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Chris Ringland, Henschke Hill Of Roses & Sine Qua Non Patine Syrah

June 29, 2017

It is not often that one sits down to a French gastronomic dinner fronted entirely by uncommon New World shiraz. Crazy as that may sound, it actually took place on 20 June 2017 at Nicolas. To preserve some decency for the restaurant, the champagne and sticky were French, as was the Rhone white I brought to complete the theme of “Rhone / quasi-Rhone”.  I’m glad we didn’t try to compare against actual Rhone reds. Wine is meant to reflect its origin and to be enjoyed in the company of appreciative people. If these objectives are met, then whatever one is drinking is a very successful wine. The reds here easily exceeded all expectations on both counts and, in spite of their massive proportions, I must say they actually went very well with the delicate cuisine. 20170620_200637So do cast off the usual bias and enjoy the wines.

Champagne Gonet Brut NV, by the glass from the restaurant list, poured from a half bottle. Quite reticent initially, proffering only nutmeg and wild flowers on the nose whereas the palate was distinctly more attractive, layered with strong yeasty tones amidst delicate citrus, juicy pomelo, grapefruit and understated creme with mild cutting acidity, becoming more expansive over time, ending in a dry minerally finish.

2004 Paul Aine Jaboulet Hermitage Le Chevalier de Sterimberg. Dull golden, exuding peaches and preserved orange, gradually opening up with a soft floral fragrance with overtones of lychees, glowing with gentle intensity from the firm concentration of fruit before evolving into a more recessed character with dull minerality. Very enjoyable but the grapes of marsanne and roussanne need some getting used to.

1991 R Lopez Heredias Vina Tondonia. Severely corked.

2009 Henschke Hill Of Roses (courtesy of Jonny). Bottled in screw cap, which I actually prefer. Deep crimson, proffering a very deep bouquet of dark berries, red currants and dark plums with sweet cherries. Medium-full, opening up with a lovely glow of velvety red fruits on a backdrop of cigar and tobacco floor, displaying good detail, exuding gentle intensity with touches of spice and some sweetness at the sides, tapering to a short gentle finish. Very lovely, worthy of carrying on the mantle of Hill Of Grace.

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2010 Chris Ringland Marvel (courtesy of Kenny). Deep impenetrable red, from which arose a massive wall of jammy velvety dark berries and redcurrants with some incense and mild medicinal overtones. Dense, almost monolithic, infused with spicy herbal tones and stern graphite elements but it doesn’t overwhelm. Yet to evolve.

2005 Chris Ringland Dry Grown Shiraz (courtesy of Kenny). The flagship wine of Chris Ringland but no longer available, I believe. Very deep in color with lifted dark medicinal tones and licorice, almost port-like in character with its massive monolithic structure though not at all jammy. Similar in character with the preceding Marvel, this wine is more open with some early complexity, displaying predominantly red fruits and currants with very well-managed acidity and tannins, delicious with a lovely succulence, certainly very approachable now but still light years from maturity, closing up again to become a massive monolith (cue in sunrise motif of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra). Better than a 1991 I had earlier this year.

20170620_2009542011 Sine Qua Non Patine Syrah (courtesy of Hiok). Deep impenetrable purple. Very unique bouquet of preserved fruit with sweet plums, red fruits and dark berries that hinted at superb ripeness and extraction. Surprisingly open and rounded, almost feminine with sublime acidity and subtle tannins with streaks of mocha and dark chocolate, displaying lovely definition and linearity, finishing with great persistence. Superb.

2013 Domaine de Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. A half-bottle from the restaurant list. Generous aromas of lychees and gentle tropical fruits with some white pepper and nectarine, showing good weight on the palate with lovely balance and subtle acidity though the fruit is somewhat recessed.

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