Just a few notes here from my mid-week trip to what could be McLaren Vale's most popular cellar door, d'Arenberg.
Two things stood out to me on the visit. Firstly, the level of service seems to get better and better every time I return to d'Arenberg, so kudos to the cellar door staff. The second thing that really caught my attention, was the presence of d'Arenberg labelled underwear, hung from the rafters above the tasting bench. The last time I tasted wine to look up and see men's jocks, I can't recall.
Essentially, the underwear is black Bonds underpants, for him and her, with d'Arenberg wine labels printed onto them (the square labels from the 'cheaper' wines, not the long ones from the icon wines). Underwear labels included 'Love Grass Shiraz' for women, as well as 'Lucky Lizard Chardonnay' (selling well I hear) for men and 'Dry Dam Riesling' (not selling so well) also for men. Really, the possibilities for underpants paired with d'Arenberg labels are near endless; Feral Fox, Derelict Vineyard, Hermit Crab and Last Ditch are just some, but our favourite suggestion was The Noble Wrinkled. We were told to keep our mouths shut before the marketing team got any more ideas....... ;)
The underwear is clearly another idea from a winery that must never run out of things to do. My apologies for failing to take any photos.
d'Arenberg tasting notes are posted below
d'Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2009 ($20) Light, yet appropriately varietal nose of honeysuckle, rose petals and stonefruit kernel. The palate is packed with ripe fruit flavour, making it smooth but also a bit short and simple. 87
d'Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2003 Toast and mango aromas, showing fruit, development and life. Its palate has gained much in the way of richness, as well as a honeyed stonefruit-like character, but despite the stylistic alterations gained through bottle age, I didn't really consider it much better than the 2009. 88
d'Arenberg The Lucky Lizard Chardonnay 2008 ($25) Adelaide Hills. Rather bold, with big lashings of toasty popcorn oak and ripe nectarine present in both nose and the palate. There's a finish marked by tangy acids, but it needs to to be longer and more refreshing for what it is. Challenging year really. 87
d'Arenberg The Last Ditch Viognier 2008 ($20) Adelaide Hills/McLaren Vale. I first tasted this wine over a year ago (no 2009 was made, all blended away)and have had it several times since then, loving it every time. Beck calls it; "the viognier that tastes like good chardonnay". The youthful gleam of its fruit has settled down a bit since my last encounter, as it seems to be a bit more oaky, with restrained, leaner viognier fruit apparent, but it altogether seems more savoury and enticing. The palate is showing some real elegance now (within the viognier spectrum of course), with a wonderful integration of fruit, oak and texture. For the third time in as many visits to d'Arenberg, I came home with one of these. It's probably the best white wine I can recall having from d'Arenberg. (possible re-review soon, although I might give it a few more years for interest) 92
d'Arenberg The Feral Fox Pinot Noir 2009 ($30) Adelaide Hills. I actually like where d'Arenberg went with this the last two years, particularly in 2007, but I'm not sure about this. It's feral by name and feral by nature; manky and funky, with a confectionery-like fruit nose and an unusually medicinal palate. Not for me. 84
d'Arenberg d'Arry's Original Shiraz Grenache 2007 ($18) Interesting to see this under cork at the cellar door, since my cellar-log tells me I have a 2004 and 2006, both under screwcap. The wine shows the dark-fruited meaty ripeness expected of the season, with abundant plums and what smells more like softer American, or older oak. The smooth and simple palate tastes significantly more shiraz like than grenache, with a peppering of sour-edged fruits and acid rounding out the finish in agreeable style. An easy quaffer, although the 2008 is already out now. 88
d'Arenberg The Cadenzia Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2009 ($25) Its beautiful nose smells bright yet perfectly measured and controlled, with a right procession of evenly ripened berry fruits playing across the colour wheel. Likewise, the palate was wonderful; bright, smooth, seamless and long, expressed with effortless style and fruit focus. Alongside another GSM, this was definitely one of the standouts of the day. (full review soon) 92
