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2001 D’Arenberg Dead Arm & 1998 Barossa Valley E&E Black Pepper Shiraz

May 5, 2009

Just when we thought our famous office “End-of-the-Week” Happy Hour had ceased to exist, more stress (thanks to a never-ending shitload of work) suddenly produced 2 impromptu back-to-back after-hours drinks 2 Mondays in a row. Last Monday at 6, I received a unexpected SMS to appear at Hiok’s Bar, where a bottle of 2001 D’Arenberg Dead Arm stood breathing. How generous. From the impenetrable red arose a powerful bouquet of sweet plums and quietly luxuriant dark fruits. Typically big, but manages to achieve a fine balance between notes of toasty oak, raisins, mint and spice without any alcoholic heat. Very long minty finish. This has evolved beautifully since the last time I tasted it in May 2007, and it’s certainly much better than the 2000 vintage that I had 3 weeks ago. Excellent stuff. Does it deserve 98 points by Parker? I don’t really care; at only SGD62 (when we bought it direct from the distributor in 2003), I’ll buy it anytime.2001-dead-arm-1998-ee-black-pepper

Exactly a week later, some sort of telepathic trigger must have caused 4 of us to suddenly crave for a drink after a shitty Monday. This sort of divine spark called for a memorable drop: the 1998 Barossa Valley E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, which I’d just brought out from my cellar yesterday. It hit all the right notes immediately after being popped and poured: deep garnet red, barely a hint of bricking in spite of its 11 years, beautiful sweet notes of plum, dark berries, chocolate and American oak (it’s actually oaked in French as well) on the nose and palate, full but supremely elegant, receding tannins and a long cool finish. It gained more weight after an hour, becoming more rounded and harmonious. The quality of the fruit from the old vines is clearly evident, and I feel this is what sets Barossa shiraz apart from McLaren Vale. But one needs time for these stuff to come together. Most people tend to pop them way too early, but I’ve deliberately stashed away my Aussie top drops, to be forgotten for a long time. Some would say that the drinking window for Aussie wines starts at 7 years but, from my experience, I’d say 10 years. This is drinking superbly now, but definitely still has a long life ahead. Who says Aussie shiraz don’t age well?

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