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This evening, joea and myself found ourselves at the Roots’ place for a tasting of the wines of one of my favourite Australian producers: d’Arenberg. The four of us all have several bottlings in the cellar, and we thought it would be an interesting and fun idea to taste some of the range next to each other. Non of the wines were tasted blind.
As usual, we brought too much wine, too much cheese and too much atmosphere. With this disclaimer, here are my TNs:

We started the evening with two whites: Ronnie had already opened the 2003 The Broken Fishplate (Sauvignon Blanc) for use in a sauce. An pale wine if ever I saw one. Grassy nose, a bit smelly, typical SB in my book. The body displays sweet apples and mineral flavours with a hop bitterness. It is very, very fat as well, unlike any SB I’ve tasted. This also makes it rather unbalanced. The finish is nice, fresh but a bit bitter. 83 points.

Next up, the 2002 The Olive Grove (Chardonnay). Light golden yellow in colour, the nose nose was an almost cliché for a New World Chardonnay: rich, fat, buttery with a smokey touch. A big bodied wine with liquorice and load of herbs. Quite acidic and a bit bitter. The medium finish was grassy and again a bit bitter. 82 points.

We took a small break here, in order to taste some olive oils Joe was kind enough to bring: I’ll post notes on them in Dining & Cooking in a short while.
In the meantime, Ronnie had prepared the our first course: Scallops and langoustes with sepia spaghetti and a lobster broth / PX-vinegar sauce – insanely delicious! We paired it with the Chardonnay, and it was a resounding failure. It didn’t matter, the dish was SO good it didn’t need anything next to it.

Time to try some reds! The first one we tried was one we were all VERY eager to try (insert tongue-in-cheek graemlin here): the 2000 The Peppermint Paddock (Chambourcin). What do you mean, you never heard of the Noble Grape that is Chambourcin? Well, neither had I, but I received some “encouraging” information on this French direct producer in this thread.
According to the d’Arenberg website, this wine is available only on the Australian market…and I wished they’d kept it there: this wine should not have escaped that continent to haunt us here…
First impressions were favourable: it is extremely dark coloured and youthful looking. The nose starts of with a heavy dose of spearmint. This soon fades to reveal amazing degrees of funk, barnyard, baby diaper, manure and assorted related aromas – most impressive! The body is as far removed from a red wine as possible: the most favourable comment was made by Lady Roots, who commented that it reminded here of grapefruit juice gone bad. I only recall an acidity of epic proportions. The finish is long, and that is NOT a good thing. Why this was ever bottled and released will probably remain a mystery forever. NR.

So, time to try something serious: the 1997 The Ironstone Pressings (GSM-blend). The colour is revealing some age. Minty nose with spice, vanilla and barnyard, but sweet as well.
Thin bodied with vanilla, exotic spice and some eucalyptus on the midpalate. A bit medicinal. The tannins were a bit rough at first, but became smoother after we decanted it.
Long finish, rather dry and with a lingering, artificial sweetness to it. Not bad, but not very exciting either: 87 points.
Joe and I thought this wine might have suffered from heat damage: for sure it was nowhere near the quality of the 1995 (my TN here) or the ’98 I’ve also tasted. Disappointing.

1995 The Coppermine Road (Cabernet Sauvignon) – Ronnie and I tried this wine quite recently, so we were sure this would show better than the previous wine. I might have, had we decanted it and given it plenty of time: tonight, this was an utterly closed wine that refused to open up. NR.
There was some left and the Roots will post on the development of this wine.

2001 The High Trellis (Cabernet Sauvignon) – The nose started out very odd: custard with cranberry sauce?! With some time in the glass, it became more behave: blueberry, cherry, some oak.
A big but accessible wine: fresh and fruity, not overtly complex and lacking a bit on the midpalate.
Medium finish, sweet. Nice wine, but not to get very excited about either: 86 points.

I tried both the Ironstone Pressings as the Coppermine Road with our main course: leg of wild boar with assorted mushrooms, baby potatoes and a Sandeman ’66 Vintage Port sauce (don’t ask – too painful). A great meal, with which the Coppermine Road paired nicely.

