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Monday, 18 April 2016

A Rich Tapestry: St Hallet Blackwell and Old Block Vertical Tastings

To simplify the Barossa as a 'rich tapestry' pays little respect to the myriad of sub-regions that are increasingly identified as making the whole. Begins to provide a glimpse into the wines that for many define its very identity, but yet totally neglects the other resource, without which it would be faceless: it's people. 

But a rich tapestry it is, the French have one word for it. Terroir.

And so it was that, on a rainy June day, I found myself in the Barossa Valley as a guest of St Hallett wines, here to examine some of that tapestry, explore some of the individual elements that make up its signature wines, and to then undertake a vertical tasting of two of those Signature wines: The Old Block (20 year tasting) and Blackwell (10 year tasting).

Obst Vineyard, Moppa Hills, Barossa Valley
Obst Vineyard, Moppa
At 14 years old, it was commented that Obst was: "transitioning into definitive Shiraz vineyard”. A not unsubstantial 25 hectares, it is largely over ironstone and quartz. Moppa is considered to give structure, and supple grainy texture. 

Two barrel samples tasted that day revealed this further: vivid, florals, black; showing guts, a good line of ferrous powdery tannin. A second sample from top of rise, where the vines see more afternoon sun saw a wine richer, (opulence), with finer, more wood tannin; flesh.

Milhinch, Seppeltsfield
Considered the ‘backbone’ of Blackwell. At 320 metres, it is - for the Barossa - of good elevation. Limestone/calcrete gives wines that are inky black coloured. Indeed barrel samples tasted showed base wines of of concentration, gutsy dark fruit and firm, ripped tannin. 

Visiting vineyards, surveying the landscape, tasting barrel samples is all well and good. Yet without one significant asset, people, all of that wouldn’t exist. Meeting the growers for whom this is a passion, a livelihood - where an ill-timed frost can wipe out vintage for a whole year. Understand that and then look at the not-insignificant investment in frost fans in a different light. 

It is the coming together of all of these elements that makes the wines they are. Terroir indeed.

Blackwell 20 Year Vertical (all notes as written on the day)
Bracket 1: 1994-1998
1994: Taint, colour looking good, brickish tones; palate fairly stripped out. NR
1995: Good secondary development; light palate - deft, savoury elements, spongey tannin. 92
1996: Good structure, fruit still present - fine, powdery tannin - not totally dropped out. Spice(?) 91
1997: Looking more developed than 1996, (warmer year); Oxidisation aroma; dry, tired. NR
1998: Still possessing a strong core - depth, drying, chalky tannin still present. Still much to offer. 94

Bracket 2: 1999-2003
1999: Certainly more elegant, finesse (the emergence of the style); Still hanging on to some of its fruit - exemplary. 93
2000: Poss a little desiccation, primary fruit, oak (perhaps); retention of fruit on the for/mid palate - starting to fade a little on the back, good length. Possibly underscoring? 91/2
2001: Still possesses good structure - a little warmth coming through (warm year?) - lovely layered, texture; 92/3
2002: Good strong core - looking in good shape; red fruit, perhaps a little liquorice? Excellent length 93/4
2003: Fading, fruit not holding up, looking a little tired. Some good structure - again poss underscore? 90/1

Bracket 3: 2004 - 2008 - More consistency across this bracket.
2004: Impenetrable, strong, kirsch; Light, lithe - a little liquorice root. 94
2005: Boysenberry, cherry - lots of fruit still here - polished oak? Tight, fine-grained tannin. Closed. 92/3
2006: Black fruit perhaps, some ‘gummy’, grassy notes - again quite elegant; liquorice 93
2007: Fine, mocha-grain, powdery tannin. 90
2008: Structure here interesting - coarser, possibly more oak driven (or just not dropped out at this stage?). 92

Bracket 4: 2009 - 2013 Summary: Overall now looking for brightness of fruit, but power.
2009: Warmer, spicier, more linear - yet still possessing good length 91
2010: Black - the Spinal Tap edition, none more black; silken threads, finesse - liquorice, powdery/ chalky tannin 92
2011: Avoids the swampy notes that many ‘11s are inflicted with, lacks the fruit and presence; stylistically - of it’s pedigree. Lacks…90
2012: Raspberry, strawberry - brightness of fruit; Still primary, raw, liquorice, juicy - briar?; 92/3
2013:  Very vibrant, fresh, still possessing the primacy of youth (colour alone); Sawdust/oak, but of the brands style - silken, layered - long on the finish. 93

Old Block Vertical - Not Scored
Typically hitting its sweet spot at about 20 yrs of age, the original ‘Old Block’ is from a 1912 planting and on the Estate, there are a couple of other ‘Centurion’ blocks (per the Barossa Vine Charter) that fruit is drawn from.

1985: Leathery, old, chestnut skins, mahogany; still retains a freshness, some semblance of acid (far reaches of the palate!)
1989: A little of that balsamic, rancio/porty, note - touch figgy perhaps; still possesses good length, presence.

1991: A little dried straw (poss taint, suggestive), caramel edges; fine palate, finesse - a little sweet fruit still lingers.
1992: Much darker core (less developed than the ’91); fine - lacks a little? drive, perhaps some red fruit still lingering?
1994: Good grip still, fruit faded elegantly; good drive - one to savour, to linger
1995: Fading to cherry brick at the edges, still possessive of a solid core at its heart; strawberry/ macerated raspberry still present - grippy tannin.

2002: Fudgey, chocolate; rich, decadent in a way, elegant-finesse; good grip, structure
2006: Is there a bit of VA in there? Certainly lift - expressive; cherry compote, graphite, structure, drying and grippy; blackcurrant, 
2010: Fresh, up-front - yet amazing depth, old vine structural charm, for a 5yo it’s showing more savoury nuances than one would expect. 
2012: Toast, depth and grunt - slick  

Source: Winery Tasting

1 comment:

  1. Good work. Reminds me I haven't written this up either.