china daily wine column #39

One of the highlights of the Shanghai wine show earlier this month was my discovery of a family-owned vineyard from Australia that has been making great wine for more than a quarter century.

Neil Paulett graduated from Australia’s oldest wine course and made wine for two major vineyards before starting his own label in 1983. He chose to craft his own wine in the beautiful Clare Valley of South Australia because of the region’s terroir and a desire to have his own brand.

The prestigious Australian Wine Companion selects only a handful of vineyards for its “five red stars” category – the best of the best. Paulett Wines has been in that group since 2010, after being named in the top-rated five star category since 2007.

One of their best wines is the Paulett riesling. Previous columns have highlighted the joys of aged riesling – these are wines that need to have been cellared for a minimum of half a decade for the flavours to evolve. The Paulett 2005 edition received the award for “best riesling in the world” at the 11th Canberra international riesling competition late last year. The great 1995 vintage won both the best riesling award at the Hyatt/Advertiser awards and best riesling in the Penguin Good Australian Wine Guide.

I have not tasted either of those wines but I did taste the 2010 vintage in Shanghai. It has lovely pedigree plus citrus and lime notes on the palate and a minerality that reflects the blue dolomite terroir of the Clare Valley region. Minerality may seem a strange term to use to describe a wine, but it reflects the lean and subtle taste of the wine in the mouth. It is like the aroma of smooth river stones that have been baked in the sun. The wine has a great balance of fruit and acidity, and exhibits a depth in the mouth that creates joy.

This is a wine that would pair wonderfully with seafood while young, and then make a great marriage with creamy sauces half a decade later – a wine that can be appreciated and enjoyed at varying stages of its life. And it will live for decades because of its pedigree and the quality of the grapes.

At the same show I got to taste the 2005 Paulett shiraz. The current vintage is the 2007 so an older edition was a special treat. It had aromas of mint and eucalypt plus layers of liquorice and ripe blackberries in the mouth. This was a luscious and delightful wine of great elegance and length.

Neil Paulett said this shiraz would retain an elegant structure throughout its life. “It’s a great endorsement of the strength of our region,” he said. Interestingly, the wine is fermented in old slate open vats and stainless steel tanks. The wine is pressed off skins and some grape sugars remain so the fermentation is completed in oak barrels. “We then mature in oak for 15 to 18 months. Typically this wine will show ripe fruit flavours and tannins.”

These give the shiraz an even balance of subtle oak and an elegant long palate. This is a wine that needs slow-cooked lamb dishes to embrace a marriage made in heaven that is available on earth.

* “Best of the best that gives joy when young and aged” in China Daily, 25 June 2011, page 12. Find link here.

Categories: Not home, wine

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