Wonderful Wendouree

Nick Ireland, Adelaide, South Australia

22 November 2016

I was recently reading the excellent Australian Wine Review blog and came across this article(definitely worth a read) describing a recent and very rare visit to the cellars of Wendouree in the Clare Valley.  It prompted me to open a couple of bottles of Wendouree over the festive season, as they’re wines I tend to accumulate without getting around to drinking them very often.  And given my gradual shift away from bigger, bolder Shiraz and Cabernet-based wines, I was more than a little concerned that I might have a sizable collection of Wendouree that no loner agreed with my palate.

This concern is pertinent with Wendouree, as it seems to be one of the more polarizing wineries amongst Australian wine drinkers.  It has long been one of the more sought-after “cult” wineries in Australia, but the style of wine (tannic, made for cellaring, not always approachable in youth) seems to find dedicated fans and detractors in equal number.  I’ve always enjoyed their wines, but my wife can’t get her head around the strong aniseed character she finds in every Wendouree we open, and is yet to finish a glass.
So, to the wines.  We opened a 2010 Wendouree Shiraz on Boxing Day and a 2005 Shiraz Mataro last night.  The 2010 was decanted for 5-6 hours, and was consumed on the same day as 2005 Cristal, Krug MV, Ruinart BdB, 2008 Blain-Gagnard Batard-Montrachet, 2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello and 2002 Rockford SVS Hoffman (amongst others).  It was a tough day.  I’m listing those wines partially to relive what was a fairly epic Boxing Day, but mainly to point out that for many of those at the table, the Wendouree was the wine of the day (or close to it).  The balance of the wine was perfect (after that length of decanting), incredibly intensity but the right line between savoury and fruit-forward characteristics, just a stunning wine.  The 2005 Shiraz Mataro last night was perhaps not as “blow your head off” spectacular, but was still a wonderful wine.  More earthy and savoury than the 2010 Shiraz, and the aniseed character is certainly present (again, my wife didn’t finish her glass).  I often find myself thinking of blood and earth when drinking Wendouree (in a good way).

It might not make a big difference but we love our fancy decanters

Photograph by wine(refined)

Both bottles were a massive affirmation of collecting these wines, and pushed Wendouree into the shrinking category of full-bodied reds to buy each year.
For those not familiar with the idiosyncrasies of Wendouree, the wines are released in the middle of each year to a dedicated mailing list.  They are rarely seen at retail, and normally at inflated prices.  Wendouree possess no website, no email, not even a fax machine; all ordering is done via the post, which is wonderfully quaint.  If you’re interested in getting some of these wines (and I’d probably suggest trying one before committing, due to the afore mentioned nature of the wines), you can send a letter (that’s right, a letter) to Wendouree politely asking to be added to the mailing list.  You’ll be unlikely to receive many bottles in the first few years, but based on these two bottles, it’s categorically worthwhile.


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