A wintry sun setting over the Hackney Rd vineyard adjacent Adelaide's National Wine Centre
I had the pleasure of attending a four course dinner last night, matched to Wynns wines and hosted by Wynns winemaker Sue Hodder, all for the measly sum of $70. There's plenty of good value there, especially as the glasses were topped up frequently and readily!
The highlight of the night for me would've been the appearance of Sue Hodder herself, who was only too willing to talk personally with her fans. Sue is clearly a determined, focused winemaker, who's ready to move forward with the times whilst staying true to the factors that won her success in the first place. Previously I've discussed how I enjoy sensing terroir, or the natural environment, in finished wines, but also, I respect those wines that are able to appropriately reflect the hand of their maker as well. For me, Wynns' wines sum up Sue's personality pretty well, whilst, of course, remaining true to the ideals of Coonawarra's regional expression. Wynns' wines are beautifully measured, cleverly constructed, well tended to in both vineyard and winery, and they exceed where others fail. A large part of this comes from the deep, rational thinking employed by the winemaking team, which gets reflected in the consistent quality of Wynns products. A smart winemaker with smart wines and vision, Sue Hodder is certainly a valuable asset to Treasury Wine Estates, and one which they can ill afford to lose (nor viticulturist Allen Jenkins for that matter).
STARTER: Yellowglen Vintage Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2008
The classic Foster's throw in?
COURSE 1: Wynns Riesling 2009
Cherry tomato mousse, mushroom fluff, basil infused oil
Like others, Sue Hodder is of the belief that sauvignon blanc will be a passing phase and that riesling will be there to pick up the slack when it passes. Wynns Riesling is intended to be an every day wine, of the quaffing variety, with a price to suit. Personally I don't believe the 2009 vintage is one of Wynns' better rieslings. It shows fairly simple, candied lemon flavours with a sweet and sour acidity that makes it fairly plausible to the quaffing crowd but not much else.
Essentially served in a shot glass, the mousse was light and tasty, if a bit overpowered by its basil infusion. Not sure where my mushroom fluff fluffed off to though.
COURSE 2: Wynns Chardonnay 2010
16 hour pork shoulder, jus de rotis, almond crushed baby fennel, mint and apple salad
It's unusual for Wynns to release their chardonnay so early, and unfortunately, I think the decision shone through to what seems like a slightly unsettled wine at this early stage. Initially, it revealed a pleasingly smooth texture and a nicely refined melon fruit profile, but it seemed to finish a bit angular and awkward. Hopefully, 3-6 months might see these issues fade out.
The pork shoulder was clearly the gastronomic highlight of the night. Slow cooked to perfection, it had a soft, fall-apart-in-your-mouth type texture that was to die for, with a lovely strip of fatty goodness laid across the top and smatterings of gentle fennel flavour emanating throughout. Delicious!
COURSE 3: Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Roasted lamb rump, glace de viande, creamed potato, pickled beetroot, winter vegetables
Unfortunately, the 2006 was my least favourite of Wynns recent Black Label Cabernet Sauvignons. Making matters even worse was that the wine was just cracked and poured, no aerating whatsoever. After sitting in the glass for about 20 minutes, as well as being frantically swirled, it began to reveal an unusually closed palate with black fruited/olive characters, which still displayed the same hardness I recall in the wine some 2 years ago. I think it needs another 6-8 years at least.
Fortunately, the Riddoch was decanted, which lead to a much more pleasing representation from first sniff. It was vibrant, vividly fruited and considerately oaked, with a wonderfully rich, deep core of flavour that persisted long into the aftertaste alongside the firm, grippy and practically aggressive tannins that trademarked so many 2006s. I still really like this wine (there's an older, separate review under Cabernet in the sidebar). No John Riddoch was made from 2007, same as the Michael Shiraz, which was a wise decision frankly. This is despite my belief that the Black Label was one of the region's better wines from that difficult year.
The lamb was nice, not great, but I felt it was overshadowed by its excellent sides. The cute little melon-balled vegetables, the potato and the pickled beetroot lifted the dish to a point where the lamb was never going to take it alone.
COURSE 4: Wynns V&A Lane Cabernet Shiraz 2008 and Wynns V&A Lane Shiraz 2008
King Island smoked cheddar, caraway and black sesame lavosh
A few points to make about the V&A wines. Firstly, unlike some of Wynns' other recent limited release wines, these are not individual vineyard wines, they merely come from Coonawarra's V&A sub-region, which is a central part of the red strip that Sue Hodder intends on highlighting in coming years. Secondly, under the right conditions, Wynns intend on releasing these wines every year, or at least semi-regularly. Finally, sat next to each other, it's downright obvious how different the two wines are. It's amazing what a good splash of Coonawarra cabernet can do!
The V&A Cabernet Shiraz displays the lovely bright fruit profile which adorns so many Coonawarra 08s, but with an incredible length of natural, firm and powerful tannins, which in a structural sense reminded me slightly of Wynns 2004 Johnson's Block Cab Shiraz. The 2008 V&A Cabernet Shiraz will be a very long lived wine. Clearly; seamlessly blending cabernet with shiraz is one of Sue Hodder's less recognised talents. I'd love to see more.
The V&A Shiraz was an unexpected contrast to its sibling in many ways, but primarily, it was all about texture, or mouthfeel. Sue told me of someone who had likened the wine to being pinot-like, and while I personally wouldn't quite go that far, I knew exactly where she was coming from. Medium, or even light-medium bodied, the palate was silky and supple, but still with a rich concentration of ripe berry fruit flavours expressed at its core. Of course, Coonawarra's classic white pepper note was there in attendance, as well as the maker's length and the season's brightness. It's a great wine.
I'm not sure why so many people look at Coonawarra shiraz with disdain. Personally, I think the Coonawarra style is a more faithful representation of the grape's true nature than some of South Australia's higher profile shiraz districts. A point which makes more sense if you also consider Victoria's Grampians to be Australia's truest and most faithful terroir for shiraz.
In conclusion it was a wonderful night, but I must mention one gripe, which seems to be repeating itself across high-end dinner services right across Adelaide. Apart from the John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, none of the wines were decanted properly. The Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon and both V&A wines were just cracked and poured with immediacy, giving off huge whiffs of 'bottle stink' or 'twiggy aromas' (thanks Sean ;). This sort of service is a big no-no in my view, especially when dealing with young, gutsy wines of such powerful, dry and tannic proportions. You'd think the National Wine Centre would have a few decanters, or perhaps even some wine aerators lying around somewhere?