slight farmyard nose. Would have liked to give you the Reserve but it's not available (I did connive one bottle out of Findlater's); it is strawberries without the cream, very Burgundian and will repay cellaring - indeed, so will this one. 1998 continued the '97 drought but yields were OK. 10-25% French oak; 7 months barrel aging.
Findlater's, about £13

8. Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz, Barossa, SA 1997
First of the pair served blind, and both from Barossa Valley. We visited Peter Lehman on a Sunday. It was full, and a bit of a pain, but the art collection was nice and the Barossa Shiraz impressed the hell out of us. Chocolatey, no oak on the nose. Full, plums, well integrated oak, chocolate again, soft tannins. The assembly preferred this, by a large margin, to the Old Block - much to everyone's surprise..
Superquinn/Oddbins/various £8.99

9. St. Hallett Old Block Shiraz, Barossa, SA 1992
We had lunch of cheese, quince paste and great fresh bread here and a glass of 1996 Old Block for me and Blackwell's, their next wine and a little more approachable, for my beloved. Here you can get only 1997; the 1992 is courtesy of the Chairman's cellar. It is fermented in open vessels with regular pumping over and extended maturation in American oak. Rich, intense, dark chocolate and soft, velvety tannins.
Dunnes £15.99 (1997)

10. Charles Melton Nine Popes, Barossa, SA 1997
Just a few miles from St. Hallett: Our kind of place. Big, long wooden table, canvas chairs, a loaf of bread and a knife, open wood fire, and Bella, a Dalmatian puppy that managed to nick Anya's bread while demonstrating her affection. She also gave the cat serious grief. Mrs Melton was very friendly and helpful, and the overall experience was great, especially when combined with the excellent wines. The Pinot Hermitage (not Pinotage) was spicy, peppery, some gamey notes. The Nine Popes is an Australian Chateauneuf made of bushvine Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre - and a good one at that. Lovely colour, Shiraz showing through strongly. Fresh, quite complex, ripe, sweetness. Unfortunately, Preamble didn't take to it; it was the disappointment of the night.
Nicholson's, about £20.50

11. Hollick Ravenswood Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Victoria 1993
This is Hollick's top wine. Made in very limited quantities, and released only in execllent years.Made from CS grown in areas of the vineyard where the terra rossa is shallow over limestone. This reduces the vine vigour, with resultant lower yields and intense flavours. Partial fermentation in new French oak barriques. Matured for 18 months in same barrels. Really interesting nose; a "different" oak. Superb fruit and oak balance. Chocolate oak and berries on the finish. Cellar 10-15 years. I would rate it higher but for the price.

(If we could I would contrast this with Denis Vice's Highbank. We tried the 1997 with the man himself at our barbecue dinner in Coonawarra. Basket pressed blend of 65% Cab Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc. Hand pruned vines, no herbicides or insecticides. French oak. Very elegant, perhaps a bit harder than the Hollick. A fine wine.)
Nicholson's, about £28







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