Compare and contrast
It’s always seemed to me that the hand of the winemaker is at least as important as terroir as an influence on the way young wines taste. Backing this up are two shirazes made from the same pick of grapes from Mortimers vineyard at Orange, and vinified by two different winemakers.
The 2015 Mortimers shirazes were made by Orange-based contract winemaker Chris Derrez and veteran Mudgee-based winemaker Simon Gilbert. These very limited production wines are being sold at Mortimers cellar door for $120 a twin-pack. (Club members pay $96.)
Derrez is French-born while Gilbert is a fifth-generation Australian – one of his ancestors was Joseph Gilbert who planted the original Pewsey Vale vineyard.
I found both wines to be excellent, but described them quite differently when I tasted them ‘blind’.
The Gilbert wine (tasting) was softer, rounder and more ‘ready’, the result no doubt of having spent seven months longer in oak. Also, the oak was all barriques (225 litres), whereas Derrez used a mixture of puncheons (500 litres*) and barriques. Derrez used all French oak; Gilbert used 70% French, 30% American.
The downside, if there is one, is that the Gilbert wine shows a little more oak on the nose – but it’s hardly overdone.
By contrast, the Derrez wine (tasting) is more fruit-driven, the nose especially showing more primary fruit, which includes a trace of mint. While it tastes younger and fresher, its tannins are still pleasingly mature and supple. I scored both wines at the gold-ribbon level (95 points).
The winemakers did not collaborate at all. Both were provided with all the materials and assistance they needed to make the best wine they could. The grapes were all harvested on March 24, 2015, at the same sugar, acid and pH.
It will be interesting to monitor these wines as they mature, and to that end, I’m keeping a bottle of each in the cellar for a few years.
*The bigger the barrel, the slower the rate of ageing, the more primary fruit is retained and the less oak flavour is extracted.