Sunday, November 26, 2006

Charles Melton Barossa Valley Shiraz 1998

There aren't many wines that I will wholeheartedly endorse, but Im always willing to stick my balls on the line for Charlies wines. I think that he is one of the best winemakers in Barossa and for sure in Australia. And he's got some serious competition, especially in Barossa. But I've been following his wines for nearly seven years now and I've seen them get better and better each year. And they were bloody good to start with (to lapse into the aussie vernacular).

I was fortunate enough to meet him once, back when I was at Amaryllis. Our head sommelier had ordered a few cases of his Barossa Shiraz which turned up a couple of weeks after Davy had left. So I got in touch with Kenny at Villeneuve (who had sent the wines) to ask where the stock had come from. Kenny filled me in, and then offered to bring Charlie in to talk me through his wines. They came in for lunch and we talked a bit over lunch. I remember Charlie talked about being in France while he was learning his trade, and how he fell in love with the wines of Gruaud-Larose. I had just got a small parcel of 1970 Gruaud that I had picked up off a broking list. The wine has a brilliant brick red, clear, vibrant in colour. The nose had classic mature claret aromas - red fruits, blackberries and currants with the smells of a well seasoned humidor full of prime cuban cigars. It was absolutely fantastic - I can still remember it now after all these years.

After lunch we sat in the lounge and he talked me through his wines, how he makes them, why he makes them and a whole load of other stuff. We even managed to taste a few of the wines, including the Rose of Virginia and the Nine Popes as well as the Barossa Cabernet. I was amazed at the intensity of flavours, the rich character of the fruit, mingled with the typical Barossa character - eucalyptus and menthol flavours that Im guessing come from neighbouring Eucalyptus trees. I ended up added the Cabernet, the rose and Nine Popes to the list as well, so it wasnt a wasted journey. Ive since amassed a small personal stash of Charlies wines, and Ive managed to build a ten year vertical of the Barossa Shiraz from 1990 to 2000.

The 1998 comes from a small parcel of mature stock that I managed to score from Liberty a short while ago when they must have been having a bin end clearance. I managed to snap the case up, and Im very glad that I got it. The colour is a deep purple with a slightly redder tinge to the rim. On the nose that unmistakeable aromas of deep jammy black fruits mixed with menthol, a touch of tar and nice cedary notes dominate the wine. This is a wine that just loves to be decanted. The aromas build up with the extra aeration and just explode out of the glass for you. Over time it settles down slightly and the damson notes become more dominant, although the minty aromas still linger in the background.

On the palate this is still really packed with fruit, again black jammy fruits with a touch of licorice, anise and black peppercorns are more obvious. The length is quite long and it finishes with a cassis like fruity leafy flavour fading away.

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