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.


Winery mailing lists, then and now

I have been diligently removing myself from winery mailing lists for a few years, but when I began indulging in wine, it was exciting to receive the ramblings. Here’s some background on a few that continually piqued my interest.

Mount Mary – Mailers started out as little more than a price list with a brief description of the available wines, but Dr John Middleton adventured these into pamphlets packed with philosophy, history, education, musings on taxation, retailing and so on. The print seemed to get smaller and the brochure longer.  A newsletter full of character, pungency and wit. Always interesting – even the parts I could understand and disagree with.

Mount Mary had a waiting list before you could join the mailing list, and the most restricted wine was the Pinot Noir. People rushed to return their orders as fast as possible, with Mt Mary desperate to stop faxes and couriers molesting them. On release and tasting days there were queues, and people purchasing everything they could up to the limits. John was distraught at customers that “flipped” his wines to retailers and auction houses soon after the wines became available.

And for a while there was gewürztraminer.

Once I made an appointment to see John, and was surprised to see him mowing the lawn in a very tattered machine. Another time, he generously donated a bottle of his prized Quintet to some impoverished (but wine-interested) University students. Once I enquired about getting a magnum, and this was cheerfully aranged – after I had supplied an empty magnum-sized bottle.

Pipers Brook – Dr Andrew Pirie’s release newsletters were also vibrant, with part of the novelty being that the wines came from Tasmania. The newsletters highlighted the (painfully) small volumes available, sometimes offering very mixed packs, as volumes of newer varietals came on-stream, and different bottlings from varied special block selections were made.

(AP Birks) Wendouree – Another winery with a waiting list before  customers progressed to the mailing list; and curiously the order forms carry marks indicating the longevity and worthiness of the customer. Customers may get their order quantities adjusted (downwards).

The format of the newsletter has not changed, and reads in essence “the following wines grown made and bottled at the estate are now available”, followed by blend proportions and age of vineyards. Appealing in its apparent simplicity, and for all their renown the wines remain very reasonably priced.

When I toured a few years ago, Tony Brady pointed me toward one of the vineyards and laconically said “watch out for snakes”. If you visit, make sure to view the small, immaculately constructed shelves holding their stock of museum wines.

Baileys of Glenrowan – Readers could easily discern Harry Tinson’s heroic struggle to describe his new wines, and his restiveness to improve their quality each year. The newsletter was modest in tone, but the wines certainly spoke of their place. The area had imposed an enormous stamp on Harry and he reciprocated.

Moss Wood – Newsletters began simply, but blossomed into artworks, describing in great detail various technical tweaks in viticulture and winemaking, plus fabulous tables of vintage ratings and comparisons. Having correctly planted Margaret River’s strength with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Moss Wood persevered with 2 Semillons and Pinot Noir. Now they have multiple sites to choose from, with greater blending and varietal options.

Now, we are in the world of the internet, and emails and websites have largely replaced snail mail.  The newer technology means potential for more photographs, updated reviews, blogs etc. The downside here is greater opportunity for marketers to go ballistic, and for web designers to inflict illogical and obtrusive designs. But I have hoarded some of these old paper newsletters to trigger the voyages along memory lane.