Taltarni Heathcote Shiraz 2004

88 points

Heathcote, Victoria, Australia. 14% screwcap

Surprisingly drinkable for a young, and big, wine. The French oak handling has a substantial effect I think, smoothness without lots of oak flavours. And the alcohol helps too, it’s a ripe wine and smooth, but the alcohol is not too obvious or obtrusive. There is a roasted even nut-like quality about this wine, like a low acid Cote Rotie. Good with food. Not cheap though, acceptable value.

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Chateau Beychevelle 1966

94 points

St.Julien, Bordeaux, France.

High shoulder (little ullage), and good colour for the 40 years of age, just an obvious mark of brown around the edges but otherwise good depth throughout. Aromas of age, but not oxidation and flabbiness, instead rather like polished old red chairs in the Reform Club (ie old leather but not sweaty or pungent in any sense) , old (neutral) wood, old books (but not musty), etc. And underneath that clear cabernet aromas, some greenness but not underripe – extraordinary that such obvious varietal character could last so long.

Michael Broadbent describes 1966 as a long distance runner (and one of his favourite vintages), and the Beychevelle as a wine that he always has enjoyed (he tasted it last in the 90s).

The palate has moderate weight, it’s now ultra smooth, the acid has dropped away, it’s frail but only as much as would be expected (at most) for a 40 year old table wine.

The lower levels of the bottle (we didn’t decant it for fear that it might not be up to it) were more robust – very very interesting. No crust at all.

All in all, rather glorious mid weight wine, classic claret. Perfect with food.

It would have been better ten years earlier, but not much, it’s holding very well. We matched it with Beychevelle 2003 but that was a match made in hell – not good for either wine (a lesson in that – don’t mix ridiculously young with very old, in the interests of both wines).

Okahu Chambourcin 2003

87 points

Northland, New Zealand. 14%

Chambourcin is a French hybrid, one of the more successful ones. It’s usually only used for blending, particularly useful to add colour.

In this case the colour is very good, dark and bright with purple hints. I expected a light red but this has plenty of stuffing, it’s comparable to an Otago Pinot Noir. Bright acids, clean cherry plum sort of wine with restrained oak.

I suspect the grape variety handles humidity well, hence its attraction to Northland wineries.