Tag Archives: australia

Jamsheed Beechworth Roussanne 2014

Jamsheed Beechworth Roussanne 2014

I must admit, I went a little off wine for a while. Not off wine, really – I mean, I still drank the stuff, as well as alternative beverages, but I stopped reading about it, stopped writing about it, and went a while without being particularly struck by it. Without, to use a phrase from the French vinophile bible the Guide Hachette des Vins, un coup de coeur, a moment when a simple intoxicating beverage picks you up by the inside of your mouth and swirls you dizzyingly and deliciously around the room.

Then, over the last few months, it started happening again. A 2011 Polish Hill riesling from Jeffrey Grosset, a Bourgogne pinot noir from Mark Haisma and a 2006 Cotes du Rhone from Domaine de la Janasse all got me a bit excited. A while back my phone self-destructed, taking with it a recording of an interview I’d conducted that morning and was supposed to turn into a newspaper article, and I spent several unhappy hours searching in vain for a solution, or for another human who might be able to offer me a solution. By the evening I was frustrated and unhappy in a very fundamental way and then, in the time it took me to unscrew a cap and pour a glass, my troubles were blown away. Temporarily, sadly.

It was a Jamsheed roussanne from Beechworth, approximately halfway between Melbourne to the west and south and Canberra to the north and east, in that part of Australia where place names are – to the English atlas-reader, at least – at their most sublimely ridiculous. Nug Nug, Yuckandandah, Boomahnoomoonah, Tangambalanga and Walla Walla – which is just about halfway to Wagga Wagga – are all thereabouts.

I hadn’t just stumbled upon it. For the first time in a long while, I read about a wine, decided it would be a very good idea to put some in my mouth, took action and then put some in my mouth, all within the space of a few giddy days. Jancis Robinson, who I find a reliable critic and a very correct writer, if rarely an inspiring one, gets the hat tip here, plus newish online “wine boutique” Hook & Ford for selling it to me at a fine price – thanks also to a handy discount code found on their Facebook page – and getting it to me swiftly. I actually received it, tried it and promptly wrote this about six weeks ago, but it took until this morning, with the sun in the sky and a slight breeze drifting through the back door, for me to add a picture to the words.

It’s one of those wines that pleases all the senses. A vibrant straw yellow colour with faint brush of green, as soon as I poured it my day brightened. It smells amazing, bright and complex, a bit reductive, extremely comehitherish. And then, upon actually imbibing, it zings. Full-bodied, as most Rhone whites are, it spreads creamily over the tongue before starting to swoop and soar, like a flock of particularly tunesome and fragrant nightingales. It is genuinely exceptional, the kind of drink that would make turn any sceptic into an enthusiast, and a lapsed enthusiast into a ranting proselytiser. For a little under £18 I also consider it to have been a bargain.

It has all happened at a very opportune moment, for the current political and indeed economic situation in the UK demonstrates that intoxication has never been more important. It is a burden I intend to carry manfully and, with this in my glass, perhaps also, if I can force the rest of the world to the back of my crowded and clouded mind, pleasurably.

And so, here I am. Hello again. It’s been too long.

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Kangarilla Road Shiraz-Viognier 2006

Moving house is supposed to be stressful, so I guess I can’t complain too much. The problem with the one I’ve just completed was a loft conversion that we’d done in 2007, while my wife was pregnant with our first child. In the end the builders were still there when she popped out (the child, not the wife – she’s still around), and we basically told them to finish off and get out. It made sense at the time. Fast forward four years, though, and we’ve got a new loft conversion and no completion certificate*.

In the end everything depended on me organising said completion certificate before completion. Fail in that apparently simple task and everything would collapse, leaving me at fault and out of pocket to an almost six-figure tune. As anyone who has had the great misfortune to deal with a council’s building regulations department will know (and I’m tarring them all with a very similar brush here, so I apologise if yours is full of cheery, sensible, easy-to-relate-to regular party-invitees), this was a long and trying road that more than once drove me to the very brink of, if not a total breakdown, at least a hearty and fulsome yell.

To cut a very long story pretty short, it was confirmed to me that we had been awarded a completion certificate approximately 45 minutes before we were due to sell our house, and buy another one.

After that, the move itself was a breeze. Just a load of boxes and bubble wrap. And there’s been a vinous bonus as well, as all the wine that was previously in my long-term storage (a cupboard under the stairs) was disgorged and vomited out into the new house, in a big old jumble. Suddenly, things that I’d all but forgotten about started to catch my eye. This is one, and it’s a stonker.

I bought it, and five others very much like it, on the back of an emailed offer from Majestic at the start of 2010. When it came, I stuck it in my long-term wine storage (the cupboard under the stairs) and there it lay, for not that long really when you think about it, until the packers and movers disturbed it from its slumber, transported the few miles to my new house and dumped it, with all the rest of my wine, in the garage, where it sat, awoken, showing its figurative thigh at me like an incurable flirt until my resistance broke.

