2015 O’Leary Walker “Wyatt Earp” Fortified Shiraz 18.5%

This is not my typical review, but features detours galore – that I hope will stimulate research by my readers.

Australia produced many “series” of fortified “ports” with racehorses, greyhounds, Prime ministers – and more – adorning labels. “Wyatt Earp” immediately seems to lack any Australian heritage but was a brand launched by Quelltaler, and now this vintage appears from O’Leary Walker.

Wyatt Earp was the gambler and lawman famed for the “shootout at the OK Corral”. He was portrayed by Henry Fonda  in John Ford’s excellent western movie “My Darling Clementine”. Parts of this movie – and many more – were shot in the indelibly scenic Monument Valley – (Utah/Arizona)- which I visited in October 2014 and recently in April 2019. I am a monster fan of these westerns, with Ford’s “Searchers”, “She Wore a yellow Ribbon”, “Stagecoach”, “Fort Apache”, “Rio Grande”,  “Wagon Master”, “Sergeant Rutledge” “Liberty Vallance”, plus more westerns by other directors such as “Red River”, “Shane”, “True Grit” and “Unforgiven” supremely recommended.  A further diversion is that “My Darling Clementine” also features one of my favourite character actors –  Walter Brennan, charismatically irresistible here,as well as in “The Westerner” and with Humphrey Bogart in “To have and have not”.

Google revealed the antipodean connection to Dodge City and Tombstone’s marshall. American explorer Lincoln Ellsworth converted a boat for polar use in 1929 and named it “Wyatt Earp”, after one of his heroes. The boat made several voyages (from Adelaide) to Antarctica until the Australian navy acquired the vessel in 1939 – renaming it “Wongala”.  Several more names changes occurred until the boat ran aground in 1959. A Quelltaler box claimed that the boat’s skipper developed a firm friendship, and made regular copious vintage port purchases for the crew. The fortified was then branded as “Wyatt Earp” in celebration. The earliest Wyatt Earp vintage I found references to was from 1947, with the latest from 1977. But I’m glad it was revived!

It may seem odd to be tasting a fortified Shiraz that is so youthful, with many years before its most rewarding drinking window. The winemaker has to aim a long, long way into the future. However, this drinking decision was inspired by Andrew Jefford’s extraordinarily stimulating column in Decanter, where he describes the winemaking process as  “fruit is pummeled to annihilation as quickly as possible during a break-neck vinification period of extreme if carefully controlled violence (perhaps cage-fighting would be the best metaphor of all)”. Jefford then adds a riveting tasting note, in support of early – and later- drinking of this fascinating wine style.

After these digressions, (finally) I turn to the 2015 O’Leary Walker Fortified Shiraz (screwcap, 500ml, Clare Valley – South Australia, available from the O’Leary Walker website). The back label asserts it’s made from 80y/o Shiraz vines and fortified with brandy spirit.

2015 o'leary walker fortified

It’s a luscious, youthful purple/crimson colour; its perfumed meld includes blackcurrant, dark cherry, plum, light cocoa, and delicious fine, sweet brandy spirit; the palate adds blackberry, blueberry and the emergence of some fig and dark cocoa. By no means a blockbuster, it’s ultra supple, with fine tannins supporting the fruit weight. This wine is surprisingly delicious already, although another 20 years is easily achievable and will increase the variety of characters detectable. I’m very glad Jefford tempted me into trying this youthful wine!

Drink to 2040 and 92 points.

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Two Australian off-dry Rieslings

2017 Pikes “Olga Emmie” Riesling 10.5%
From the Clare Valley, South Australia, from a classic year.  Pikes make a well-priced and readily available “traditionale” Riesling, and their reserve is the “Merle” (a terrific wine that I have purchased to cellar).

2017 pikes oe riesling

The “Olga Emmie” is Pike’s off-dry Riesling, described as “slightly sweet” on the back label, with perhaps 20 g/l of residual sugar. It is available for around $20, and well worth seeking out.

“Olga Emmie” proved an interesting wine, particularly since I had the luxury of consuming it over several days. Each time, my assessment, and score improved- so perhaps this is a wine whose virtues are not instantly obvious. It’s youthful and pale in colour; its aromatics are present but not overt and include lime marmalade, passionfruit and pebbles.

