Tasting Notes: Big buck banger reds

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Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer, authors of Taste Food and Wine

Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer, authors of Taste Food and Wine

Choose the right wine every time - Taste Food and Wine 2008 by Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer


Ever wonder what life is like when you're drinking above the $50 a bottle threshold? If these big buck banging reds don't get you dusting off your wallet, nothing will. Go on - winter's almost over and you deserve it.

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2006
The challenge every year for Tim Kirk is to keep his adoring fans happy and satiated – no easy task when he has not only set the benchmark for SV but raised the bar every year. We are delighted to report that this year’s ‘Killa is doing much more than this and sending us into raptures. It is one tasting sample that got completely demolished with every perfumed aroma adored and every soothing drop savoured. This gorgeous wine remains in a class of its own – it is truly monumental.

Parker Coonawarra Estate Terra Rossa First Growth 2005
Get a load of this. We lined up the latest vintage of every one of the best Cabernets in Aus over $50, plonked them on one (very large) bench, ripped their tops off and gave them all a very thorough going over. Every top name was in the line, you name it. The standard was epic, but you would not believe the benchmark labels that we pushed back in favour of just three.

First Growth is a delightful wine made by a superhero with a P on his chest and a B on his cape. Massively long and very dense, it’s built around exceptionally ripe skins and fantastic, glossy fruit. This is a hedonistic wine with an array of flavours and aromas that require exhaustive commitment to find, trap and collate. It is worth every minute spent gazing in wonder at First Growth.

O’Leary Walker Claire Reserve Shiraz 2004
This is Claire from Clare. She is pitch black – black label, black fruits, elusive dark personality. There is a morass, swirling vortex of movement within her impenetrable depth of fruit. Raucous fruit highlights swoop and soar from the core and then jump out and maraud your palate. In the midst of it all she hides a nucleus of elegance. Claire shows that the Clare can beat any other region on the planet at this big Shiraz game.

Moss Wood Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
With considerable weight and yet piercing clarity of message, this wine brings your taste buds to attention and then marshals its dark berry and chocolate flavours around with balletic precision. Its ethereal Latour-shaped bouquet and impeccably concentrated palate ride a backbone of tannins that effuse out of its core in every direction. With a decade ahead of it, the best young MW Cabernet in years is in no hurry to show its full hand – but you can see it’s a winning one from the other side of the country.

Mount Difficulty Single Vineyard Pipeclay Terrace Pinot Noir 2005
Mount Difficulty is the proud custodian of a trio of the most heroic Pinot Noir vineyards in the southern hemisphere – Pipeclay Terrace, Long Gully and Target Gully. Each is released as a single vineyard wine only in years when it is up to the stratospheric standard demanded by Matt Dicey. In 2005, Pipeclay Terrace blew that standard into the heavens! It gave us goose-bumps when we first confronted it.

Beautiful violets, red and black berries, it’s got all the regency glamour of Vosne-Romanée (Burgundy). And if that’s not enough for you, line yourself up against the first vintage ever of Mount Difficulty Single Vineyard Long Gully Pinot Noir 2005 ($95). We had trouble separating the two – how can you quantify perfection? You try it and tell us which is better.

Bilancia La Collina Syrah 2005
La Collina is the greatest Syrah to ever come out of New Zealand, and it single-handedly positions this country, for the first time, among the great Shiraz producers of the world. 2005 is the best vintage to date and it takes the definition of spice and pepper to new heights. We sat on the hill in the middle of the vineyard when we tasted La Collina for the first time, and we are pleased to report that it tastes even better with Wagyu steaks at Gianni Restaurant in Brisbane.

Jim Barry PB Reserve Shiraz Cabernet 2005
JBPB is a gladiator of a wine. It’s plush, rich and black and its flavours will keep fighting for as long as you care to watch. You might just need another glass of someone else’s juicy Cabernet to recover from all the action! This wine is brand new and we discovered it for the first time and awarded it the Trophy for the best Shiraz-dominant wine in The Great Australian Red 2007. No one else knows about it yet, and you’d better be quick because 250 dozen bottles won’t go far when this wine is unleashed on the world.

Penfolds Cellar Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Barossa Shiraz 2005
When we finished our tasting of more than 3000 wines for this book, I (Matthew) picked up this bottle and declared it the best of them all. If I’m going to take one bottle to drink tonight, this is it. $100, 100 points – perfect score! It’s the most epic synergy of these two varieties. The 2004 scored well in The Great Australian Red this year, and we can’t wait until the 2005 is entered next year. And just in case you find two grapes too hard to swallow, Penfolds Cellar Reserve Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($100) is the slimmed-down version which does exactly what you want it to, as well.

Wolf Blass Black Label 2004
When we lined up the gold medal winners for the trophy judging for The Great Australian Red 2007, we didn’t know it at the time, but the seven wines on the bench covered the full spectrum of Coonawarra, the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale. All of the wines except two were single region wines, and those two were the 2003 and 2004 Wolf Blass Black Label.

In an age where single vineyard, artisan wines are all the rage, we should not forget that Australia makes some of the best cross-regional blends on the planet. The winner of The Great Australian Red 2007 is Wolf Blass Black Label 2004. It is massive, black and beastly, with vibrant black fruits and liquorice swirling into a sea of coffee oak and big, chewy tannins. Congratulations to Hatch and his team!

Penfolds Grange Bin 95 2002
Is Grange 2002 worth the hype – you bet your bloody life it is. Johnny Depp doesn’t swash his buckle as much as this baby in the glass. This is one of the greatest vintages of Grange to be released in recent years, with a longer life ahead of it than our own. We backed it up alongside the heroic 1998, and the 2002 totally out-classed it. It’s got everything you would expect from Grange, but with control and refinement. We toasted the completion of our tasting of 3000 wines for this book with this wine. Can’t write any more. Drinking.



 Reproduced with permission. © Copyright Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer 2007

Taste Food & Wine 2008 is available from book retailers, department stores and wine outlets. Taste 2009 is available from October 3, 2008.

Subscribers to VisitVineyards.com and Winepros Archive can purchase Taste Food and Wine 2008 at a special 12.5% subscribers-only discount via our book partners Seekbooks, who will post the books direct to you.



  • Canberra (ACT)
  • Capital Country ACT (ACT)
  • Barossa Valley (SA)
  • Clare Valley (SA)
  • Coonawarra (SA)
  • McLaren Vale (SA)
  • Margaret River (WA)

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August 20th, 2008
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