d'Arenberg The Wild Pixie Shiraz Roussanne 2008 ($29) I didn't mind this a year ago, but was a little less impressed on this occasion. It seemed to be the results of either a dash too much roussanne, or a little too much hang time on the shiraz. It shows ripe, dark and gamy shiraz fruit given a bright, almost viognier-like floral note on the nose, as well as a similarly composed fuzzy apricot skin-like feel to the palate. It's relatively bright, ripe, rich and soft, making for an agreeable BBQ wine if anything, which is probably its intention. 89
d'Arenberg The Galvo Garage Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Petit Verdot Cabernet Franc 2007 ($29) Usually one of my favourite wines in d'Arenberg's portfolio, but I think the tricky vintage has played its toll here, in the way of some ripe, jujube-like fruit aromas paired with lashings of mint, but it doesn't seem even or harmonious really. The palate shows more ripeness than I'd like from the label, and although it's concentrated, essence-like and pleasing in the medium/medium-full weight range, it seems a bit soupy. It is long though, but the finish ends once again; ripe. Essentially it's very drinkable, but it could be better (2004 was great - 92pts). 88
d'Arenberg The Sticks and Stones Tempranillo Grenache Shiraz 2005 ($29) Showing some varnishy, gamy-like notes to the nose, in what could be signs of age, but it also could signify a typically rustic d'Arenberg approach to an intrinsic blend. The palate however, looks surprisingly good and youthful, thanks to a medium-bodied elegance and leanness brought out by a rather firm acid/tannin structure considering its age, season and varietal make-up. 89
d'Arenberg The Ironstone Pressings Grenahce Shiraz Mourvedre 2007 ($60) Wonderful, almost floral nose that has a complex combination of sweet and savoury, the bright and the rustic, with notes of game, blueberry and very restrained, well handled, smooth vanilla oak. It smells great and evenly ripened for a 2007, and just goes to show grenache may have handled the conditions as well as any variety in McLaren Vale that year. The palate is savoury but deep, with delicious juicy fruit flavour framed by more than enough firm, powdery tannins to suggest a good stint in the cellar would be more than beneficial. Could be better than the 2006. 94
d'Arenberg The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($60) Big cabernet nose. Big black fruit. It's ripe but deep with a touch of vanilla/cedar oak almost adding fragrant freshness. It's a big, mouthfilling McLaren Vale cabernet with the region's expected mid-palate depth and the season's anticipated ripeness, but it certainly contains the length and structure to pull it off. Very well made for the season. 91
d'Arenberg The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 A real contrast to the '07. It smells more elegant yet thinner and leaner, with leaves scattered throughout red plums and maybe a touch of spicy cedar oak. There's relatively savoury red fruits woven throughout its medium-bodied palate, which is more elegant and framed by dusty tannins, but it seems stuck in a bad place perhaps, and in need of another 3-5 years for my tastes. 90
d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2007 ($60) Currants, chocolate/vanilla oak and plums; it's ripe and a bit of a bruiser but it's ok. In the mouth however, it seems classic Dead Arm, in a riper sense, with a medium/medium-full bodied expression of deep, rustic dark fruits finished off by very firm tannins and true length. Although lacking the polish of the top years, it would appear d'Arenberg's done quite well with their premier reds from 2007. 92
d'Arenberg The Sump Jump Sticky Chardonnay 2008 ($11) Simple in every sense, yet effective for what it is. It's perhaps a bit thin in its sweet stonefruit character, but it's light and fresh enough. It would be interesting to see how this would hold up over a glass, but I don't really want to find out myself. The sample will do just fine thanks. 87
d'Arenberg The Noble Wrinkled Riesling 2010 ($20) Following the very successful 2008 comes this wine smelling of sweet freshness in a glass. It's floral, light and musky, with citrus and lychees, altogether showing more character than many Australian dessert rieslings, albeit at a very early stage of development. There's good, tangy and lively acidity to frame and refresh the palate, which might be a bit thin at the moment, but time in the bottle could see it flesh out. 90
d'Arenberg The Noble Prankster Chardonnay Semillon 2010 ($20) Burnt toffee, creme brulee and stonefruits on the nose, with a relatively soft, sweet palate blessed by enough lemon tart-like acids to make it a refreshing, easy drinking style. 89
d'Arenberg The Noble Mud Pie Viognier Pinot Gris Marsanne 2008 ($20) Weird nose, which I couldn't quite put my finger on, but the best I could come up with was herbal. Similarly, the palate also seems unusual and is fractionally disjointed. 85