Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Henschke Mount Edelstone Keyneton Vineyard Shiraz, 1986

When the Wine Spectator did a feature on Australian Shiraz in June of 1996, three aristocrats of Australian Shiraz were featured on the cover: Penfold's Grange Hermitage, Mount Langi Ghiran's Langi Shiraz and Henschke's Mount Edelstone. Based on my limited experience, I would agree with that these three wines rank at the top of the hierarchy. The Grange has always been an esteemed (and expensive) wine; the wines of Mount Langi Ghiran and Henschke were largely undervalued, except by insiders, until the publication of that article.

My last bottle of 1986 Mount Edelstone was in the summer of 2004, and it was drinking beautifully. Changes, mostly positive, have taken place over that seven-year period, but the big, rich flavors of true Australian Shiraz are still front and center. As he points out in the Wine Spectator article, Stephen Henschke thinks of Australian Shiraz as a "big" version of Pinot Noir. He aims for intense fruit flavors, soft tannins and what he calls a "slipperiness" on the finish. Henschke achieved all that and more in this wine.

The color is deep and dark, even a bit purplish still. When first opened, the nose reeked of sulfur. "I always like a good boiled egg," said one taster. This quickly blew away, yielding to scents of violets, vanilla and aromatic spices. But the bouquet still doesn't measure up to that of the bottle opened in 2004. It's on the palate that the wine shines--the flavors are even better than anything I remember from 2004. Flavors of mature red and black raspberries explode on the mid-palate leading to an incredibly plush finish. Soft and satiny yet so intense. This is Australian Shiraz at its best.

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