CEL­LAR DWELLERS

TWO MA­TURE WINES PROVE THAT AGE IS NO BAR­RIER TO SUC­CESS IN SA’S MOST PRES­TI­GIOUS AWARDS

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The win­ners in our SA Wine of the Year awards are proof that age shall not weary them.

world may be mes­merised by the cul­ture of youth, but in wine terms, age makes all the dif­fer­ence. This year, in the South Aus­tralian Wine of the Year awards, two wines stood head and shoul­ders above their fel­lows – one white and one red – and both were ma­ture and grace­ful beau­ties. From a mag­nif­i­cent vin­tage, the duo of 2004 wines im­pressed sep­a­rate pan­els of judges. A pro­fes­sional in­dus­try team recog­nised the glory of just de­vel­op­ing ries­ling, while a group of keen amateurs, the SA Wine of the Year awards’ unique con­sumer judges, were se­duced by a su­per pre­mium caber­net that has only just em­barked on a long and de­light­ful life’s jour­ney.

The wines are a snap­shot of a won­der­ful grow­ing sea­son in two revered SA re­gions, Eden Val­ley for the ries­ling and Clare for the caber­net. But they also re­veal a few truths one reg­u­lar SA judge wishes more wine lovers would take on board. “We’ve be­come too used to drink­ing our wines too young,” says Wood­croft-based wine­maker Geoff Mer­rill.

A long-time ad­vo­cate for let­ting our wines set­tle into a more bal­anced and ma­ture set of tastes and aro­mas, Mer­rill was in­stru­men­tal in es­tab­lish­ing the SA awards’ mu­seum class, which of­fers a home for wines six years and older to be judged in their right con­text rather than against full-on, fruit-bomb young­sters. “Aged red wines have an­other di­men­sion be­yond just fruit flavours,” Mer­rill says.

This year’s con­sumer panel judged the Jim Barry Wines 2004 Ben­bournie Caber­net Sauvi­gnon as their favourite older wine, then gave it ul­ti­mate ap­proval as their wine of the year, above many fresh young drinks. The pro­fes­sion­als awarded their Wine of the Year ac­co­lade to the Pewsey Vale The Con­tours Re­serve Re­lease Ries­ling from the same year.

The re­sult is fan­tas­tic for rais­ing the pro­file of aged wines, says Mer­rill, and why the awards’ mu­seum class is so im­por­tant. “As soon as you let con­sumers make the com­par­i­son (be­tween young and older wines) they recog­nise them as be­ing so lovely.”

While ma­ture reds are an ac­cepted part of our wine drink­ing cul­ture, it sur­prises many that a white wine can be at the height of its pow­ers with a few years un­der the belt. Some­times an older white can be­gin to go golden. It can de­velop aro­mas and flavours that are rem­i­nis­cent of toast and honey, and with ries­ling, even lime mar­malade. “The 2004 ries­ling is age­ing beau­ti­fully,” chair­man of judges and renowned ries­ling maker David O’Leary says. While The Con­tours was the out­stand­ing wine in its cat­e­gory, across both young and old wines, O’Leary was ex­cited also by the lat­est vin­tage 2009 and 2010 ries­lings. “If ever a va­ri­ety could take heart and get a lift in the mar­ket­place from the pure qual­ity of wines, the lat­est two vin­tages should be able to do that,” he says.

This year’s al­ready highly re­garded wine vin­tage also pro­duced a win­ner in the award’s new­est cat­e­gory, for cer­ti­fied or­ganic wines, es­tab­lished to sup­port a grow­ing niche in the wine world. The pro­fes­sional judges in this class gave their nod to an ex­cit­ingly youth­ful preser­va­tive-free shi­raz from McLaren Vale pro­ducer Bat­tle of Bos­worth, which also won the con­sumer choice in the same cat­e­gory for its 2009 caber­net sauvi­gnon. Both wines should for­ever dis­pel the myth that such drinks can be more rus­tic than re­fined.

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