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1992 Irvine Grand Merlot
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- Closure: Cork
James Irvine is a distant relative of Hans Irvine (the man responsible for establishing the sparkling cellars at Great Western in Victoria). Now if that was James' only claim to fame, it would be good P.R to be bouncing off the fame of such an illustrious distant relative. However, James has established quite a reputation for himself during his 47 years in the wine industry, having worked for such notables as Hardys, Krondorf and Normans. Over the past 16 years, Irvine has been quietly creating some of the nation's best wines, and somehow managing to keep a very low profile to the general consumer. The flagship of his wines is the Grand Merlot - a style that has won Irvine a lot of international praise over the years.If Pinot Noir is the Holy Grail for many of Australia's wine makers, so too is Merlot - particularly those obsessed with the wines of Bordeaux. Is the obsession a challenge to the supremacy of Chateau Petrus, as being one of the world's most expensive wines? Or is about making a top wine and then building up the P.R and then ripping the consumer off for all he is prepared to pay?Irvine is genuine - and his Merlot is indeed Grand. The 8.5 hectare vineyard in the Eden Valley is planted to 1.5 hectares of Merlot. The vines are planted at one and a half times the density of normal Australian vineyards. The Merlot is planted on the deepest, richest soil of the property, and is well drained due to the sub strata of gravel. The vineyard faces due west - this is rather a surprise since most Australian vineyards are north facing. The reason for the western slopes is in order to pursue the last available ray of sunshine and attain a potential alcohol level of 13.5%. Picking starts around midday, avoiding the presence of any dew on the grapes, and hence maximising concentration of flavour. The best Allier oak barrels are used.Irvine gives nothing away about fermentation techniques, or wine making procedures - facts that were difficult to extract from the winemakers of Chateau Petrus, however, we did manage to determine that in order to make Great Merlot, some of the fruit needs to be macerated and much less racking is required.Now for the taste.Deep, brick red colour. The nose is superb. Magnificent cherry, mulberry, plum and delicate cedar oak in the background, with overtones of liquorice and confectionary. This is superb ripe fruit. The palate reflects the intensity of flavours - with ripe plum dominating and wonderful liquorice and confectionary counter points. The spicy cedar oak is subdued, there to add some structure and contribute to complexity with also a hint of cigar box. Very fine grained dry tannins and exceptionally long mulberry spice and confectionary aftertaste. Cellar 10 - 15 years.Stocks are extremely limited. The price - you almost always only get what you pay for and in this case, you are definitely getting value for money.