Oenophiles June 2016 – 1990: Australia versus France

1990 Australia versus France
1990 Australia versus France

I was lucky enough to attend a very special tasting thanks (once again) to John Jens and to the hospitality of Bob Winterbottom. The theme – 1990: Australia versus France – and amazingly all 12 wines were from Bob’s personal collection!

The tasting was divided into five flights – two groups of three and then three groups of two to finish. All flights had been designed to test the tasters and wines had been double decanted before the event. And whilst the wines were predominantly Cabernet there were a few curve balls to test the wisest of palates.

Finally, all bottles had cork enclosures – we had two faulty bottles (cork taint and oxidation) out of the twelve. Some Brettanomyces was evident in the French wines but did not detract from the overall quality of the wine.

Flight 1 included the Moss Wood (Margaret River), Mount Mary (Yarra Valley) and Chateau La Lagune (Haut Medoc). All great wines but the Moss Wood was the pick of the bunch for me – well integrated, fruit still present and displaying tertiary characteristics.

And so it continued… Flight 2 included the John Riddoch (Coonawarra), still fruit driven (blackcurrant) and more than a hint of eucalypt, as well as the Penfolds 707 – all vanilla and butterscotch thanks to the lashings of American Oak. Flight 3, the first of the two glass flights, was the curveball pitting an Australian Shiraz (Wynns Michael) against a French Grenache (Pignan, Chateauneuf-du-Pape). Both excellent with the Pignan showing lovely primary red fruit (cherry, raspberry) still but with all the benefits of ageing.

The last two flights included the Comtesse de Lalande (Paulliac), Penfolds Bin 920 (a Cabernet/Shiraz) and the Grand Vin Chateau Leoville Las Cases (Saint Julien). The more refined palates picked the shiraz in the Bin 920 but the pick of the flights (and perhaps the night) was the Chateau Leoville – subtle and restrained, beautifully integrated fruit, hint of pepper and mushroom. Just a fantastic wine!

Such an excellent night and great privilege to taste these vintage wines. And the winning country? 1990 of course!