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d’Arenberg 100 Years – Cause for Celebration

By August 7, 2012No Comments
Celebrating a centenary of being a vigneron family, d’Arry and Chester Orsborn have taken to the road to share their good fortune and fruits of the family’s work with the world. This is a milestone to be immensely proud of, and it seems that wine drinkers in Australia and indeed everywhere are endeared by this remarkable family. d’Arry and Chester are third and fourth generations of Osborns who have continued the family business and legacy of vineyards into the 21st century with serious enthusiasm and passion, with grace allied to a great sense of fun. They have preserved the legacy of old vines, a resource of immeasurable value, continued to fashion wines of real elegance that seem more European in style, bear the flag for the McLaren Vale district, and have enabled untold numbers of people to enjoy satisfying wines. The ‘red stripe’ of d’Arenberg is widely recognised, and the characterful wines with their distinctive names are sought-after in all markets the Osborns have been active in.
New Zealand has been an extremely happy place for d’Arry and Chester, who have visited many times, reacquainting themselves with their many fans, and each time making new friends. I count myself one of their fans and friends, and to join in celebrating 100 years with them was a must. Coming to Wellington, a tasting followed by a wine and food matched lunch was held at Shed 5 restaurant on the waterfront. The theme for their 100 Year tour was “100 Years, 1000 Stories”, and they lived up to it, with d’Arry recounting a number of family tales, funny, poignant and revealing on the way. Chester bridged the generations connecting the achievements of his father d’Arry to his maintenance of them and having a strong view to the future. It’s all about continuing the dreams and the work, retaining if not lifting the very high standards, while remaining distinctive and different. It’s a formula that is traditional, yet forward thinking, no matter which generation or century exists, and it works.  www.darenberg.com.au 
A Tasting Challenge before Lunch
A special tasting of some of the wines from the d’Arenberg portfolio was put on for attendees before lunch. 39 wines were offered, including three-vintage vertical line-ups of eight different wines as well as three component Grenache bottlings that go into the ‘Derelict Vineyard’ Grenache wine, and one dozen components of the ‘Dead Arm’ Shiraz bottled according to their vineyard sites.
Single Vineyard Shiraz & Sub-Regional Grenache
The ‘Single Vineyard’ wines were the most fascinating as they were all new to the d’Arenberg range. They also required considerable concentration to look at, as to the uninitiated (that’s everybody except Chester and d’Arry), the differences are subtle, until one understands the individual soils, microclimate and site characteristics.

200 dozen each of the 2010 ‘Single Vineyard’ Shiraz wines were bottled. All are chock-full of personality, in the ripe McLaren Vale Shiraz style, and their characters could easily make them superb wines in their own right. Clearly the blending of these different components into ‘The Dead Arm’ produces a whole wine greater and more complete than the sum of their parts. ‘The Fruit Bat’ is soft and dense with dark plum and liquorice aromas and flavours. ‘The Little Venice’ is more refined, quite tightly bound, but with great aromatics. ‘The Bamboo Scrub’ is a tightly concentrated Shiraz with lifted black florals and pepper, as well as a minerally component in the make-up. ‘The Swinging Malaysian’ is beautifully lush and sweet, with a bright, lively zippiness. ‘The Garden of Extraordinary Delights’ is a noticeably fuller-bodied wine than those preceding, with lovely textures and shy black fruits intermixed with earth notes. ‘Shipsters Rapture’ is superbly balanced with sweet and luscious black fruits along with supple tannins. ‘The Vociferate Dipsomaniac’ is extremely concentrated and a textural wine, showing spices, oak and ripe black peppery fruit. The ‘J.R.O. Afflatus’ is a shy wine in expression, but possessing a unique mineral and iron-earth aspect. ‘Tyche’s Mustard’ is a Shiraz based on structure and significant extraction, with lovely spicing to the fruit. ‘The Other Side’ is a singular, linear wine with flavours reminiscent of dark earth and graphite. ‘The Blind Tiger’ impressed with its seamless flow through the palate and exotic spices interwoven with oak and cedar. The final wine in the series, ‘The Amaranthine’ is the biggest, most intense and near massive in size, but at this stage somewhat brooding. Superb black fruits and plums waiting to blossom.

