2009 Warrabilla Reserve Shiraz
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 Hippopotumus 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 unphased 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 profle." 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 newsletter is to keep you informed and to expand your wine drinking horizons in every direction. Keep an open mind. No doubt for some winelovers, 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 liquefed 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 favour profiles we’re after. Crops are pretty light at around 1.5 tonnes per acre.” The rate of fruit ripening is very dependant 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 fnal 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.”
The fruit for this wine was sourced from Warrabilla’s Parola’s vineyard and the wine was aged for ten months in one year old oak. Opaque black purple colour with very deep black purple hue. Pronounced liquorice aromas are followed by black plum, blackberry, confectionary and a hint of vanilla. The palate is a youthful liquid concentrate of black plum, blackberry and liquorice followed by some confectionary, spice and blackpepper. Outstanding concentration. Fine grained tannin structure with very long aftertaste of liquorice, blackberry, dark plum and blackpepper. (Detractors again note the alcohol [17%] but if you weren't told, you'd never guess it. The slight percentage increase in the Warrabilla reds is actually undetectable on the palate. They make for an interesting blind tasting).
Cellar 5-6 years (2015-2016)
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