A number of people I know were interested in tasting the Chris Ringland Shiraz, formerly known as “Three Rivers” before he was forced to change the name. This wine is a super small production Shiraz from the Barossa Valley and made by Chris Ringland of Rockford fame. Ever since Mr Robert Parker took a liking to it, the prices have skyrocketed and so the only way we were going to get to taste this was if a number of people put some money in to get a glass of the wine in return.

There were only 1000 bottles made of this in 1999 (83 and a 1/3 cases) with maximum production reaching no more than 100 cases in any vintage and thus forms my entry to Wine Blogging Wednesday #15.

We also decided that this was a good opportunity to see how the 1999 Barossa vintage wines were progressing and give the Ringland some competition so we decided to do a 1999 Barossa Shiraz horizontal. As opposed to a vertical, where you taste different vintages of the same wine, a horizontal is where you taste several different wines but of the same vintage.

The Wines: All wines are 1999 vintage from the Barossa Valley and Shiraz based except for the opening Champagne and the Mount Edelstone which is from the Eden Valley in South Australia. The wines were tasted unmasked.

Flight One : A couple of sparklings to kick the night off …

Le Bernard Pitois Brut Reserve NV – A nice, fresh citrusy nose. Good length. Restrained toasty bread and yeasty characters. Nice, but not overly complex. 87/100

Rockford Black ’99 Disgorgement – Cherries, plum and hints of tobacco on the nose. Quite balanced and shows some elegance on the palate. 88/100

Flight Two : The start of the main event …

Turkey Flat – Closed for business on the nose initially which did open up slightly after some time to show some peppery oak. A bit thin and weak on the palate with some acid protruding on the front. Not a whole lot of interest, and for me, the weakest of this flight. 83/100

Burge Family Draycott – A bit of charred oak on the nose. Smooth palate lacking in complexity. Pulls up a touch short on the finish. 85/100

Greenock Creek Seven Acre – The most full-bodied of this flight. Liquorice and berries on the nose. Grippy tannins on the palate. Lovely long finish. Powerful but still has poise and balance, not over the top. Wine of the flight. 89/100

Henschke Mt Edelstone – This did stand out as the odd one out in this flight on the nose. I got a whiff of spearmint and menthol and yes there were some earthy, horsy, savoury aromas and flavours, but in this case I though they added rather than detracted from the wine. 87/100

Flight Three : A step sideways …

Grant Burge Meschach – Concentrated blueberry jam on the nose. Good length and balance on the palate. 87/100

Viking Grand – Vegetable nose. Clunky, disjointed palate with some sharpness on the front palate and oak and over-ripe fruit sticking out. Thanks but no thanks. 82/100

Peter Lehmann Stonewell – Lots of chocolaty oak on the nose along with ripe fruit. The oak does recede a little on the palate though to show some better balance but still fails to impress. 85/100

Langmeil The Freedom – This may sound strange but I found vanilla soap the predominant character on the nose. Powerful fresh, ripe fruit. Good length. Nice but needs time to come together fully. 87/100

Flight Four : and now a step up …

Rockford Basket Press – A bit muted on the nose but much nicer on the palate of ripe berry fruit with good balanced oak providing structure. Smooth finish and good length. 89/100

Yalumba Octavius – I did not at all like the 1990 of this that I had recently due to the over the top oak. However I found the ’99 to be more restrained. I did find it to be a bit too tannic for my liking at this stage. 87/100

Torbreck The Factor – Alright, now we are getting serious. The best nose on any wine this evening with a beautiful floral lift that made me mistake that this has the slightest dash of viognier in it (apparently not). Powerful but totally balanced palate. Wonderful length. Super stuff. 94/100

Flight Five : The big guns …

Veritas Hanisch – I decided to save this for the last flight due to its power but it ended up being out classed. Deepest colour wine that I noticed tonight. Powerful, concentrated, still youthful fruit … but too simple at this level. 88/100

Greenock Creek Roennfeldt Road – Supremely powerful nose and palate. A touch spirity and a touch oaky but otherwise I enjoyed drinking this, but didn’t feel challenged by it. 91/100

Penfolds Grange – Closed, closed, closed initially. Was allowed to sit in the glass for a few hours and started to open a little and show a bit more of that typical Grange nose. Elegant, smooth, balanced and structurally complete palate with lovely mouth-feel. Really shows that elusive spark of something special over the other wines so far. In my notes I underlined twice “Come back in 15 years” when I think it’ll be spectacular. 96/100

Chris Ringland – Went blow for blow with the Grange in the battle for wine of the night and came out with a respectable result against the champion. There was a candy like element to the nose and but I thought that it provided a very nice floral perfumed element rather than being confected. Savoury, spicy, earthy and slightly meaty palate along with some wonderful concentrated berries. Breathtakingly long finish. Based on this tasting I feel it deserves its place among the top Australian Shiraz. 96/100

The conclusion : My top three wines for the night were the Grange and the Ringland as equal best Wines of the Night, with the Torbreck Factor coming in third.

I think the slightly underrated 1999 vintage looks pretty good overall, there are some good candidates for aging and some that are drinking very nicely now.

It was a good experience to have tasted the Chris Ringland wine, I can actually see what all the fuss is about and it’s just a shame for us regular wine lovers that it has been made so expensive due to one mans review.

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. That’s quite a tasting! I need to make my way to Australia one of these days and get in on one of them!

    Down with Parker…he ignores NY wines and makes other wines too expensive for normal people!

  2. Lenn, you are most welcome to join us if you ever find yourself over here.

    I’m torn on my opinion of Parker, yes he does have his stylistic preferences and yes he does drive up the price of most wines that he blesses beyond what the average wine lover can afford.

    Yet, I get the feeling that if it wasn’t him then it would be someone else in the same position with the same market power, ignoring certain regions, influencing styles and driving up the prices in others. At least Parker seems honest and willing to be firm in his opinions.

    It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when he decides to retire.

  3. I was fortunate to have acquired 2 bottles of Chris Ringland 1999 (bottles 997 998). Based on your tasting when do you think it will be ready for drinking?

    Though Parker has his flaws(welcome to thye human race) he has certainly brought the world of wine to more people than might have otherwise been able to take pleasure in it.

  4. David,

    If I had two bottles I would probably open one around 2011 and the other around 2014 (depending on how the first was looking of course).

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