Thursday, 3 January 2013

2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz, featuring the Wyndham Estate Black Cluster Shiraz

2013 looks to be a spectacular year for Hunter Valley wine.  We have been visiting the region frequently during the growing season and the climate and precipitation have been close to perfect.  Last year was almost a total loss with far too much rain making the grapes moldy or bursting them before picking, causing most grapes to be lost.  And the ones that were saved were likely picked too early and lacked the full fruit flavor that most vintages should have.

Having returned from Qatar in middle of 2009, we were able to taste a number of the 2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz' as the premium brands were just being bottled and released.  I fell in love with the 2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz vintage and purchased at least a dozen of about 14 different brands (and four more different brands of the 2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz vintage where I have a least a couple of bottles), so I would be able to enjoy and compare them for many years to come.  I thought it would be a fascinating journey to see how each wine developed over the next decade when compared against its peers.  With that in mind, and when tasting the 2007 vintage, I tried to think about how this wine would taste in ten years time.  While some wines were already mellow and very drinkable right away, I was looking for and trying to appreciate which ones were too tight currently, but had the big fruit and complexity to mature into a beautiful wine over the next 5 - 10 years.

I set all of them down in the cellar until 2010, but then would drink an occasional bottle.  Among my favorites were the 2007 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea, and the 2007 De Iuliis Reserve.  However, there are many excellent brands from the Hunter Valley in 2007, each outstanding in their own right.  The difference in quality between most of the wines listed below would not be more than several points out of 100.

The wines are now six years old and starting to drink extremely well.  Whenever I need a very good Shiraz and do not want to dip into my last bottles of pre-millenium Grange, St Henri, or Vat 9, I will now retrieve a bottle of a 2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz.  I have a lot of them including:
  • McWilliams Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea
  • De Iuliis Reserve
  • Tyrrell's Vat 9
  • Tyrrell's Stevens
  • Tulloch Hector
  • Glandore Hamish
  • Brokenwood Graveyard
  • Thomas Kiss
  • Thomas DJV
  • Meerea Park Alexander Munro
  • Meerea Park Hell Hole
  • Meerea Park Terracotta
  • Audrey Wilkinson Museum Reserve
  • Pokolbin Estate Reserve
  • Pooles Rock HV
  • Rothvale
  • Saddler's Creek Best Barrique (blend of Hunter Valley and Langhorne Creek grapes)
  • Wyndham Estate Black Cluster
All of these wines are excellent wines, and will last at least another decade, but being six years in bottle already, they are a true delight to start drinking now, so that is what I plan to do.  (Some, however, like the 2007 Meerea Park Alexander Munro are so big though that they need at least another three years before even attempting them.)

Today, I am having a bottle of the 2007 Wyndham Estate Black Cluster.  This is their premier Shiraz and is an excellent wine.  I first had this wine when attending a wine and chocolate matching course at Wyndham Estates last year.  We had a chili flavor induced dark chocolate and this wine was an excellent match, being powerful and confident enough to stand up to chili chocolate!

Drinking it on its own now, you can tell this is a bold wine with many more years left to help it mature.  I may not drink my next bottle for another 5 - 10 years.  It has bold, powerful fruit flavors, strongly tasting of plum, cherry and blackberry with some spice.  It does not possess as strong a pepper taste as some Hunter Valley Shiraz, but you can still tell it is from the Hunter Valley  It also has full tannins, yet a smooth, elegant texture to match the great taste.  This wine has deservedly won four Gold Medals.

When drinking the 2007 Wyndham Estate Black Cluster, and recently having sampled the 2007 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea and the 2007 De Iuliis Reserve, I have been surprised to find out how similar these wines are.  These are definitely Hunter Valley Shiraz as compared to Victorian or Barossa Valley Shiraz.  These wines have slight nuances and their own unique characteristics, but they are more similar than different.  It would be very difficult to pick these wines out in a blind tasting.

What excites me about the similarity is that the wine makers let the quality of the grape from the 2007 vintage rule the day.  They did not get in the way and try to manufacture a unique outcome for their wine.  They let the natural flavor of the grape grown with Hunter Valley terroir do the job for them with this resulting in an  excellent batch of wines.

I bought so much 2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz and a little 2009 Hunter Valley Shiraz.  2008 and 2012 were bust vintages.  2010 was 'fine' and 2011 was also considered quite exceptional, but I did not buy any of those vintages as I have so much of the 2007, but am starting to work through them more rapidly now.  As great as the 2013 Hunter Valley vintage looks, I may pick up some of those also to compare to the 2007 and also just because some of the best winemakers such as Michael De Iuliis, PJ Charteris, and Andrew Thomas are also working with some new sources of grapes (for example Michael now has access to the Stevens Vineyard, one of the best Shiraz vineyards in the Hunter Valley) and I am excited to find out what these wine makers can do with the very best grapes around!
Riedel Vinum Shiraz glassware

If you are looking for a good Shiraz and find a bottle of 2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz, you can feel pretty confident that you will be picking up a very good to excellent bottle, no matter how much you pay for it.  These wines deserve to be served in the Riedel Vinum Shiraz glassware also.  They are so big and powerful, that frankly no other glass in my opinion will do.

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