I had a run through my backlog of bottles, that is things I’ve drunk but haven’t written up, and I have quite a few wines from Australia, France and Canada to sort. So in an effort to clear the queue, this week will be exclusively wines of Australia, and next week I’ll tackle the French. I’ll start with this Olssens Bass Hill Vineyard Carmenère 2006.
I wrote a bit about Carmenère with the Viña Casa Silva Microterroir back in July, but now that I have my copy of Wine Grapes I think it’s worthwhile to dig out a new fact for each variety even if I’ve covered the grape before. The book makes excellent use of pedigree charts for grapes, and the Cabernet Sauvignon chart is a case in point. For Carmenère it shows that one parent is Cabernet Franc, and the other is Gros Cabernet, a grape which is no longer cultivated. What makes that interesting is that Cabernet Franc is a grandparent of Gros Cabernet, meaning that Carmenère has Cabernet Franc as a parent and as a great-grandparent. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot also have Cabernet Franc as a parent, which goes some way to explaining how the varieties can be confused with one another.
This is a wine of the Clare Valley, which I described when I wrote up the a Pikes Riesling back in February. While I certainly like the wines of Clare, it’s that bit further out from Adelaide such that I don’t get to visit very often and as a result I expect I’m missing out on some interesting wines. There are plantings of Barbera and Zibibbo which would advance my quest for a century of varietal wines, to say nothing of the Assyrtiko vines that Jim Barry put in a couple of years ago.
Olssens of Watervale has some interesting plantings, though some of them are more to do with trying something old than trying something new. Founded by Kevin and Helen Olssen in 1986, it is one of very few wineries to produce a red Bordeaux style blend out of the six originally permitted grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère. Other wines produced include Riesling, Semillon, and Shiraz, as well as red blends. This bottling of the 2006 vintage is quite possibly the first commercial release of a varietal Australian Carmenère, though there are now at least a half dozen producers with plantings. Unfortunately it’s not clear if there will be another Carmenère from Olssens or indeed any other wines. At present, the Watervale property is listed for sale, and while I’m tempted, I don’t think I’m quite ready to make the move.
In the glass, this wine is dark ruby, with the most narrow of rims and quick dark legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium intensity and notes of blueberries, chocolate, cherries, and a slight hint of raisins. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium grippy tannins, medium body, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity, and notes very similar to the noses – blueberries, chocolate, and cherries, with some coffee and a touch of prunes. It has a mocha finish and a medium plus length.
This is a solid good, in fact almost a very good. It lets me down slightly in terms of complexity, in that the nose tells you the whole story, and I would have expected the development over six years to have given more than just a bit of chocolate and coffee. But that said, there’s nothing out of place, and it has good varietal typicity as far as the cherries and chocolate go. I attribute the blueberries to the cooler climate of Clare.