There were only three bottlings of the ‘Sub Regional’ McLaren Vale Grenache 2010 that made up components for the ‘Derelict Vineyard’ Grenache on offer. The ‘Blewitt Springs’ is an explosive, super-charged number with bold raspberry essence fruit flavours and wonderful aromatics. Much tighter, minerally, dusty and earthy in flavour, and sinewy in texture was the ‘Beautiful View’ wine. At the other end of the spectrum was the ‘Sand Hills’, fruit-expressive in a supple, elegant style that still possessed excellent drive.
Mini Three-Vintage Verticals of Eight Wines
Here are my impressions of the eight wines each with a three-vintage mini-vertical line-up presented with scores:
Firstly the ‘The Dry Dam’ Riesling, generally made from McLaren Vale fruit, and under-rated in this country, more’s the pity. The 2011 (18.0-/20), fine penetrating lime and esters, still tight, showing gentle sweetness and lusciousness and an exotic fruit component. The 2008 (18.0-/20), tightly concentrated and intense, with fulsome, oily textures and toasty interest. The 2004 (18.5/20), made from Fleurieu fruit, very full and concentrated with excellent driven lime and florals, still remarkably zesty with its lusciousness.

Another white, also well not recognised here, ‘The Lucky Lizard’ Chardonnay, made from Adelaide Hills fruit. The 2010 (17.5/20), very contemporary with soft mealy notes along with complex reductive flintiness and shy citrus fruits. The 2008 (18.5+/20), was bolder and richer with round citrussy fruit and matching toasty oak interest. Everything is there. The 2007 (18.5-/20) is now developing secondary layers, ripe savoury citrus fruits with bright and lacy acidity, as well as oak toastiness. Some more breadth and depth, but still with good acidity and on a plateau. It seems this wine enjoys a little bottle-age.

I was less enamoured by ‘The Feral Fox’ Pinot Noir, from Adelaide Hills fruit. Maybe I’m spoilt by what we see in New Zealand, but the bright fruit characters I expect aren’t there, but rather, flavours in the cinnamon, clove and spice range, and soft, effusive textures. The 2011 (16.0+/20) premature in colour, very light and loose in concentration, though supple with some sweet red-floral fruit. The 2010 (17.5+/20) actually showing a darker and more youthful colour, with riper dark berry fruits and decent structure. The 2009 (17.5+/20), deceptively sumptuous with its dark cherry-berry fruit and again good structure and line. I’d say 2011 was a lighter vintage.

One of my favourites for its totally traditional outlook is the ‘d’Arry’s Original’ Shiraz/Grenache, a wine with a veritable track-record that seems to be overlooked today in favour of the flashier wines. The 2009 (17.5+/20) seems more ‘modern’ than previous releases with soft, ripe red fruit and gamey notes, fresh, brisk and still tightly bound. The 2004 (18.5/20) showing brick colour, and with lovely cedary perfumes which show well on palate, combined with complexing undergrowth characters of development. This is silky-smooth. A further step down the bottle-age path is the 2002 (19.0/20), fulsome and voluminous with animal and meaty interest, along with spicy layers and aromatic lift. This is still well-structured and should keep well.

Onto one of the benchmark wines incorporating old vine fruit, that remain great value, ‘The Custodian’ Grenache. The 2009 (18.0+/20) is textbook youthful Grenache, being medium-bodied and bright-fruited with juicy raspberry fruit and real approachability. The 2006 (17.5+/20) shows much greater concentration and riper black fruits with layers of earth and minerals. This’ll be a keeper, but I found the tannin extraction a little too significant. The 2004 (17.5-/20) another riper example, but shy in fruitiness, and somewhat drying with its secondary development. Maybe I was reading this wine wrong, but I preferred it for its primary nature. I’d imagine most aficionados would see it the other way, enjoying the ripeness and texture that will allow it to age.

