McGuigan’s Philosophy

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McGuigan Wines has made a bold stab at occupying – or at least sharing – the high ground, with its new $150 red wine, named The Philosophy.

McGuigan (tastings) is known for its sub-$10 Black Label shiraz, as well as its Hunter Valley semillons and South Australian reds and rieslings under the Shortlist, Personal Reserve, Handmade and Bin labels, which regularly win international show trophies. But with this new wine it has suddenly popped up with a wine priced at roughly three times anything it’s released before.

If you ask chief winemaker Neil McGuigan why, he’ll probably ask you back: ‘Why not?’ Why should Australia be known only for mid to lower priced wines, and Old World nations like France be the only ones who can produce fine wines that cost a lot? We certainly have these wines: Penfolds has a raft of them led by Grange (tastings) and its occasional special bin releases; Henschke Hill of Grace (tastings) and Torbreck The Laird (tastings). In Bordeaux-style reds, we have Moss Wood cabernet sauvignon (tastings) and Cullen Diana Madeline (tastings) now topping $100, as are Mount Mary Quintet (tastings), Henschke Cyril Henschke (tastings), and so on.

But McGuigan, although it has been scoring amazing results in overseas shows such as the International Wine Challenge, International Wine & Spirit Competition and Decanter World Wine Awards, and has been International Winemaker of the Year three times (count ‘em), has not been recognised as ranking among Australia’s elite. Yet.

So what is this wine like? Firstly, it’s a 60/40 blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, sourced from the Eden and Clare Valleys. It’s from the outstanding 2010 vintage and weighs in at a modest 13.5% alcohol, so it’s not out to impress us with brute force (full tasting note on huonhooke.com). And it comes in a big, showy, heavy bottle with a cork and wax finish. Yawn.

But the wine is good. I agree with Neil McGuigan’s assertion that it is a claret style: a wine of flavour and power with elegance and finesse. It’s not overripe, over-oaked, over-alcoholic, or over-anything, really. It’s reasonably balanced – and quite appealing.

Is it worth $150? The short answer is no. But things get very elastic at over $100: you can easily find cheaper wines you enjoy more; and equally, you can find similar-priced wines you’d enjoy less. It’s a minefield.

But I would say to winemakers that if the plethora of super-expensive wines around the world these days might perchance lead them to think that all they need to do is grab a half-decent wine and put it in a fancy package: think again.

The Philosophy is released this month through selected retailers, Yaldara cellar door in the Barossa, International Duty Free and www.mcguiganwines.com.au

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