Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kaesler Wines’ Old Bastard Shiraz

Kaesler Wines’ Old Bastard Shiraz has managed to score consistently high points in the recent Wine Companions, notwithstanding alcohol levels ranging between 15.5% and (in the ‘08) 16.5%. Coming, as it does, from a single vineyard planted in 1893, the sheer density of the fruit has enabled it to carry the at times extreme levels of alcohol. It also managed to shake off the toughness that marred many Barossa and McLaren Vale reds from ‘07. What a pleasure then, and what an even greater surprise, to find that the ‘09 Old Bastard has an alcohol of 14%, and is a perfectly wonderful wine. My tasting note reads ‘From the prime estate vineyard, planted in 1893, with the usual, albeit inimitable, Ralph Searle label. What is not usual is the alcohol, 2.5% lower than that of the ‘08; it is beautifully supple, fresh and balanced, but retains the intensity, clarity and integrity of very old vine wine. Bravo. $170, 97 points, drink to 2029, cork.

Very similar comments applied to the ‘09 Kaesler Old Vine Barossa Valley Shiraz at 14.5% alcohol, with the following tasting note: From three estate vineyards with 40, 60 and 112-year-old vines, matured for 12 months in French oak, the colour is good, rather than remarkable; the bouquet, however, immediately signals a change from prior vintages, more perfumed, the palate more elegant, but still crammed with plum and blackberry fruit. $80, 95 points, drink to 2029, cork.

There is much more to be said about this, not the least that numbers don’t tell the whole story, even if they are correct (and that, up to now, has been a major assumption). Thus a wine of 14% alcohol may taste every bit as hot and alcoholic as one with 16% alcohol and vice versa. But even that’s only the start. More anon.

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