Sparky & Sarah Marquis Shiraz Blind Tasting

Wines served (in order tasted) –

2002 Henry’s Drive Shiraz (0 1st place votes – 1 last place vote)
2002 Henry’s Drive Shiraz Reserve (3 1st place votes – 1 last place vote)
2002 Marquis Philips Shiraz 9 (0 1st place votes – 0 last place votes)
2002 Parson’s Flat Shiraz-Cabernet (2 1st place votes – 1 last place vote)
2002 Marquis Philips Shiraz ( 2 1st place votes – 1 last place vote)
2001 Shirvington Shiraz (0 1st place votes – 3 last place votes)

All wines were decanted 4-5 hours prior to being re-bottled and bagged for the tasting. All of the wines had fairly heavy sediment except for the Henry’s Drive. The wines were served in random order, and 7 tasters took notes and rated each wine on a scale of 1-10. The scores were averaged and ranked at the end, and we were pretty surprised at the results. Needless to say all of the wines were described unanimously as inky-dark purple, with pronounced legs, full-bodied, with low acidity and very alcoholic. Here are the notes, ordered from worst to first (average score in parentheses)

2001 Shirvington Shiraz (5.9) - Described as having aromas of oak, smoky charred wood, with black pepper, earth and smoked meat. A couple of tasters (myself included) also noted hints of plums and raisins on the nose. Spicy, smoky flavors with some black currant, cherry and jam under the soft tannins. Perhaps our palates were tiring out at this point, or perhaps the additional year of bottle age gave it a more “subtle” profile, but this wine just didn’t seem to excite anyone. Described as “a nice table wine”, with “the most consistent taste from start to finish”. Some of us had actually guessed this to be the regular Marquis Philips bottling.

2002 Henry's Drive Shiraz (6.4) - General agreement on the earthy and meaty aromas and flavors in this wine, with descriptions of leather, bacon, smoked meat, with nice notes of smoky oak. It reminded me of a nice Crozes-Hermitage. Nice complexity, once you get passed the dominant alcohol. Described as “likely an expensive wine that goes better with food”. Although I scored this a little low, this is probably the wine I’ll most likely purchase again (once I’m able to stomach the mere sight of shiraz again!).

2002 Parson's Flat Shiraz-Cabernet (6.5) - I couldn’t peg this as the cabernet-blend at the time, but looking at the tasting notes now, it seems obvious. Everyone noted the black currant, blackberry jam, and plum/tree fruit nose. The flavors were similar, berries and plums, with notes of anise and vanilla oak. One taster actually described the wine as “fishy”. Others thought it to be “good, though unremarkable”, and a “simple, likely cheap” table wine.

2002 Marquis Philips Shiraz (6.8) – Everyone thought this wine to be the “spiciest”. Aromas of black pepper, clove and cinnamon, with faint floral notes of violet and rose petal. Sweet berry and prune flavors when first sipping, but ending with a spicy finish. Described as “a cheap wine, pretty flat tasting”, but “becoming richer after some time in the glass”.

2002 Marquis Philips Shiraz 9 (6.9) - I thought this to be the cabernet-blend during the tasting. Aromas of black currant, blackberry jam and plums. The flavors weren’t as sweet as the nose would have indicated, however. More of a dried fruit/raisin profile, with notes of anise and obvious oak treatment. A taster remarked that they absolutely loved the nose, but were disappointed that the taste didn’t follow through. Another noted it was “simple, but very good… a table wine with a pulse”.

2002 Henry's Drive Shiraz Reserve (7.6) - Powerful and complex aromas showing blackberry, plum, violets, black pepper and vanilla. Complex flavors with a wonderful long finish. Blackberry and plum again, with black currant, and spicy, vanilla oak. “Now this is a fruit bomb”, I noted at the tasting. Another taster wrote down “rich, thick, expensive!”. My pick for WOTN.

Although there were some very different opinions on the four wines scoring in the middle, there did seem to be consensus on the superior quality of the Henry’s Drive Reserve, and our disappointment in the Shirvington. Granted, we should have used the 2002 vintage for comparative tasting, but there wasn’t a bottle available for this evening, so we used what we had. The one thing we all agreed on, and probably the most valuable information gleaned from this tasting, was that we didn’t taste enough of a difference in any of the wines to warrant a large difference in price. So from a QPR standpoint, the regular bottling of Marquis Philips Shiraz seems to be the winner, though I’d purchase the Henry’s Drive Reserve if it were on sale, and cellar it at least 7 or 8 years.
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