Sometimes serendipity and wine tasting go well together. Serendipity refers to unexpected yet pleasant discoveries, and that is precisely what happened when I attended the most recent meeting of my local wine club.
The club has been meeting each month for the past 11 years. We know the club’s age because Penny, the daughter of one of the members, was born when we first met. And this month she turned 11.
This month’s theme was family-owned wines. Many wines around the world are produced by corporations, and sometimes those wines can feel mass produced.
Family-owned wines often have more character. Here are two of the best.
The Penley Estate sparkling pinot noir from the Coonawarra region of South Australia fills your mouth with strawberry and raspberry flavors. It is a vibrant dark cherry in the glass and the sparkles accentuate the hint of spice on the nose.
Winemaker Kym Tolley says he created the wine to enjoy now. It spent six months in old French oak, and the oak gives the wine a slight mouth-puckering finish. The wine sells in Australia for $24 and would go perfectly with Peking duck.
Penley Estate wines are available from Jointek Fine Wines, in Guangzhou. More details about Penley can be found at http://www.penley.com.au/
The lustiest wine of the night was the 2006 Stanton & Killeen durif ($28), which has won a series of gold medals. In Australia, durif is mostly grown in the Rutherglen area of northern Victoria.
Dr Francois Durif created the variety in France in 1880 by crossing shiraz (also known as syrah or sirah) grapes with the peloursin variety. In the United States it is known as petite sirah.
In hot climates like Rutherglen, durif produces monster wines. They are almost overpowering in their combination of aromas, alcohol and intense color, especially if they spend time in new oak.
This wine is almost black in the glass, and aromas of raisins, aniseed, fruitcake and plum cascade over one’s palate. The flavors almost hide the 15 percent alcohol. It is a wine that demands rich dishes like beef.
James Halliday’s authoritative 2010 Guide to Australian Wine gave Stanton & Killeen the highest ranking of five red stars. Only 7 percent of about 1,500 vineyards received this ranking.
The company does not appear to sell into China. But you can order from their website at http://www.stantonandkilleenwines.com.au/.
* “Family-owned wines show off their character” in China Daily 4 September 2010, page 12.