Twenty-four days ago, on February 1st, 2015 I attended the Langton’s Classification VI at the Vintage Conservatory in Toronto. For those of you who are new to Australian rules wine classifications, Langton’s is the continent’s premier wine auction house and the LC is their prestigious list of iconic wines classified as excellent, outstanding and exceptional.
The criteria of determination are based on demand of attraction and a ten-year realized price index. The class is commonly referred to as the ‘hour role’ for Aussie wine. The intimate Toronto seminar was moderated by Mark Davidson, one of the hardest working Australian wine advocates on the planet. Winemaker Sue Hodder of Wynns Coonawarra Wine Estate sat in. That same week David Lawrason, Sara d’Amato and I filmed a segment with Sue at Barque Smokehouse in Toronto over a glass of her Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. You can watch that segment here.
Sue Hodder’s Black Label Cabernet was the outlier in the Langton’s line-up but only in price. Few varietal examples worldwide can match it for quality, authenticity and age-ability. The wine sat in as understudy (again, only in price) for the absent Coldstream Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2012.
The seminar offered a welcoming respite from my monthly treadle of reviewing. The Langton’s wines collectively commit to the idea that wine is a blueprint with entrepreneurial elements, an elixir akin to the maker’s inventive secret machines. It is always refreshing to taste wines that are not exaggerated or sentimental. These Aussies are representative of all this and more.
Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fulness out of pleasure. Here are twelve wines to drive that point.
From vines originally planted in 1847, here is Riesling worthy of the longest run on sentence. Riesling of conventional wisdom from a cold, windy, chilly place, pricked with holes, atomized infiltrations, queued with basic intent, wise, driven, young, gaseous, of concentrated rage, bone dry and no, it does not feign sweetness, even if the texture makes nefarious attempts at confusing the palate. A decade on this will blow your mind, if you let it. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted February 2016 @ @
From vines originally planted in 1946 by Morris O’Shea on sandy grey loam. I tasted this five months ago and just this short interval in bottle has propagated a textural leesy funk exhibiting like ebullient streaks in the steely, cool disposition and out of the combing citrus. In effect this eight and half year old ripper has just recently acquired more flesh to rock up with its ever adding layers of pierce. The jam remains in check so the citrus flows with the lees lingering in bottle. Textbook is the operative word under the broiler. The challenge has begun to relent and still, weary, uninformed buyers and collectors are not buying in. They do not know what they are missing. So demonstrative, so inescapably Hunter Valley Sémillon. Drink 2017-2032. Tasted February 2016 @ @ @
Young is the operative understatement, whilst toast and butter in peak pomade are equally opposed yet lifted by the blossoms of white flowers. What erudite reduction brings and how it stops time. The best barrel selections from powerful Block 20 fruit cause the commotion in a zero shame Chardonnay, philosophically captured though perhaps one step back from unabashed. Ripeness was clearly not an issue. Freshness balances all else. At present the youth is seemingly everlasting. The effects of a moderate climate and corresponding alcohol, in at 13.5 per cent, are edifying to the western tongue. The length is exceptional. In this opinion, classification easily and unquestionably upheld. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted February 2016 @ @
Wynns holdings of more than 10 per cent of all Cabernet Sauvignon planted in Coonawarra is expressly manifested in the Black Label bottling. It is the spokesperson for the Terra Rossa soil and the cool climate style. The natural freedom and cure is special in this vintage, initially notified by a ferric repute which is neither heavy nor laden. The 2013 is a Cabernet seemingly fast forwarded to what it will become, already there in the now, yet not advanced or evolved in any way. Black cherry sure but also a savoury beat from continental climate trees, their fruit and the dry wind that blows through. The age ability is undeniable. Twelve plus years will change next to nothing, visual, audible, olfactory or gustatory. It already has wise character. There aren’t many places in the world for your mind to travel and find such ethereal Cabernet. Coonawarra is definitely near the top of the list. Drink 2016-2028. Tasted February 2016 @
From the Canberra District in New South Wales, this Shiraz exemplifies a good Shiraz soldier’s illustration of progression d’effet. Every note carries the wine forward and it holds the taster’s interest. Simultaneously meaty and floral, the “meadow of the church” is a restrained, co-fermented blissful drop. Granite grips, loam expands and brittle clay deepens the expression. Saline, savoury, salivating Shiraz. Whole bunch balm and Viognier spur. There is youth, rebellion, revolution and caution thrown to the wind. Nothing old school in here really. This is the future. Don’t imagine this to go into a deep distance but will show with remarkable conceptualization for a minimum four to seven years. Drink 2016-2023. Tasted February 2016 @ @
