Is it meant to taste like that?

‘Is it meant to taste like that?’

I was a bit drunk at a wine tasting the other day, actually I could start everything I write with those words, I spend my life a bit drunk at wine tastings. Anyway I was at a wine tasting and I tried a red from Australia that just tasted peculiar, not unpleasant, just a bit wild, not like a polished New World wine at all. This tasted like it was made by a stubborn old farmer who made wines that he liked and didn’t give a toss what anyone thought. Just the sort of thing one might find in the South of France but not in modern, thrusting, commercial Australia.

The producer is Ben Baker and his winery called Wimmera Hills. Apparently the name is a bit of a misnomer because this part of Victoria is as flat as a pancake (please write in if i’ve got this terribly wrong.) For reasons I can’t quite fathom he sent 120 bottles as samples to Fingal Rock wine merchants in South Wales. They’re not for sale but if you write to the owner Tom Innes you might be able to barter some corn or services to get hold of a few bottles. Here are the wines:

Red Cat Sparkling Shiraz 09 – it’s not often that the most conventional wine in line-up is a sparkling red. This is a lovely example of the type, mellow, just a hint of tannin, and a nice sparkle to it.

Nude Shiraz rosé 10 – now this one is pretty odd. It’s an aged rose, not only is it aged but it’s oxidised – deliberately I think. This gives it a tang on the nose of oranges and a little vinegar. Then in the mouth it’s nutty and a little tannic. The nearest comparison would be the wildly idiosyncratic roses from Lopez de Heredia in Rioja or Chateau Musar. It’s pretty bloody odd but it’s not the wackiest wine from this producer.

Dedication Shiraz 08 – now this is the one that made me say ‘is it mean to taste like that?’ It tastes like an old Maury or Banyuls from the South of France but dry. It’s nutty, a little baked with distinct porty quality. The alcohol level is getting on for port as well. I bet this would be good with some pungent hard cheese.

These wines won’t be for everyone but I’m glad there’s someone in Australia sticking two fingers up to conventional wisdom and making wines like this because that’s how he likes them.

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