There are few words that bring joy to a winelover’s ears as much as “fine wine sale”. Below are some of the Kiwi and Aussie wines included in Irish chain O’Briens’ fine wine sale that I have tried and enjoyed this year. I will leave the discussion on what constitutes “fine wine” for another day!
Note: links now added as O’Briens have also taken the fine wine sale online.
Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (13.1%, €33.95 down to €26.95 at O’Briens)
The one Savvy to rule them all – Cloudy Bay brought Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to international attention and acclaim, for a while it sat alone at the top of the tree. Nowadays it has company – not least Greywacke, made by Cloudy Bay’s founding winemaker Kevin Judd, and Dog Point, also made by former CB winemakers.
But it’s in difficult vintages such as 2017 where the premium labels really earned their stripes; lots of grey rot was present in the grapes of bulk producers – a byproduct of being paid for quantity over quality – so the careful selection and sorting of upmarket producers like Cloudy Bay made a huge difference to the finished wine. This is so much smoother and less aggressive than everyday Marlborough Sauvignon that it’s almost like a different wine!
Man O’War Dreadnought Waiheke Island Syrah 2014 (14.6%, €35.45 down to €26.95 at O’Briens)
Man O’War’s nautically named Flagship range always go down a treat chez moi – and they are indeed a treat, especially the Valhalla Chardonnay. Here we have their Dreadnought Syrah, perhaps a little riper and fuller-bodied than the Syrahs of Hawke’s Bay, but still recognisably Kiwi. Black fruit and blueberries are framed by oak (though now integrating well) and tannins (present but ripe). A fantastic wine!
St Hallett Old Block Barossa Shiraz 2014 (13.7%, €60.00 down to €48.00 at O’Briens)
Whereas the Dreadnought above is unmistakably Kiwi, this is unmistakably Barossa. In fact the fruit is sourced from two sub-regions of the Barossa Zone, the Barossa Valley proper (62%) and the slightly cooler Eden Valley (38%) just to the east (note the ABV is a fairly moderate 13.7%.) And “Old Block”? That means OLD, with a minimum vine age for the 2014 of 80 years. The result is a fabulous, concentrated wine with vibrant red and black berry fruit and fine tannins.
d’Arenberg Dead Arm McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 (14.5%, €54.95 down to €43.95 at O’Briens)
Another iconic Aussie Shiraz, this time from McLaren Vale which is a short way south of Adelaide and a few clicks inland from the sea. Cheeky chappie Chester Osbourne is still the head winemaker of this family firm, but despite the loud shirts and outgoing personality he really knows his stuff (the 2002 Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon was my top red of 2017.) Intense red, purple and black fruit dominate the palate – this will be at its best in the years to come, but drinkable now, especially if decanted.
Also see my French picks in part 2