Somehow you just get the feeling the Graveyard Vineyard compresses and elucidates vast amounts of soil information into this formidable account of Shiraz. It does not get much dustier or arid in lovingly excoriated varietal Australia. The inflammation is followed up by a ferric punch. This may very well be the new bent and intent in New South Wales from the depths of iron soil Syrah. The profile freewheels with a punchy aesthetic and a fervent behavioural nature. Very plum pudding and mince meat pie. The soil in here is pushy, weighted, distilled, wreaking textural havoc. Enough fruit will wait out the mineral though the latter will always be the defining signature. A highly demanding drop in need of two years (at the very least) to open the cemetery gates. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted February 2016 @ @
A whole other animal ingratiates itself amongst a field of diverse Australian red wine champions and even with seven years age is still so very primary. Smoked meat sweats while the sentiment is challenging and if it were ever overripe it was simply not. There is almost no sweetness or confiture, though there is plenty of red citrus and essential flower oil perfume. This is exceptional Barossa Shiraz, old school and pertinent. A wine remembered by its own, singular accord and one that is refreshing to taste because it is not puerile or straining to be noticed. Drink 2016-2023. Tasted February 2016 @
It’s hard to be sure which came first, the drawn Northern Rhône comparisons or the self-proclaimed Côte Rôtie look in the mirror but regardless, the reflection is there. This is consistently flirtatious, sultry Shiraz, warm and full of fruit jacked upon its own fruit. Do not dismiss the intent. With tongue lashing, high alcohol and mind-numbing anaesthesia cooperated in support by a tag-team workout of acidity and tannin you might think this is just a massive wine that can only be considered today. No such basic cop out luck. The amount of fruit will carry this through a decade and a half of virtually unchanged animation. Spend big and wait. That has to be the plan with the Run Rig. Drink 2020-2030. Tasted February 2016 @ @
The flagship red from winemaker Bruce Gregory makes use of the ripest parcels from the estate’s oldest vines. The significance for cool-climate Coonawarra lies in that phenolically-realized fruit. When you taste this amongst a class of varietal wines, such a procreated Australian blend can’t help but seem to play the part of outlier. A very pretty all in red, The Malleea (green paddock) is full of same hued fruit, plenty of florality and copious spice cutting a course across the coarse palate. Texture is less a drift than a tattoo. Raging acidity elevates the tones. This shines with the most volatility on the table but without shame, nor does it dishonour the righteous, ripping fruit. Cooler stables means more currants and savour. It comes with the territory. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted February 2016 @ @
The coastal Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon with support from Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is a minced savoury, mulberry dusty and naturally mined fossil fuel kind of red, with less up front fruit and more deep cure. Aroma to texture imagines purple flowers floating in a slick of oil. In this wine we can forgive alot of stasis because the textural rewards are so very high. Quite a load of dark cherry, red citrus and black olive on the middle palate. Very tannic. Their is some disproportion though five plus years will bring the pole into the middle. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted February 2016 @ @
A flagship wine from a simple plan and a beautiful mind. Only the best fruit from across the Coonawarra and made only in vintages of quality and esteem. The John Riddoch is like an exaggeration of the Black label, of attributes all repeated but concentrated, layered and natural to supplementary, afterburner degrees. Terra Rossa to the tenth, tannins multiplied, fruit in reduction and excavations carving down to the oft envisaged ancient coastline. A deeper, increased blending result, of variegation from soil and integration of pickings. Those tannins are so established and in control. Sue Hodder’s John Riddoch 2010 carries meaning dispersed parthegonetically throughout the wine. If the idea is to imagine the Riddoch as a pasturalist and a parliamentarian then both homage and altruism are attained. The temperament and ambassadorship fit the bill so yes, honour is upheld. Fifteen years before much change (in my opinion) lay ahead. Drink 2018-2034. Tasted February 2016 @
Completely different here. Intensity not exhibited by others in the Langton’s Classification or perhaps even immediately capable of. Gives more for more right upfront. Candied flowers, sour savour, some soil funk. An example of Eden Valley warmth and purposed direction. A Cabernet Sauvignon zealot, member of the brigade, willing to act on rich, ripe fruit and go the pleasure fight distance. This strikes me as an example of South Australian Cabernet that would not show best in its first five years post vintage but will steal spotlights everywhere for the next five. Its type of mid-grain, poa Bermuda-like tannins have softened and won’t hold up for decades. This is a beautiful wine for the rest of these teens but in my opinion not necessarily to be carried and kept into the 20’s. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted February 2016 @ @
Good to go!
WineAlign: Michael Godel