Got off to a racing start tonight with the return of our favourite customers. This time it was a table of four, with Danny's mummy and daddy as the extra pair. Mr B was torn between the magnum of Grant Burge's Mesach Shiraz or the recently arrives Armagh 89 and Hill of Grace 87. I thought that I knew which way he would lean, and I started off suggesting the Armagh and then see which way the wind blows.
In the end it was the Hill of Grace that got started first due to its slightly more delicate nature when I opened it. To look at it you would have guessed it was a pinot, it was very thin and light, a pale brick dust colour with a very fine suspension. On the nose it was quite restrained with very soft red fruit flavours. I was almost ready to dismiss this, but then in the space of five minutes it blossomed. This still wasnt recognisable as H.o.G., at least not in any sense that Ive ever experienced it, but as time passed it seemed to grow in stature. I went from not being sure about it, to being a bit disappointed, to being pleasantly surprised to loving it. Dont get me wrong, but the 96 we had a Paco's leaving do was utterly sensational, but this was very different, more subtle, more restrained, yet much more elegant, less of a nasal bully, more sensual on the palate.
The Jim Barry Armagh 89 however was a fairly typical Aussie shiraz, brassy fruit upfront, menthol/eucalypt tones and a lingering cassis finish, but even this had a slightly softer edge about it. The last vintage of Armagh I had was an 96 and it was a big beasty of a wine, massively dense black fruit flavours with a full menthol hit, like freebasing a packet of tunes, and a hugely alcoholic undercurrent which swept all the flavours together and flushed them straight into your bloodstream. By the time Id had half a bottle I felt like Id just down a round with Bruno - punchdrunk and all furry in my mouth. The 89 however didnt have that massive alcohol, the abv sits at 13.5%, by Aussie terms thats low alcohol these days. Many wines now sit at the top end of 14 and 15%, a few even breeze into the fortified wine bracket sitting on a whopping 16% alcohol. The 87 Hill of Grace is a measly 13%. Ill have to dig out the bottles of older H.o.G. I kept at home to see what they sit at but Id bet good money it way higher than that.
Mr B loved them, and they even got the thumbs up from Mrs B, its not often she raves about the wines as much as she did tonight. Im glad they liked them, and I hope that the next (and last) two live up to the rep that these two set up tonight.