There is some residual sugar, and my first impression was that an extra tweak of acidity would have pleased me; but the wine is absolutely delicious with lime, and then lemon, and some fresh honeydew melon. The acidity is keenly pitched, and fills out a wholesome drinking experience.

I am baffled that there are so few examples of serious off-dry Rieslings in Australia; food-friendly, approachable and delicious – Grosset’s Alea, and the  Pewsey Vale Prima come to mind; further mental effort retrieves Pressing Matters R9, a Rieslingfreak offering, then the memory bank fades.

It’s not necessarily easy for a customer to work between the range of “dry” and “dessert”; and the complex interplay of sweetness and acidity on perceptions is another issue; not today’s topic! Labelling wines as off-dry, semi-sweet, medium dry or medium sweet doesn’t seem to have helped.

While this Pike’s wine will certainly improve for a few years (particularly based on the moving target of my views), it will already be a terrific accompaniment to a range of foods much broader than generic “Asian”, with fish and white meats well into play.

Conservatively, drink to 2022 and 90 points

Disclosure- this was a sample bottle.

 

2009 Lethbridge Dr Nadeson Riesling 11.5%
Although Lethbridge is based in Geelong Victoria, this particular wine is from Portland, SW Victoria, from the Barratt vineyard. There have been several releases from this vineyard, but not for the past few years.

2009 lethbridge riesling

It’s a pale gold colour, and displays varietal talc, wax, mango, cantaloupe and some definite but unobjectionable petroleum. The palate shows green apple characters, some textural grip and a twist of lemony acidity. There is perhaps 10 g/l of residual sugar which adds to the package, providing intrigue to the palate . Nine years old, but the taste is still defiantly fresh.

Perhaps not a wine for technocrats (with its degree of textural grip); certainly idiosyncratic in its winemaking approach, and I firmly favour drinking this wine soon, while its vibrancy critically supports  its drinkability. But the wines very slow evolution means it will last much longer.

Drink to 2020, and 88 points.

2004 (AP Birks) Wendouree Shiraz Mataro 13%

I don’t only drink or review  wines with some residual sugar, these are not at all my staple drinking fare; but after my the recent digression about mailing lists, it’s time to look at a red wine supported by information from the mailer; “a blend of Shiraz (76%) and Mataro (24%) from 1893 Central and 1920 Eastern vineyard plantings”.  No dispute about vine age –these are old!

The wines Wendouree releases vary in price – this is the cheapest. Mataro is a synonym for Mourvedre – or Monastrell –  (one of the blending varieties of the Southern Rhone Valley, and other areas in France, especially Bandol), and Spain,  with a reputation for being full coloured, full-flavoured, tannic, alcoholic and straightforward. In Australia, Mataro is often one of the blenders with Grenache and Shiraz. Mataro is one of the varieties that suffered under the vine-pull scheme not so many years back in Australia. So this wine is a fairly traditional blend from Wendouree.

2004 wendouree shiraz mataro

And how do you get the best out of Wendouree wines, which don’t always shine in tastings? It helps to have a good year, like 2004 in the Clare Valley (and like most of South Australia). It helps to decant the wine and let it breathe for a few hours. And it helps to put into proper glassware – and after some experimentation, the Zalto burgundy glass works particularly well, bringing out some of the more fruity flavours. James Halliday describes the wines of Wendouree as the epitome of the “velvet first in the iron glove”, with 30 years of cellaring potential almost guaranteed based on the vine age and the restricted yields. My experience is that Wendouree wines can be quite shy and sulky – I used to think of them as being attuned to heroic Pinots, but now believe I think they are more like Nebbiolo in approach.

The cork has done an outstanding job – just as well, as this wine has a long future.

The colour is a dense crimson/black – encouraging in an 11 year old. Dark sour cherry, dried herbs, cola, plum and some mint; the medium- weight palate echoes this and adds chalks plus “rum and raisin” chocolates, and liquorice. Complex. The wine is still quite – pleasantly – tannic, and the (Seguin Moreau) oak is swamped by the fruit intensity.  The old-vines add what I call “slinkiness”. Show judges may be looking for more oak, and for more highlights, but the wine is complete in its expression. Lip-smacking and delicious.

Drink 2020 to 2030, score 93 points.