2008 Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz
I opened this alongside the 2009 version, just to have another look to see if I had changed my mind about vintage preferences. I haven't, as this still looks the less defined (and delicious) wine of the pair. A personal preference though (and viva lavintage variation).
Firstly though, context - this red comes off Brian Croser's Whalebone Vineyard, located in Wrattonbully (not far from the Naracoorte caves). Planted in the mid 70s, the Whalebone Vineyard it is one of the oldest vineyards inthis oft-overlooked wine region, the soils sharing a similar red clay loam over limestone profile to that of Coonawarra to the south, yet Wrattonbully has a slightly cooler, drier climate (more inland).
Like Coonawarra, the Whalebone vineyard - and muchof Wrattonbully for that matter- is planted on a ancient coastline, with the limestone soils particularly maritime fossil-rich (with a whale bone found on the Tapanappa property giving the vineyard its name).
While I've always thought that theMerlot Cabernet Franc is this vineyards true calling (as the 08 shows) it's always intriguing to compare this more 'Australian' blend.
For one thing it doesn't lack colour - the deep, thick blood red hues noticeably darker than the much redder, lighter 2009. It smells more concentrated too, the extra warmth of the vintage heatwave delivering a less nuanced, more blocky and fruit-sweet style (compared to the 09) that is more lavish, all molasses, snickers bars and plum,finishing heavy and just a little warm with an overall impression of being just a bit forward.
What is interesting about this 08 is that, while I didn't like it as much as the 09, the friends I shared it with preferred it, with the extra sweetness anddecadence much more popular than the cooler, structural 09.
All of which means that this is still a very solid, well made wine, just that it doesn't quite live up to what I think is a more classic (and more interesting) in the 2009 TapanappaCabernet Shiraz
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? I'd take the 09.
2009 Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz
Classy stuff in quite classy packaging (contentious cork aside) too, the whole shebang suggesting quality wine.
What is interesting here (besides how different it is to the 2008) is largely how different this is to many Coonawarra reds, which is surely a good thing for a region that struggles due to its neighbour's reputation.
There is peppermint here for starters, which obviously isn't going to be to everyone's tastes, yet itsnot obvious or intrusive - just part of the furniture. It's a winey wine for that matter (rather than a 'fruit' wine) with cedar, and sexy oak and tannins with less berries and more secondary notes, everything capped off with dry, powerful tannins.
Asophisticated, mid-weight Cabernet this is elegant, long, slightly minty, powerful and ultimate rather clever - a little cool and reserved perhaps, yet still quite easy to like.
Nice wine. Nice Wrattonbully wine.
Would I buy it? A glass or too with a lamb rack should go ok.