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2009 Warrabilla Reserve Durif
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- Cellar 5 - 6 years (2015-2016)
- ABV 16.5%
- Closure: Cork
The Warrabilla wines are difficult to compare to anything else on the world market. Think of 'big' reds you've tasted in the past then get your Thesaurus out. Similes like "A Hippopotamus in a Tutu", and "Frankenstein-like" can be illuminating when you're at a loss for words to describe the wines of Warrabilla (the former is a favourite of ours and one which sums up the balancing act these wines so perfectly achieve).
Winemaker and proprietor, Andrew Sutherland Smith is unquestionably a tall poppy with both followers and detractors. Critics have described his reds as '...impossible to judge by conventional standards'. He remains unfazed by the controversy. "Comments along the lines of big is bad or high alcohols are so wrong, are just ridiculous..." He adds "The only thing worse than a mean, green wine is a mean, green wine writer. It's not just about alcohol, it's about the black phase fruits that develop late in the season. It's a different profile." We admit that in over thirty years of researching and bringing to the public the most weird and wonderful wines from around the world, these are not the sort of reds that will ever rank amongst our most popular. But that's never being our raison d'être.
The purpose of this website is to keep you informed and to expand your wine drinking horizons in every direction. Keep an open mind. No doubt for some wine lovers, tasting the 2009 Warrabilla's will be an achingly intense, over the top, high octane experience they may never repeat. To others these wines will be a revelation - a compelling combination of impenetrable colour, heady aromas, super-ripe fruit, heavy cream texture and a tannic structure like liquefied velvet, all with the unimaginable poise of a hippo traversing a tightrope. From one point of view these wines are destroyers of complacency, even 'dangerous' - but then, life is like that.
Few producers in the world have the guts and know-how to make reds like Warrabilla. How does Andrew Sutherland Smith get across the viticultural tightrope without the wines falling into a porty, jammy mess? There are several key factors that make him the "Master of Massive". It all starts in the vineyard. "Our soils are deep red clay loams. The rows are 4 metres wide (standard Australian width is 3 metres) and this gives us plenty of light and air to colour, ripen fully and give us the flavour profiles we’re after. Crops are pretty light at around 1.5 tonnes per acre.” The rate of fruit ripening is very dependent upon temperature, therefore, the more uniform the fruit zone environment, the more uniform the maturation of the fruit, with 75% of the quality coming from delivering uniformly ripe fruit to the winery. Andrew maintains “It’s all about light. The vertically, shoot positioned trellis maximizes it, while giving a bit of protection from excessive heat and sunburn. We taste berries as vintage progresses, looking for black/red fruit characters whilst avoiding excess shrivel and the dreaded dead fruit characters.” His final words of wisdom “Frankly, so long as the wine is in balance, we don’t care whether it’s 14% or 18% - it’s just got to have balance.”
Each year has slightly different climatic features that suit some varieties more than others. 2009 was another hot Rutherglen vintage, and according to Andrew Sutherland Smith, it was the year for Durif. (The fact that he has not produced a Parola's Durif since 2006 demonstrates his commitment to maintaining the integrity of this estate's house style. He simply won't release wines unless they're 100% true to form). Durif is best harvested very ripe, else there's a hardness and meanness inherent in the varietal. Warrabilla's 2009's are instant classics, possessing tannins that while firm and soft, have all the structure to be exceptionally long lived.
Another monster sized Durif that sets the bar for the rest of the Rutherglen region. This wine was matured for ten months in 75% one year old and 25% new American oak puncheons. Totally opaque, inky black purple colour – a super saturate with deep black purple hue showing paint like cling to the sides of the glass. Perfumed nose with lifted aromas of dark morello cherry, dark black plum and cedar followed by some liquorice allsorts with a hint of vanilla also emerging. The palate is about as concentrated as one will fnd with an abundance of dark morello cherry, liquorice and dark plum favours followed by dark chocolate and spice. Excellent structure with frm dry tannins in perfect balance to the enormous volumes of fruit. Superb length without the faintest trace of heat. Perfectly balanced. Very long aftertaste of black morello cherry, dark plum, liquorice and spice.
Cellar 5-6 years (2015-2016)