This superlative trio of individual vineyard, McLaren Vale wines, would have to be some of the most talked about premium shiraz in Australian today.
As our country gradually moves towards more distinctive, site specific, terroir driven wines which reflect their place of origin; it's bottles like these which future generations will be looking back on with fond memories and recollections (or open wallets maybe?).
These three beauties originate from the McLaren Vale sub-regions of McLaren Flat (45 year old vines), Blewitt Springs (40 Year old vines) and Upper Tintara (105 year old vines).
What's immediately obvious is the high quality, yet distinct individuality all three wines offer despite very similar winemaking techniques (hand-picked, de-stemmed, open top fermenters, basket press, 20 months in French oak barriques for all three). There is really no splitting them on a present quality basis, it's merely a matter of personal taste.
The 2004 McLaren Flat is the most typical, 2004 McLaren Vale shiraz (nothing wrong with that!), although an absolutely prime one at that. It's vibrantly fruited and drinking beautifully (probably better than the others right now), but should easily cellar for another 10 years.
The Blewitt Springs shows a noticeable step up in complexity, concentration, restraint and savoury qualities, but the Upper Tintara really states the benefits of ancient vine material. Whilst tighter and more refined than the others, it'll age effortlessly into the long term (40 years said the Hardys rep!), as it's so obviously just waiting to unfold layer upon layer of complexity, flavour and richness with careful cellaring.
What did surprise me though, is that the Hardys rep told me these wines were one-offs, from the 2004 vintage only - even though I clearly recall Jeremy Oliver naming the 2005 (?!) Blewitt Springs Shiraz in his wines of the year for 2009. I severely hope the rep is wrong and Oliver is right!
Here are my tasting notes based on 100ml pours (in very classy, $45 stemless Riedel glassware). All wines are $80 each from cellar door.
TINTARA MCLAREN FLAT VINEYARD SHIRAZ 2004
Beautiful, bright, perfectly ripened fruit nose overlays fragrant cinnamon tones throughout berry and plum aromas, with chocolate/cedar oak. Shows wonderfully aromatic, regional fruit expression. Palate displays outstanding full mouth flavour, with immaculate texture - like pouring liquid velvet into your mouth. Vibrant fruit characteristics with classic sour edged acidity, finishes incredibly long with a pliant extract of dusty tannin.
TINTARA BLEWITT SPRINGS VINEYARD SHIRAZ 2004
More restrained, savoury nose than the distinctly youthful McLaren Flat, with intriguing notes of dry crispbread/biscuit, defined by nutty, walnut oak over dark plum, currant and gamey undertones. A concentrated, dense palate is offset majestically by a firm, structural lift of grippy tannins and outstanding length. A real highlight of the palate is its carefully hidden (beneath texture and structure), richly fruited core.
TINTARA UPPER TINTARA VINEYARD SHIRAZ 2004
Very deep, complex bouquet immediately proclaims its old vine source. Aromas of mushroom, game, hints of menthol and shoe polish, are harmoniously supported by classic cedar/spicy oak. Decidedly more elegant and restrained than the other two wines, with more of a focused, precise and savoury palate. A nicely balanced coating of powdery tannins holds the wine together well. Overall this wine says it needs time to show its best, but is certainly set for the long haul.
So there we have it. Definitely a trio for Paul Carpenter to hang his hat on. I honestly can't recall being more impressed or educated by a sit down, three wine tasting of Australian shiraz in recent times. Bring on the future!
Oh yeah, I must gratefully thank the Hardys Tintara staff for not even contemplating the $10 tasting fee (for myself or Homer), whilst being polite and informative without being interfering - much appreciated!