Friday, May 30, 2014

Clarendon Hills Astralis Shiraz 2005

Clarendon Hills Astralis McLaren Vale Shiraz 2005

Son Ryan opened this to celebrate the first week in their new home and his first day on the new job. And he invited Dad over for a taste. While this is the flagship of the extensive  Clarendon Hills line which includes eight different Shiraz labels, I prefer the style of their Piggott Range more. This has more of the tasting profile of the incredible Tanunda 100 Year Old Vines Shiraz we tasted last weekend, not surprising, since this too is sourced from old vines, from their first vineyard planted in 1920. Like the Tanunda, Astralis has limited production of only 150 cases.

At a release and market price of $180, this is in the super ultra-premium stratosphere, even more than the Tanunda at a release price of $125. This is a classic example where taste is in the eyes of the beholder and all that matters is one's personal pallet preference. I much prefer any one of several of my favorite Shiraz labels that are all in the $70 to $90 range and a select few at even less. Of course, as I often write in this blog, the thrill of the hunt and ultimate quest is to find that high QPR (Quality Price Ratio) wine that offers the same satisfaction at a fraction of the (premium) price.

This is the first bottle we have tasted from a case Ryan purchased and split with me recently. As part of its premium price-point, Astralis (like the Tanunda) comes with premium packaging in its own branded OWC, Original Wood Case (pictured left).

McLaren Vale is in south central Australia on the north-west of the Fleurieu Peninsula about 25 miles south of Adelaide. It is one of the oldest and highly regarded wine producing areas in the country. It was granted its appellation status, in Australia known as GI or Geographical Indication in 1997.

The climatic and geographical diversity of McLaren Vale is suitable for a wide array of grape varieties which are grown there including Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Mourvedre, which, together with Shiraz, make up some of the most acclaimed 'GSM' blends. Other varietals grown in the region in lesser amounts are Merlot, Zinfandel, Tempranillo,  Sangiovese and Viognier.
McLaren Vale is also the source of white wine varietals, most notably Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Shiraz leads the region's list of award-winning wines with the best wines coming from very old vines, some planted more than 100 years ago.

This wine got huge reviews and scores from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (99 points) and Wine Spectator (96 points) and  Stephen Tanzer's IWC (95 points). Either our bottle was slightly tainted (which I don't believe), the cork showed ever so slight signs of seepage (shown right), or, at nine years old it is in a somewhat closed period in its aging profile. I found it a bit closed and its aromatics suppressed. Never-the-less, this is a big unctuous, tongue-coating complex wine, deep dark inky purple colored wine with layers of concentrated ripe black and blue berry fruits with a layer of graphite and mineral, which in my opinion detracts from the fruit and other complementary tones of expresso, tobacco and spice box, leading to a smooth silky polished tannin lingering finish. It did not seem to have a firm structure and backbone built for longer term aging.

RM 92 points.