1999 “The Freedom” Shiraz, Langmeil vs. 1997 Hermitage “La Chapelle”, Paul Jaboulet Aîné – 88 PP vs. 93 PP

by Oliver Bauer on 19 April 2012 · 0 comments

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Fat, alcoholic and sweetish – those are often the attributes of common prejudices concerning Shiraz from Down Under and like all very general statements that’s pure nonsense. Of course there are also hefty, alcoholic, overripe and over concentrated wines there. But those you can find in almost every wine producing country of the world, too. This “by-catch” though has been a revelation for me. Before I purchased this bottle I didn’t know anything about this winery and this particular wine. Furthermore it was served in a blind tasting and so I was able to approach it without any prejudices or advance praise. The wine showed a youthful and pronounced garnet red color without any inky touch or signs of age at the rim. Very promising and with the first whiff our noses were uninhibited tackled by pure fruit aromas of black currant and black berries. Aha ! Fruit bomb or what ? No, far away from that because in this bouquet there was nothing artificial or jammy. It showed simply very precise, very defined flavors and with the help of a decent dash of wet mint the wine always kept an amazing coolth. And it became better. With further aeration the wines complexity and first of all its ethereal components increased and eucalyptus, orange zests and cedar wood gave you ideas of a very good, still young but powerful Rioja with this certain touch of masterful used American oak. But we still weren’t there yet. Every time you approached your nose again to the glass the wine added another layer to this amazing bouquet. Awesome and after a bit more than 2 hours we enjoyed a wonderful, typical Shiraz after the book. A yummy symphony of dark fruit, perfect integrated wood, “fresh flesh” (you know – the blood-thing … ;-) ) and a genius, cool spiciness of bay leaf, black pepper and eucalyptus. In the mouth the wine offered a perfect interaction of power, a superb structure of fine and absolutely intact tannins and an almost unreal, stunning acidity. Pure and ultra clean – amazing ! This “killer”acidity paired with the minty, ethereal character in the long aftertaste made me immediately think about other elegant and great Shiraz wines from Australia.“Nine Popes” from Charles Manson for example. This is exactly what makes for me the big difference between a simple, hefty and alcoholic fruit bomb and a sophisticated “long distance runner”. An acidity which is capable to tame and to balance such full-bodied wine pieces. Incredible how these guys managed to unit here power with elegance. I cannot wait to drink in a couple of years another bottle of this Shiraz masterpiece. What also impresses me is the vineyard where the grapes for this wine are harvested from. More precisely the year of planting. According to the producers website this jewel of viticulture has been planted in 1843 !! Vieilles Vignes indeed … ;-) !

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After this “Event” every wine would have had a tough act to follow. So something decent was in order. But concerning the big name and the aspiration this one did cut a questionably figure today. The bottle has been in a perfect shape and was purchased from a very reliable source. So this couldn’t have been the reason for the very developed and mature ruby red color and the orange to yellow rim. Also a soft turbidity and a lot of fine dusty depot indicated a much older wine. In the beginning the aromas were completely sealed and covered by moisty, volatile layers of old cellar and wood. It required more than 1 hour for the wine to get rid of those and to free more enjoyable scents of bread crust, bacon and warm, dark chocolate paired with a dash of cold coffee (Tiramisu). With fantasy and some good will one could have also spotted in the background traces of spicy notes like old leather, rosemary and cigar box. Some shy black berries and soured cherries tried to perform the fruity part but remained in the end rather pale. The upcoming, malty sweetness rounded the bouquet of the wine a bit although I associate this attribute normally with much older vintages. Also at the palate the wine showed an alarming bold mature character with ground tannins, medium to slender body and a soft metal/rust sensation in the medium aftertaste. Due to the lack of “flesh” this “La Chapelle” appeared a bit harsh without pressure or any kind of a “melting” smoothness. Drinkable but far away from the appearance and performance this wine should have. Only the stable acidity may encourage some people to believe in an improvement by further aging. So let’s blame the cork, shall we ? No, for me this wine obviously crossed already the peak towards declination and appeared much older in comparison to the also recently tasted ‘94 and ‘96 vintage. Nevertheless I would like to try this wine one more time – but out of a bigger bottle… ;-)

Conclusion :

I am an outspoken fan of mature and elegant reds and whites “old school” because for me there’s nothing comparable to the dignity and beauty a great wine shows at its peak. But I also refuse to sugarcoat or to appreciate one just because of its big name, a high price or a high rating. This tasting also showed once more the dubiousness and the “volatility” of rating wines and to express these results in points or other units. Any rating, no matter who did it, will always be just a snap-shot in time and therefor useless for anybody else but this particular person. So I will stick to the simplest system of them all. Open the bottle and pour the wine in a glass. When you like it and the need or wish of a second bottle becomes more than obvious it doesn’t matter anymore if the wine got 88 or 93 points. If not, even 100 points cannot bring you real pleasure anymore !

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