2009 Tatiarra Caravan of Dreams Shiraz Pressings
The Tatiarra Caravan of Dreams has always been one of the most highly sought after wines offered by Nicks Wine Merchants. Unashamedly individual and unfettered by fashion or convention, it has captured the hearts of wine lovers world wide and frequently approached the mythical three digit rating from more than a few critics. The catch 22 is that there's no potential to dramatically increase volumes due to the very nature of a pressings wine. It's also why the Cambrian Shiraz ($40) has always preceded it as the better known race horse in the Tatiarra stable. Caravan has appealed more to collectors and certified hedonists satisfied only by the rarest, most esoteric and exhilarating Shiraz experiences on the planet. If you think you fall into either category, the good news is that 2009 production is up (around 300 cases, still minuscule by any standard) - just enough to qualify putting to print and for once, there are no limits on orders for this wine.
In an industry where it's become a matter of course that 'tiered' portfolios often go hand in hand with brazen demands on consumer's wallets, the price disparity between Tatiarra's two Shiraz offerings is worth consideration. Why do you pay extra for a wine that's made from the same fruit as its less expensive sibling? Is this just marketing hype?
If you're struggling to grasp the rationale for a 'Pressings', imagine holding a bunch of grapes and very gently squeezing them to release the juice - this is called the 'free run' juice. It's what goes into Tatiarra's Cambrian Shiraz. Afterwards there's always a percentage of juice that stays close to the inside surface of the grapes, extracting desirable colour and tannin. Press a little harder (slightly more than gravity) and you obtain a small quantity of a 'finer' element. Get it out successfully and you harness the viticultural equivalent of uranium-235. Tatiarra's winemakers, Ben Riggs & Peter Flewellyn know just when to squeeze, how hard to press and, most importantly, when to stop. Riggs' own words on the process - "You start with pressing very gently then increase the pressure in increments. The wine you extract early is the sweet, rich, structured stuff, later it's the [relatively] thinner stuff, although there's no exact formula for the quality or style at a given pressure. The key to what we do is that we're able to fill barrels with the pressings juice as it comes out so we don’t blend the good with the bad. It keeps the soft, juicy, nutty, stylish stuff separate from the drier, thinner, heavy pressings. Separating the barrels maximises the final blending options. Ultimately declassifying the thinner stuff we get the amazing flesh and pulp of the Caravan, whilst giving structural but sweet Bordeaux like tannin".
Caravan vs Cambrian Shiraz turns out to be more an issue of style rather than quality. Cambrian, as it was described by one critic is more like "Clos Rougeard meets Lagrein meets Hermitage meets 1955 La Mission Haut Brion". We've covered the background of the Tatiarra wines many times in the past. For new readers, briefly, the Caravan of Dreams is a tribute to the founder of the vineyard, Bill Hepburn. The only comfort he had in those early days was a caravan and a 'thunderbox' (an outdoor toilet) - hence the label. See it as a larrakin Aussie snide at traditional Bordeaux Chateaux labels. For those who are insistent about full disclosure: Nick Chlebnikowski co-founded the venture in 2002 with Bill Spring (both now passed away). Simon and Vic Chlebnikowski have replaced Nick on the board. It continues as a no expense spared, perfection orientated operation, often joked about as an accountant's worst nightmare. We should add that whilst the thunderbox blew over in a wind storm in 2008 and the caravan has since being moved into a shed, the winemaking standards remain impeccable. Regular collectors of Tatiarra's wines please note:Due to a challenging 2010 vintage where last minute rains turned an otherwise perfect vintage on its head there will be no super premium reds released from 2010. (Such is this estate's commitment to quality.) Consequently, Tatiarra have decided that the rest of the stunning 2009 wines (Cambrian and Culled Barrel) will be released over the course of 2011.
Tasting notes: Like previous vintages the 2009 displays outstanding colour saturation – a totally opaque, black purple colour with a black heart and deep black purple hue. The nose offers perfumed aromas of freshly crushed blackberry, liquorice, spice and a hint of violets, followed by some blackpepper end notes. Renowned for its extravagant weight, texture and controlled power, the palate opens with a slow motion explosion of blackpepper, ripe blackberry, liquorice and confectionary favours, with a light vanillin toast overlay. The blackpepper persists onto the back palate. Fine grained, slighty dryish, but perfectly balanced tannins. Outstanding concentration and flavour persistence, with exceptionally long aftertaste of blackpepper, inky blackberry, liquorice and spice.
Cellar 10-15 years (2020-2025)