The Bordeaux-blended wine ‘The Galvo Garage’ was one I preferred seeing youthful as well. The 2008 (18.5-/20), a blend of CS, Me, CF and PV, beautifully proportioned in the elegant style, but with real concentration, core and palate line with classical blackcurrant-based fruit flavours and subtle extras. The 2004 (18.0/20), a blend of CS, Me, CF and PV, starting to show savoury, game, animal, cedar and earthy complexities, along with a robust tannic grip. The 2001 (17.0-/20), a blend of CS, Me and CF, bricking in colour, very soft, fine-textured and seamless, some bretty notes now apparent and beginning to dry a tad. The elegant presentation of the varieties and the d’Arenberg style predisposes this wine to classicism for sure. I’ve enjoyed a number of other vintages of this wine over the years.

Next on the table to investigate was ‘The Laughing Magpie’ Shiraz/Viognier, a Cote-Rotie blend that is eminently suited to the d’Arenberg way of doing things. The 2008 (18.5+/20) brightly coloured with purple hues and showing great elegance and refinement, and thus extremely supple, lusciously silky, but striking with florals and spiced pepper flavours. The 2004 (19.0-/20) was served ‘en magnum’, gloriously dense and concentrated with serious extraction, but with matching power of black peppery fruit and spices galore. The 2002 (18.5-/20) was quite garnet coloured from bottle-age, softly full, with layers of tertiary undergrowth, the fruit just hinting at dryness, but possessing more than enough richness to balance the not insignificant texture. This was one of the earliest Shiraz/Viognier blends, and it remains one of Australia’s best. The style is very elegant and modern, but is capable of being ramped up in size, when the vintage allows it. When so, it keeps its fine style.

The final in the mini-verticals was ‘The Derelict Vineyard’ Grenache, possibly the most undervalued of d’Arenberg’s wines in my opinion. The 2009 (19.0/20) shows ripe black fruit and brown complexing earthy flavours, blossoming on the palate with richness and lusciousness, all backed by fine-grained tannins. The 2006 (18.5+/20) exhibiting warmth and generosity, the flavours quite secondary with undergrowth elements to the cooked strawberry fruit. This is solid and compact still, with more to show. The 2004 (19.0/20) has developed into an ethereal beauty, lifted cedar and spices intermingling with pepper, all on a velvety palate. I was very pleased with the consistency of this wine across the three vintages.
The Wine and Food Matched Lunch
The chef at Shed 5 restaurant, Geoff Ngan was given the task of matching each of his food courses with three different wines. Such an exercise is well-nigh on impossible to do at the highest level. Geoff’s approach was a broad one to try to encompass all the flavours of the varied wines, while no doubt trying to pick up on features of some of them. The different food courses were extremely well received by the diners, and the execution and delivery on the plate superb. The wines with each course were ‘The Ironstone Pressings’ Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre, (or ‘The Derelict Vineyard’ Grenache), ‘The Coppermine Road’ Cabernet Sauvignon, and ‘The Dead Arm’ Shiraz, progressing from young to older with each food course. www.shed5.co.nz

With Canapés, the DADD Chardonnay/Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier Sparkling NV (17.5+/20) was served. A blend of 53% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 17% Pinot Meunier, from the 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages, the wine spent 20 months on lees following secondary fermentation. It’s an Osborn take on ‘Mumm’ Champagne no doubt, and is similarly light and apply, fresh and zingy, but probably needing a little more time on lees to gain more autolytic character. Nevertheless a refined, tight and elegant sparkler.

