Occasionally, if any of us have a wine of interest, a few of us wine loving Penangites will get together for a tasting. So here we were, Adrian, kindly offering his apartment, Choong and myself looking forward to three very notable wines: two significant 2010 Shirazes from Australia, and a 2011 Syrah from Chile.

Penfolds  St Henri Shiraz 2010. Australia 14.5%. Screwcap

This wine has been lauded around the world, and since no less than two international critics scored it 100/100, it has been impossible to find a bottle since very soon after its release. But I had been saving one…….

A few notes from us …

Colour – inky black impenetrable

Nose –  Chocolate, plums, licorice, masses of dark fruit unfolding; blackberries, black currants, very rich, very ripe.

Palate – WOW !! Spice, ripe tannins and fine acid line through the wine, finish goes for ever. Pepper, Asian spice, full bodied, mouth coating tannins, very ripe fruit, balance remarkable even at this young age. And did we say – the finish goes on for ever.

And some comments from the experts….

‘For me, this is the finest young [red] I have ever tasted.  It is phenomenal in every way.  I cannot imagine how it could be bettered …  The clarity of message from start to finish is arresting … wistful spice and heavenly floral notes … majestic drive and intensity of fruit.  The tannins are awesome … Dense damson and blueberry notes cavort – the whole experience is almost transcendental. Epic and thrilling I couldn’t spit it out.  I couldn’t whiplash it out of my mouth even if I was crashed into at speed while waiting for a red light to change.  Weirdly it wasn’t swallowed either – it was subsumed into my soul.  20++ (100++).’

Matthew Jukes

‘A multi-regional, 100% knockout SA shiraz that excites at every step, the aromas saturating the nose high and low with ripe, vibrant black fruits then carrying forward with wilder, redder fruits hitting top notes as well, the texture engaging and timelessly contemporary. Stunning wine that will delight for decades. 99/100 points.’

Tony Love

‘The finest vintage under this label since it was first released during the 1950s. With a history interlinked with the story of Grange, 2010 St Henri stands as the triumph of this year’s Penfolds luxury release. The wine is amazingly expressive with deep colour, superb fruit complexity, voluminous richness and supple textures. Dark chocolate, dark cherry, blackberry, mocha, roasted chestnut aromas are followed by a richly concentrated palate full of dark chocolate, panforte flavours, generous sweet fruit notes and ripe loose-knit chocolaty tannins. It finishes graphite firm, long, and minerally. A gorgeous wine with all the hallmarks of long term ageing potential. Rating: 100 Points.’

Andrew Caillard Master of Wine

Henschke Mt Edelstone Shiraz 2010 14.5%. Stelvin closure

A very different wine, also from the same stellar 2010 vintage, but from much higher sites in the Eden Valley; vines that were first planted in 1912.

Some thoughts from us …

Colour – dark Crimson with slight tawny edge, just hinting at its age.

Nose – Black currant, some vegetal notes maybe rhubarb, fine pepper spice, stewed plums, herbal leafy notes. All settled down some after sitting in the decanter for a while.

Palate – As above, black currant, plums, rich, smooth, long finish goes on and on. Fine acid line through the wine, tannins are chocolaty and fine. Elegant but intense, with supreme finesse. Medium bodied only, with lovely silken texture, all with power and poise, the slightly worn saying ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ fits it well.

And notes from the experts …

‘The Mount Edelstone vineyard, situated in the Eden Valley, was planted in 1912 by Ronald Angas, a descendant of George Fife Angas, who founded South Australia. Unusual for its time, it was planted solely to Shiraz. First bottled as a single-vineyard wine in 1952, it has gone on to be recognised as one of Australia’s greatest. Maturation took place in a combination of 88% French and 12% American (54% new, 46% seasoned) hogsheads for a period of 21 months.’

Retailer, Nick’s Wines

‘Opaque black dark red colour with dark red hue. Very perfumed the nose delivers a delightful sniff of liquorice, dark plums, subtle dark chocolate, vanillin oak and spice. Medium to full bodied the palate possesses loads of richness along with tons of class and finesse. Mouth-filling flavours of liquorice, blackberry and dark plum flood the palate with some underlying vanillin oak, spice and pepper. Supple beautifully rounded texture with silky tannins. Very long aftertaste of liquorice, blackberry, subtlety toasted vanillin oak, spice and pepper aftertaste.

Cellar 8-10 years. Alc 14.5%’

Bright crimson-purple; so perfectly balanced and composed, its latent power may not be realised; black and red cherry fruits at its heart are complexed by lesser notes of plum and blackberry; the tannins are superb, the oak of high quality, and totally integrated on the very long, silky finish of this outstanding medium-bodied shiraz, drink 2013 to 2035. 97 pts. Tasted: 01-Sep-2013.

James Halliday

A signature nose of Eden Valley spices, dried Australian bush, cassia bark, red plums and deep berry fruits. This is a strong vintage for Edelstone with perfectly pitched ripeness and handy depth. On the palate there’s plenty of supple fruit flesh that is compressed in layers of noble, old-vine tannins. This has structural depth and tremendous, elegant length. Acid and tannins are well pitched. A super vintage – vivacious and full of promise. Drink in 2018. 96 pts.

Tasted: 27-Jan-2015

James Suckling

‘Medium to deep garnet-purple in color, the 2010 Mount Edelstone is a single-vineyard Shiraz showing a little reticent at this youthful stage, though it gives delicate black and red fruit aromas that fan out with air to reveal kirsch, red currant jelly, mulberries and Chinese Five Spice notes alongside hints of dusty earth and potpourri. The palate is led by its commendable structure at this stage, with firm, grainy tannins and very lively acid to support the tight-knit fruit. It finishes long and layered. Consider drinking this 2016 to 2026+.’

97+ points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, The Wine Advocate

Vina Maipo Limited Edition Syrah 2011. Chile, 14.5%. Cork.

Notes from us …

Colour – Dark Crimson purple edge, vibrant looking.

Nose – Chocolate, plums, spice, leather, liquorice, earthy notes.

Palate – Long and spicy, rich with fine ripe tannins, well balanced with all elements in harmony. Elegant but concentrated, good long finish.

This wine was on a hiding to nothing, being set in between the cracking Australian icons. However on its own, and with some suitable red meat or game, this will shine, and will do so for quite a few more years.

Cork versus screwcap? – don’t get me started. At least it is a quality cork, unlike many I am seeing on European bottles.

Winemakers notes

Variety: 96% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Harvest: Hand picked. April 27-28, 2009.

Soil: Alluvial, stony and poor in nutrients.

Climate: Dry Mediterranean climate, with great influence of the Andes Mountains.

Aging: 26 months in French oak barrels.

Colour: Deep purple red.

Aroma: Intense and complex aromas, that remember to blackberries and blueberries, wrapped by hints of sweet spices like clove and cinnamon. Also appears notes to bitter chocolate and tar.

Palate: Muscular but at the same time elegant. Concentrated flavours and juicy acidity in a perfect balance with firm and round tannins, confers intensity, long aftertaste and freshness.

And a note I found from Ben Swetnam, a winemaker in Nova Scotia from back in May 2014.

Cracked pepper, dark berries, tobacco, and graphite mineral notes on the nose. The palate shows nice balance between earthy, fruity, woodsy, and mineral with ample, but mellow tannins and clean acidity. While drinking nicely now, this wine clearly has the guts to go another 4–8 years in the cellar. Drink now through 2022.