A posse of wine writers led by James Halliday, Huon Hooke, Jeni Port and Max Allen descended on Pokolbin last week for the Old Patch 150th anniversary.
They came at the invitation of the Tyrrell family company to see the tiny 1.11-hectare Old Patch vineyard in Marrowbone Road, Pokolbin, and to be treated to a tasting of all the single-vineyard shiraz reds it has produced.
Along with the other 16 guests, I had my shoes disinfected and was able to walk around the gnarled vines set on a steep slope backdropped by the majestic Brokenback Range.
Then it was back to the Tyrrell’s winery, where the 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2017 and unbottled 2018 Old Patch vintages and a selection of nine other Sacred Sites range wines were assembled for tasting.
The Old Patch wines come from selectively hand-picked grapes that are not crushed but fermented in open-top stainless steel vessels, with 15 per cent being whole bunches and the balance of de-stemmed but uncrushed grapes placed gently on top. The gentle approach is also applied by the use of a stream of oxygen to replace the traditional, labour-intensive plunging of the cap of skins on the fermenting must.
My favourite in the Old Patch tasting was the superb 2014, with its 13.9 per cent alcohol, inky purple hues, scents of berry pastille and violets and vibrant blackcurrant front-palate flavour. Maraschino cherry, spice, licorice and subtle savoury oak followed on the middle palate and velvet-smooth earthy tannins came through at the finish.
The 2009 and 2017 also deeply impressed and the barrel sample of the 2018 promised great things.
Tyrrell’s managing director Bruce Tyrrell believes Old Patch vines were planted in 1867 using first-generation cuttings from Australian winegrowing pioneer James Busby. The original cuttings were brought to Australia in 1831 and used to propagate vines in the Kirkton vineyard at Belford and George Wyndham’s Dalwood Estate at Branxton.
Old Patch is part of the 13.52-hectare Old Hillside property which, with its 6.11 hectares of shiraz vines, was bought by Tyrrell’s last December from Neil Stevens and his wife Bernadette. The Stevenses had bought Old Hillside in 1984 and sold their grapes to Lindeman’s up to 1993 when they switched to Tyrrell’s on the strength of a handshake with Bruce Tyrrell. From 2012 Tyrrell’s leased Old Hillside and in 2007 Bruce and his wine brains trust of son Chris and Andrew Spinaze and Mark Richardson made the first Old Patch shiraz as a testament to the unique qualities of the 150-year-old vines.
SIGNPOST TO FOLLOW
FROM the 1908-planted HVD Signpost block, the Tyrrell’s 2013 HVD Semillon is light gold and has grassy scents and smooth ruby grapefruit front-palate flavour. The middle palate has lemon curd, apple, flint and nascent honey and toast and steely acid at the finish. It and today’s other wines are at tyrrells.com.au and the winery.
PRICE: $35. D
RINK WITH: seafood kebabs. AGEING: eight years.
RATING: 5 stars
THIS food-friendly 13.5%-alcohol, ruby-hued Tyrrell’s 2016 Old Hut Shiraz comes from vines planted in 2003 from 1879 Four Acres vineyard cuttings. It has cranberry and caramel scents, savoury blackcurrant front-palate flavour, Satsuma plum, cloves, peppermint and subtle mocha oak on the middle palate and a minty tannins finish.
DRINK WITH: veal scallopine.
AGEING: six years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
PEACHY BELFORD WHITE
THE Tyrrell’s 2016 Belford Chardonnay is green-tinted straw and has custard apple aromas. The front palate shows crisp white peach flavour and the middle palate pear, spice, croissant and creamy oak. Slatey acid refreshes at the finish. It comes from the Tyrrell’s-managed, 1908-planted former Elliott family Belford vineyard.
DRINK WITH: chicken parmigiana.
AGEING: seven years.
RATING: 4.5 stars