Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah

I’ll probably write a few posts about Australian wine in the near future, having blagged an invite to a particularly enjoyable tasting at the Saatchi Gallery yesterday. I got through but a fraction of the hundreds of wines on show, but enough to be a bit disappointed by some wines with hefty reputations and impressed by others that I didn’t know.

Upstairs, slightly away from the main event, a couple of tables were serving wine blind. One was an actual competition, where attendees were invited to work out which Australian subregion a selection of cabernet sauvignons were from. The other was just for fun, and featured a large line-up of Australian syrah/shiraz, with a few non-Aussie ringers thrown in to keep you on your toes. And, though I didn’t get through them all, it turned out that one of the ringers was my favourite.

I knew what it was as soon as I tasted it. To tell the truth, I knew what it was a couple of minutes earlier, when I stole a list that revealed what all the wines were. This, it’s true, is cheating, and it destroys the very purpose of serving wines blind – so they are approached without preconceptions – but I wasn’t in much of a mood for parlour games.

Wine No3, or Man O’ War Dreadnought 2008 as it is otherwise known, is a mightily impressive beast. Burly, but in a totally different way to its sometimes flabby Barossa cousins, as you hold it in your mouth it thwacks you about with fresh pounding blows of pleasure. This is visceral vino. It’s not cheap – £20 at cellar door, about a fiver more over here – but it’s a great deal cheaper than some of the Australian versions in the line-up, plus as it happens Winedirect are knocking a few pounds off the asking price at the moment, bringing it down to £22.50 a bottle, and their basic syrah at £14.95 is also supposed to be excellent (though I haven’t tried it).

It’s from Waiheke, a small but gasp-inducingly scenic island a short boat trip from central Auckland, where several years ago, before I knew that this winery existed, I spent a couple of memorably amazing days and ate some great fish and chips. Happy memories, which I wouldn’t have dredged up had I not found out what was behind label No3.


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