A fun night recently with some of my wine drinking associates where we celebrated the birthyear (and in one case the conception year) of the people attending with wines from that vintage. The years we were celebrating were 1963, 1968, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1984. None of the years are especially legendary or classic, but we still managed to put on a very good selection.

Krug 1979 – (Champagne, France):

There is a very fine bead on this but not much mousse. Orange peel, honey, almond, some oxidative characters and some toast. Compared to the bottle I had at Marque earlier in the year I thought it was lacking the flavour concentration on the palate that endeared me to the previous bottle. For me, the palate had a slightly odd sweet and sour element battle being waged.


Seppelt “Maturation Release” Riesling 1984 – (Eden Valley, South Australia):

Opens with passion fruit, lime, floral touches and some toast on the nose. Palate is simple and lacks definition. A nice enough wine, but certainly not living up to reputation as being one of the classic Australian aged Rieslings. Consistent with the last bottle I tried which was disappointing.


Trimbach Clos-Ste.-Hune Riesling 1981 – (Alsace, France):

A shimmering light gold colour. My first sniff straight out of the bottle was not promising – very sulphurous, but given some air time, I felt that it really started to open up with wax, straw, petrol and citrus emerging. The palate was where the class and finesse of this wine really shone through though – super balance, style, structure and length! Might be one of the few ’81s that will stick around for my 30th birthday!


Mildara “Peppermint Patty” Vintage Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1963 – (Coonawarra, South Australia):

The was low to mid shoulder in level. There were a series of approving noises being made about the medium garnet colour of this while it was being poured into the decanter. There was just a slight tinge of brick-red around the edges in the glass. What an amazing set of aromas it produced – smoke, leather, blackcurrant, dried flowers, a slight mulchy element, caramel, vanilla and even a touch of peppermint leading into eucalyptus. A superbly balanced, multi-layered palate with breathtaking length.

This was a very special experience. A legendary wine that is apparantly showing lots of variation between bottles, I think we were lucky to get one that was in the best condition that could have been hoped for.


Chateau Latour 1970 – (Bordeaux, France):

The nose is deep and rich with graphite, menthol, roasted meats, blackcurrant and some mulchy and cheesy characters. The palate is youthful and shows aggressive tannins along with reasonably good length. Didn’t live up to reputation and probably suffered from coming after the Peppermint Patty.


Chateau Cheval Blanc 1979 – (Bordeaux, France):

This wine was poured along with the story of one of the attendees proclaiming to her boyfriend earlier in the day that she was unready to die as she had not yet tasted Cheval Blanc! Initially the nose is pretty decent, some violets, cherry, spice and florals but these seemed to disappear quickly to be dominated by band-aid aromas. Palate wasn’t great from the start with a lack of fruit resulting in a thin, sharp and short palate. She might have to continue living for just a bit longer yet to try a good Cheval Blanc!


Chateau Margaux 1979 – (Bordeaux, France):

This was the best of the three 79s that we tried. Nose shows great character with liquorice, cassis, cedar, pencil shavings, raspberry and violets. A good length palate that has aggressive tannins coming in over the top and disrupting the flow somewhat.


Chateau Trotanoy 1979– (Bordeaux, France):

My first Trotanoy. Aromas of sea salt and brine, iodine and briary characters. The palate showed little to generate any excitement and started heading out of balance and downhill shortly after being poured.


Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 1981– (Bordeaux, France):

A nose of cedar, graphite, pencil shavings, violets, earth and some meats. The palate is a disappointment that lets the wine down – entirely austere and overly tannic.


Chateau Haut-Brion 1981– (Bordeaux, France):

Cooked, spoiled, yeasty, oxidised … totally stuffed basically.


Tyrrell’s Vat 5 Shiraz 1981 – (Hunter Valley, New South Wales)

A lifted floral nose with cinnamon, raspberry, chocolate, plums and tobacco. The palate shows good balance and plenty of sweet fruit but perhaps pulls up a little bit short and lacks complexity. Regardless, it is a good wine from a less than stellar vintage in many areas of the red wine world and was the best of the flight of 81s.


Penfolds Grange 1977– (South Australia):

Aromas of rhubarb, violets, some smoked meats and a touch of VA. Lovely aged complexity as well as rich fruits on the palate along with great length and good balance. Pretty close to its peak I would think.


Penfolds Grange 1979 – (South Australia):
A fairly imposing nose with vanilla oak, caramel, chocolate, liquorice, raspberry, VA and tar. Palate showed very good length but was lacking in anything much else to get excited about.


Penfolds Grange 1980 – (South Australia):
Lots of dried herbs and tea leaves on the nose as well as raspberry and redcurrant. The palate was simple, short, one dimensional and lacked structure.


Penfolds Grange 1981 – (South Australia):
Oak, ground coffee beans, some nuttiness, sweet fruits and a smidge of VA. Palate is youthful, with reasonably good length but again some clumsy tannins on the finish throw off the balance of the wine.


Penfolds Grange 1984 – (South Australia):

Nose is fairly simple at this stage with a fair bit of vanilla oak, blueberry and blackberry. Palate shows some youthful richness but it is ultimately too oaky and there is some bitterness on the finish. Based on this bottle I would be giving it more time, but I’m not entirely convinced that it will come into balance.


Chateau Musar 1979 – (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon):

A cloudy ruby colour. Earth, ash, VA, spice and smoked delicatessen meats on the nose. The palate has abundant style! Medium bodied, good balance, great length. This was my first Musar, and hopefully not the last.


Moulin Touchais 1977 – (Loire Valley, France):

Slightly oxidative nose with sour apples, ripe pear, lemon and butterscotch. Too much acid causing the palate to look disjointed and a bit short.


Hardy’s Vintage Port 1968 – (South Australia):

Has a caramel, toffee and nutty nose. Palate is fine – pretty good balance and seems reasonably fresh but there isn’t any real depth or complexity.


Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. I had a bottle of “Peppermint Patty” about 15 years ago and it was a sublime experience. I’m amazed that it’s still going strong today, what a wine! Why is it that this was only a once off and no-one has been able to produce something along the same lines?

  2. I have asked around about the once off nature of this wine and nobody really seems to know for certain. The vines still exist today and the only conclusion that people can offer is that the Peppermint Patty was just a freak wine from young vines.

    I would love to know more about it though if anyone out there has such information.

  3. Why are all of your ratings so low? You must have very high standards. I just bought a bottle of Grange 1980, am very curious why it was noted as being an outstanding vintage by Penfolds, 95 pts by Robert Parker, yet, only 90 pts by Jeremy Oliver, and even less by people like yourself. Why is the feedback so inconsistent?

  4. Hi Phil,

    I guess one factor is that once a wine gets to 26 years of age, there is going to be variation from bottle to bottle because of storage and different cork effectiveness. I’ve had experiences where one bottle from the same case of wine and stored in the same place for 20 years was terrible, and the next on the same night was brilliant.

    Another is that everyone has different tastes, maybe it just didn’t appeal to my (and others at the table) taste compared to Parker et al.

    The final factor is that none of the Granges were even close to being in the same league as the Mildara earlier in the evening. It would be a great injustice to the Mildara if any of them were rated in the mid-90s!

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