It’s brilliantly enjoyable stuff, one of my favourite wines of the year so far – despite being far from the most expensive. My nose loved getting thwacked about with its dazzling line-up of fruit-based aromas; it’s one of those wines where even if you’re not drinking you keep thrusting your nose back towards the glass for another sniff of its heady perfume. Never mind the alcohol – which at 15% is fairly intense – the smell alone is utterly intoxicating. It’s a social wine, worthy of company and would feel a little out of place, I think, if it were invited into a quiet night spent on the sofa. It doesn’t aspire to greatness, but it’s fairly classy and a hell of a lot of fun. Each bottle cost me £11.99, so it isn’t exactly cheap, but I certainly don’t feel shortchanged.

I’m not, as a rule, a fan of lower-end McLaren Vale shirazes – big, broody, burned beasts that they are – but this is a textbook example of what a bit of viognier can do to the stuff. It’s lively and beguiling, and I’d love to own a great deal more of it. And so, it appeared, would the friends I shared it with; I did my best to grab my camera as soon as I realised how exciting this wine was, but I still didn’t get to the bottle before it was empty. My only quibble was the slight alcohol burn that you get as the wine goes down, but go down it does, very well indeed.

I’ve now got some wine storage sorted in the new house. Whether the rest of this half-case will ever make it there, though, is very much in doubt.

So far as I can see the only place in the UK that stocks this (and even then it’s the 2004 vintage), is Last Drop Wines.

* For any confused non-Brits, a completion certificate is the dullest thing you could ever imagine desecrating some paper with, but lawyers seem to like them.

Big brother’s little brother

My first half-hour at the A+ Australian wine tasting basically involved me walking around the then-still-quite-empty rooms, spotting labels familiar from countless fantasy wine splurges. I felt like a lust-filled teenager with a backstage pass to a Girls Aloud concert – this was the kind of stuff I read and dream about, and now was my chance to introduce myself properly.

But at the same time, I had the rest of my life to worry about. It’s all very well deciding that I quite like fantasy wine, but it would be rather more useful to find some more realistic dates. So which of these iconic wines, I wondered, have bargain brethren? Are there cut-price labelmates who share the same fine breeding, but not the elevated valuation?

And the answer, I reported to myself several hours, much shiraz and two rows of freshly-stained teeth later, was yes. And here’s a couple for you:

Clonakilla – The shiraz/viognier (RRP now up to £54.99, though widely available for £15-20 less than that) has been a subject of my vinous fantasies for a couple of years now, and this was my first introduction. Sweet, soft and instantly loveable, it’s certainly a fine wine – but the Hilltops shiraz costs in the region of £15 a bottle and is only fractionally less impressive, and was finer for me than the middle sibling, the O’Riada, at £31.99.

Mount Langi Ghiran – I liked their 2005 Langi shiraz (RRP £40) a bit more than the 2006 (£55), though the latter’s hard edges will be rounded out over time. But their basic shiraz, Billi Billi, is excellent value at £6.99 from Wine Rack (and just a little bit less excellent value at £8.50 from the Wine Society).

Jim Barry – Probably my favourite £10ish wine of the day was the Lodge Hill shiraz from this Clare Valley estate, full of leafiness and pepperiness and disguising well its burly 14.9% alcohol, it’s without doubt the best thing to be found in that temple of mediocrity and disappointment that is the Archway Co-op. I also liked the McRae Wood and Armagh shirazes, both from 2006, but they cost £45 and £89.99 respectively, and aren’t for sale in Archway.

Chateau Tanunda – The Everest, Tanunda’s top wine, comes in a bottle so enormous and weighty that you wonder if it’s a magnum. It’s not for sale here, but costs £100 a bottle from the cellar door, and heaven only knows what it would cost if anyone actually imported the stuff, so horrific would the shipping costs surely be. Presumably it is so named because it would have taken Sir Edmund Hillary three days to hike up it. But for a notional tenner (as you can’t get it either) their Barossa Tower was admirably light on its feet for a 14.5% Barossa monster.

And an exception to prove the rule Good breeding is a reason for optimism when approaching a wine, not for confidence. And to prove it, there’s Tahbilk. Probably best known for their whites, I tried their trio of shirazes and found the basic version (RRP £13.45) totally out of balance at 15% alcohol, while their ESP (£32.50) was worryingly mediocre and also a bit boozy at 14.5%, but the top-of-the-range 1860 Vines shiraz (RRP £85) was just 13% alcohol and correspondingly fresher and more elegant, a huge leap upwards in enjoyability. Don’t bother with their cheapos.