We discussed the wine we had tasted after dinner: stylistic, they are quite similar. We were (and are) rather puzzled why we did not enjoy them more: did tasting too many of them make them boring? Weren’t we in the mood for d’Arenberg? Did we get unlucky and had some unrepresentative bottles? Whatever the reason, we decided to skip the ’99 Dead Arm and ’98 Vintage Fortified Shiraz, and opened a Casella 2000 Carraman Estate Botrytis Semilloin instead – and a good thing we did! What a lovely wine. Orange golden in the glass, this had a great nose of honeyed apricot, green tea and straw. Sure, it is sweet and thick, but has an acidity that makes this wine dance on the tongue with pineapple and papaya flavours. Medium finish, honey and again pineapple: 91 points.
(We knew beforehand this would be a great wine: the label boasted no less than 9 medals: 1 top gold, 3 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze and 1 mysteriously called “blue gold”)

To wrap up the evening: an Andresen 1982 Colheita (bottled 2000) – Orange brown, with a sweet, alcoholic nose that shows brown sugar and coffee aromas. Quite hot, but with a velvet-like body. Not very complex. Medium finish, again a bit hot, raisiny and nutty. Decent enough, but just a bit too hot: 83 points.

All in all, some disappointing wines, but did that make the evening any less enjoyable? Noooo, of course not: can’t wait for the next time we’ll meet!
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I was quite happy with the way the food turned out myself as well.

I also expected more of the wines. Usually I am really fond of the d'Arenberg wines, and I've tasted quite a few in the past. I don't know what went wrong here: too many wines in the same style? Bad bottles? Bad vibes? Who knows.

LadyR and I finished the remains of the 1997 Ironstone Pressings today. It was still disappointing. Kind of flat and thin. The taste was now really dominated by licorice, with addition of a candy-like sweetness. I must agree with Stevie and joea that this is probably a bad bottle; I've tasted another vintage before (1995?) and recall that it was much better.

At the moment I'm sipping the 1995 Coppermine Road. It has opened up somewhat in comparison to yesterday. It's rounder and more pronounced, but it still doesn't "jump out off the glass" like it did the last time I tasted it. I'm sure it has plenty potential though. For one or another reason it just doesn't show that well this time.

Short impressions on the other wines: I wasn't too keen on both whites. I don't think the Sauvignon Bl. did the varietal justice: too fat and not properly balanced. The Chardonnay was, though rather subtle, a typical example of a new world chard. Not really convincing.

The Peppermint Paddock: I'm sure they added laughing gas in this wine. That's the only explanation I have for the continuous snorts around the table everytime someone tried to sniff the "aroma".

The High Trellis: A nice drinker. Straightforward, fruity and pretty one-dimensional. Doesn't do any harm (except for the odd nose at the start), but doesn't really rock either.

Casella Caraman botrytis semillon: This was a nice surprise! Lovely smell of botrytis and lucious tropical fruits. Very sweet flavoured at first, but soon the acidity kicks in and it becomes beautifully balanced.

Andresen 1982 Colheita port: Decent, but a tad flat. Perhaps it has been in the bottle too long (it's a 2000 bottling) and lost some of its freshness, but the way it showed yesterday, I'm pretty sure I won't buy an Andresen colheita again. Not that there are any obstructive flavours, more a general lack of flavours.

Let's say it was an "interesting" tasting, to say the least! But nevertheless I had a great evening with fine people, good food and a great assortment of peccorino cheeses! Big Grin
Some brief impressions on the wines:

2003 The Broken Fishplate (Sauvignon Blanc): Decent wine but too fat for my personal tastes in what I look for in SB (although this was to be expected with this producer and area).

2002 The Olive Grove (Chardonnay): A bit too bitter and grassy on the finish, otherwise decent on the palate, but not inspiring.

2000 The Peppermint Paddock (Chambourcin): I really tried to have an open mind before we tried this wine. But it was really terrible! While we agreed there were no faults (except for possibly actually deciding to bottle and sell this wine to the public!), it was one of the worst wines I've ever had. A sip is about all one can handle, if you can even make it that far.

1997 The Ironstone Pressings (GSM-blend): I had high expectations for this wine. Flat and thin and too sweet on the finish (like cherry cough syrup). Maybe cooked a bit.

1995 The Coppermine Road (Cabernet Sauvignon): Closed and did not budge all evening. Even so, it was the best of the night and not overly sweet like the rest of the reds.

2001 The High Trellis (Cabernet Sauvignon): Agree with the notes from others; not complex and a bit too sweet on the finish.

2002 Quinta Das Verdelhas (Tinta Roriz): Didn't take notes but this was a refreshing change from the overly sweet d'Arenberg wines.

2000 Carramar Estate Botrytis Semillion: At this point I was really looking forward to a change in style and something to refresh my palate. This did the trick! Tropical fruits and nicely balanced. Nice with a fig/nut roll!

Andresen 1982 Colheita (bottled 2000): A nice Colheitha - liquor like with brown sugar, nuts, spices. A bit hot finish though.

The food Ronnie prepared was outstanding! Good since many of the wines disappointed.

Interesting that we held a "d'Arenberg" tasting and most of us probably agree one of the non-d'Arenberg wines was the WOTN.

In the end I don't think any of the d'Arenberg wines showed well; or maybe my preferences are changing.

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