For a midweek evening pop and pour sipper with artisan cheeses and fresh fruits I pulled this vintage distinctive label Aussie Shiraz from the cellar. The label 'Dead Arm' is named for the vines that survived a grape vine disease that afflicted the vineyard back at the turn of the last century. Typically a grower would pull out and replace the afflicted vines with new plantings. D'Arenberg kept the vineyard intact and found that one half, or an ‘arm’ of the vines slowly died leaving the surviving remaining half of the vine. The resulting vine produced rich intense fruit due to the vibrant roots delivering nutrients to but half the vine with the resulting low yielding fruit achieving amazing amplified intensity.
d’Arenberg is one of the most significant wineries in McLaren Vale South Australia. It dates back to 1912 when Joseph Osborn, a teetotaller and director of Thomas Hardy and Sons, purchased 25 hectares (54 acres) of well established Milton Vineyards in the hills just north of the townships of Gloucester and Bellevue, (now known as McLaren Vale). Joseph’s son Frank Osborn left medical school, trading in scalpel for pruning shears to manage the property. He increased the vineyards to 78 hectares. Fruit was initially sold to local wineries until the construction of a winery and cellars was completed in 1928.
In 1943 Frank’s son Francis d’Arenberg Osborn, universally known as “d’Arry”, returned from school at age 16 to help his ill father run the business. He took over management responsibility in 1957. In 1959 d’Arry launched the d’Arenberg label, named in honour of his mother, Frances Helena d’Arenberg.
d'Arenberg wines gained cult status when the 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon won the 1969 Royal Melbourne Wine Show and the 1967 Red Burgundy (Grenache based) was awarded 7 trophies and 29 gold medals in Australian capital city wine shows.
By the 1970’s d’Arenberg wines had gained a significant national and international profile. The fourth generation, d’Arry’s son Chester d’Arenberg Osborn continued his family’s winemaking tradition. having grown up helping his father in both the vineyards and the cellar.
After graduating from College and touring Australian and European wine regions, Chester took over as Chief Winemaker in 1984, continuing the family best practices of minimal inputs, no fertilization, cultivation and irrigation wherever possible, thereby achieving natural soil flavours with very low yields.
d'Arenberg was named Winery of the Year in 2003. In June 2004 Chester’s father, d’Arry was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his contributions to the wine industry and to the McLaren Vale region. After more than 65 consecutive vintages, d’Arry continues to create an internationally recognized wine brand commonly known as the ‘Red Stripe’ due to the distinctive diagonal red stripe that adorns the label.
We first discovered d'Arenberg Dead Arm back in the early nineties and have collected vintages ever since. I still remember my first tasting of an early 90's release and being blown away by the blue fruit highlights. We still hold nearly a dozen vintages dating back to 1995. Bottle shown is a 375ml 'split' which we also hold, the bottle consumed was a standard size 750.
d'Arenberg "The Dead Arm" Shiraz McLaren Vale South Australia 2002
This release was awarded 94 points by James Halliday, 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points Wine Spectator and 91 points by Wine Enthusiast and Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.
At sixteen years, this is probably at its peak and not likely to improve any with further aging.
Consistent with earlier tasting notes from back in 2013, "typically a big fruit forward complex wine, the 2002 was a bit more subdued and muted than its normal big forwardness but what was an off-tone of minerality. Lacking that uber ripe almost raisin-fig with a layer of cedar predominating, this still held that complex black berry fruits with tones of pepper, spice, and cassis and hint of vanilla with a big long bold finish that has a slight tone of tangy cherry."
Tonight this showed some of that classic Dead Arm with its dark garnet color, medium full body with concentrated rich black berry fruits with notes of blue berry with notes of menthol, cassis, creosote, smoke and spices with hints of black pepper and mocha on the finish.
RM 90 points.