The entrée was Star anise and ginger pork belly, seared big eye tuna, Jerusalem artichoke, bell pepper rouille, mustard cress. Two contrasting firm-flesh ‘meats’ one dry, the other moist, both coping surprisingly well with the big and youthful reds. ‘The Ironstone Pressings’ GSM 2008 (18.5+/20) has raspberry, black fruit and earth aromas and flavours, possessing succulence and rich fruit with building tannin grip and an underlying power. A complete wine that fills the palate. ‘The Coppermine Road’ CS 2008 (18.0+/20) is impenetrably coloured with classical ripe blackcurrant, mulberry and cassis aromas and flavours, very varietal, and with the linear drive that only Cabernet Sauvignon has. Fine-grained tannins allow the sweetness feature. And ‘The Dead Arm’ Shiraz 2008 (19.0-/20), served ‘en magnum’, rich and layered with mineral, graphite, pepper and spices, very fine-textured, unfolding waves of flavour in a seamless fashion, thus retaining elegance.

The main course was Porcini venison fillet, puy lentils, smoked aubergine puree, vichey carrots, watercress, olive and mushroom tapenade, oxtail jus. All manner of savoury, sous-bois and mushroomy flavours as well as game, with a range of textures, to match the secondary flavours of the wines served with this course. The wines were from the cool 2002 vintage, initially thought to be less than ideally ripe by the Australians, but loved by New Zealanders who preferred the elegance and detail. The wines are now regarded highly by all! ‘The Derelict Vineyard’ Grenache 2002 (19.0-/20) incredibly integrated raspberry fruit with secondary earth and game notes, still very juicy and bright, the fine, powdery tannins in excellent support. ‘The Coppermine Road’ CS 2002 (18.5+/20), developing the classical cigar-box and cedar complexities with game and meat, but infused with herbs, a sign of the varietal expression still underpinning all. This has great intensity and proportion. Then ‘The Dead Arm’ Shiraz 2002 (18.5+/20), very elegant and harmoniously woven together, with spices, cedar and minerals, herbs and game all unfolding. This seemed a little reserved, but the length was extraordinary.

The Cheese was Gorgonzola Dolce, Parmigiano reggiano and manuka honey comb. The blue strength was mollified by the sweetness of the honey comb. Four wines were served. Firstly, ‘The Coppermine Road’ CS 2000 (18.0-/20), garnet coloured and now with fine mint, tobacco and cedar infusion, the acidity noticeable, and quite sleek in mouthfeel. Then ‘The Ironstone Pressings’ GSM 1997 (19.0/20), mahogany hued garnet, with complex smoke and earth with game and cedar. Quite tertiary, but dark raspberry fruit notes and plushness on the palate showing its quality. Not so well was ‘The Ironstone Pressings’ GSM 1997 (16.0/20), cork taint adding a grubby bitterness to what is a powerful, robust and full-bodied wine, now exhibiting undergrowth, game and savoury earthiness. This lesser wine was redeemed by ‘The Dead Arm’ Shiraz 1997 (18.5/20), lifted and elegant on bouquet with cedar, game meat and minerally overtones, and a luscious, and silky-smooth palate that has ethereal flavours unfolding in waves.

Final food course was Dessert, being Lemon grass and green tea crème brulee, kaffir lime and coconut sable, lychee snow, mango sphere. The heart of the dessert, the brulee, had the richness and caramel overtones to work with all three dessert wines, the other components on the dish adding highlights. ‘The Noble Wrinkled’ Riesling 2010 (18.5+/20), light golden in colour with decadent citrus, marmalade and honey, lifted on nose, and beautifully cut with racy acidity underlining the soft, enveloping palate. An wonderful pairing with ‘The Noble Mudpie’ Viognier/Roussanne 2010 (19.0/20), golden coloured, full, soft and broad, with greater weight, Honey and caramel, ultra-rich, but again, with fine acidity in the background. The final wine to end the marathon event was ‘The Nostalgia’ Rare Old Tawny NV, (19.0-/20), made from Grenache, Shiraz, PX and Mourvedre, spending 20 years in solera, thus quite tawny. Powerful and penetrating aromas of fresh figs, dried fruits, nuts and complexing rancio, and very fine spirit cutting the richness and sugar. In the final analysis, lusciously elegant with complex detail.

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