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I know its Keats again, but I am indebted to the late Robert Hughes for the reminder from “Things I didn’t know”. Necessity being the mother of invention, I needed a title to introduce this piece on Australian wine. Now I haven’t written anything remotely creative lately (apologies to my loyal, but miniscule, band of followers) as I have been building a website, the creation of which has been – in the words of another great Aussie, Alan Moorehead – akin to “straining s..t through a sock”. I am not a natural when it comes to web design and the stultifying ennui coupled with the wet and dreary climate finds me, like Keats, “in need of song and sunburnt mirth”.

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Its always a pleasure to drink big robust Aussie reds on a cold Autumn day and I may have killed two of them off a little early but hey, I needed cheering up. The Armagh Shiraz, Jim Barry, 2005, was intense on the nose, with cassis and blackberry fruit enveloped in rich, chocolate and liquorice with a lick of classy, new, French oak. I detected a touch of mintyness as well, but this was soon overpowered by a deep, toasty, overtone which followed through to the palate. Hugely concentrated with  intense, damson fruit, well integrated and surprisingly ripe tannins – despite all the new oak – and a finish that went on as long as the final hobbit hugging scene in Return of the King.

The Garlands Saros, 2003 was a complete counterpoint, and I should have tried it first as it was almost overpowered by the finish of the Armagh. Elegant in style with a nose of fresh, red berries and summer fruits together with a touch of earthy, green pepper, it was an absolute pleasure to drink. Lushly fruited – mainly Cabernet Franc with a judicious dash of Cabernet Sauvignon – with fine grained tannins and high quality, French oak adding to the warmly interesting and stylishly medium-bodied finish.

Henschke’s Hill of Grace is an absolute classic, and The 2004 was scrumptious. Personally I would rather kill wines off early than keep them until they are tired, but this could go on for another decade. Totally fabulous on the nose, a big, unashamed whiff of overripe, plums with traces of violets and herbal scrubland. Weighty, yet elegant, on the mid-palate with blackberry jam, spicy, white pepper and sage to the fore. Oak integration was very stylish and the combination of tightly grained French, with a little sweet American, rounded out and helped finish the wine beautifully. The alcohol level of 14% abv was almost imperceptible (unlike the Armagh) and the overall impression was one of concentration, intensity and class.

Some of you will notice that I began with a shot of one of Dave Powell’s wines, but the call of the website is too strong, and the family must be kept from the workhouse.

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