The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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{ selection } WHEN ALISTER PURBRICK CAME TO LOS ANGELES, I just had to meet this fourth-generation winemaker for Tahbilk, one of Australia's oldest wineries. It was his first trip to L.A., and the weather was perfect while we dined with a group of wine buyers and executives from distributor Epic Wines at Santa Monica's 41 Ocean Restaurant. All of the wines are 100% estate-grown and -bottled, and produced with labor intensive techniques from vineyard to cellar. The Tahbilk estate is situated in a sub-region within Victoria's Goulburn Valley called Nagambie Lakes, the only Australian wine region (and one of only six worldwide) where the meso-climate is influenced dramatically by inland water mass. Lakes, swamps and lagoons create an effect that results in a cooler climate than one would expect in South-Eastern Australia. The distinctive red sandy loam soil contains a high ferric oxide content, which can be picked up in the wine's character. Rhône whites and red are a big part of the estate's plantings; its Marsanne grapes are some of the oldest plantings and Tahbilk owns the largest single hold - ing of this variety in the world (100 acres, first planted in the late 1860s). The source: "White Hermitage" cuttings from the St. Huberts Vineyard in Victoria's Yarra Valley. Today, the estate continues to produce Marsanne from vines estab- lished in 1927. We tasted through four vintages of Tahbilk Marsanne: 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2011. The 2004 was in its prime, with honeysuckle and a seductive, musky animale quality that was supported by fresh acidity, honeyed apricot and a lean minerality. When it comes to Shiraz, Tahbilk has a genuine style of its own. In 1860, original rootstock of this variety was planted and some of those original plantings still remain (producing the brand's iconic "1860 Vines" Shiraz). Tahbilk 1996 "1860 Vines" Shiraz, at 13% alco - hol, combines savory notes of earth and black tea with a tawny Port–like sweetness, with added plums and strawberries. The current vintage, 2007, has the black - est fruit, peppered with soy and basil. The spicy, earthy and iron-bloody meaty notes are the common thread through all of Tahbilk's Shiraz expressions, including the highly acclaimed "Eric Stevens Purbrick" Shiraz (2007 is current vintage), with its espresso notes adding another layer to its dark, structured body. Fermentation takes place in 100-year-old-plus open oak vats followed by maturation in French oak before bottling and further cellaring before release. "This is a far lighter style than Hermitage," says Alister Purbrick, who points out the trio of spice, savory and dark berry fruit that he calls the 'epitome of what Shiraz should be.'" Purbrick's daughter Hayley has joined the ranks and since 2009 is the winery's fifth-generation family member, leading a storied label into making new history. Old Shiraz vines on the Tahbilk estate. Tahbilk Tableau THIS IMPORTANT ESTATE IN SOUTH-EASTERN AUSTRALIA, A PART OF THE COUNTRY'S HISTORY, NOW LEADS ITS FUTURE by Meridith May Alister Purbrick, winemaker for Tahbilk, an Australian estate that dates back more than 150 years. PHOTO COURTESY OF TAHBILK PHOTO COURTESY OF TAHBILK

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