Wines of the week
Savaterre 2004: A beautiful vintage
The 2004 Beechworth vintage is very strong, and the first in some
years that you would call typical. The 2005 vintage that follows it also looks
very good, the whites powerful and the reds the direct beneficiaries of an
exceptionally long, warm, dry autumn that gave growers open-slather on exactly
when they wanted to pick.
From barrel and bottle tastings 2004 looks to have been outstanding from all the Beechworth big guns (Battely, Giaconda, Castagna), and as the reviews below show, Savaterre has well and truly come out trumps. Interestingly, from 2005 Savaterre will keep a percentage of its chardonnay out of wood and in stainless steel, promoting the mineral-laden, rocky feel of its landscape in the wine all the more. 2006 will also likely see the first plantings of both shiraz (but not viognier) and sagrantino vines on the Savaterre property - an exciting prospect if ever there was one. The Savaterre star continues to rise.
Savaterre Beechworth Chardonnay 2004
The best vintages are the ones that grow slowly in barrel, and that's what this wine has done. I was always confident that Savaterre's 2004 pinot would be outstanding, but for a while this vintage of the chardonnay – and I probably tasted it three times out of barrel – looked better than the 2003 but not by a great margin. Now that it's ship-shape and ready to go, the story is different. There's a special something here. It's not just about the fruit power. It's the crisp clean white flowers, the scent of hazelnuts, the puff of nectarines and pears. It's a very restrained wine. A very beautiful wine. And it finishes with lovely, elegant, sure length. This is as good as the 2002 chardonnay release, and possibly a whisper better. Drink: 2007-2013. 96 points.
Savaterre Les Enfants Pinot Noir 2004
Savaterre has a history of holding its vines back until they're ready – the vines that made this wine were five years old in 2004 and yet still their grapes hadn't yet made it under Savaterre – and this year they almost didn't either. The pinot in 2004 looked so good though that Keppell Smith decided he'd make a “pizza wine” off the young vine material, and for a while he just planned to sell it off as a restaurant-only label in exchange for some top tucker. Problem was, the wine kept looking better and better in barrel. He'd used 100% stalks in the ferment but you'd never suspect it, and with time it built delicious perfumes of red roses and plums and wood-smoke, the palate following precisely on. It's got lots of smoky, sappy, stalky tannin and a huge amount of interest, and while Keppell made it to drink young, I suspect that it's going to age a whole lot longer than he thinks. Drink: 2006-2011. 91 points.
Savaterre Beechworth Pinot Noir 2004
You have to have a bit of faith here. It's a majestic wine of statuesque proportions, though I guess if you're going to say that about a pinot noir then you have to quickly add that it's nothing like a dry red: this is definitely a pinot noir. It's dark and brooding and intense, with thick black cherry churning and pulling deep into the back palate, the daring, dry, lengthy tannins drawing edgy undergowth-like characters along for the ride. This is a seriously structured, powerful pinot noir, made to brood long before it boasts. Sit it in the glass and watch, given time, the dance of fragrance slowly emerge – it's time will come. From the first time I tasted it in barrel its structure has been superb. It still is. Drink: 2009-2015. 94 points.
Torbreck Descendant Barossa Valley Shiraz 2004 ($125):
The idea of the 'Descendant' is that everything about it descends from Torbreck's ultra wine, the RunRig Shiraz. The Descendant vineyard was even planted from cuttings off the Run Rig vineyard. Run Rig Shiraz is actually a shiraz-viognier blend, and this Descendant shiraz is fermented on the skins of the viognier used in Run Rig (two things to note: this means that the Descendant sees viognier skins only, and not viognier juice; the viognier skins though often provide more aroma and power than viognier juice, hence it can tend to a more obviously "viognier affected" red wine). The Descendant is also matured in barrels passed down from RunRig.
It's made off relatively young vines but this has to be the real breakthrough vintage for this label – the mammoth, concentrated, overwhelming power of this wine says anything but immaturity. It's a monster. But an exceptionally pure monster. Full of warm, floral, plummy, porty fruit with a nutty aftertaste and a carve of finely tailored tannins. It makes you sit straighter in your chair. It is blatantly over the top, but it is as fine and dense as such a style can be. Drink: 2012-2028. 95 points.