Another month and another wine tasting that escalated quickly in planning. The original proposal for a modest BYO event ended in an “Australian Icon” tasting including 1888 and 1908 Seppelt Para Port (to be covered in another post), plus this treasure of Australian wine history.
Just prior to the dinner, a member contacted the rest of us to indicate that he had a problem, a 1944 Seppelt Sparkling Burgundy that he had planned to open later this year had been very lightly leaking and that our assistance was required to drink it as soon as possible.
The wine in question was made by a legend of the Australian wine industry, Colin Preece, who is often mentioned alongside other wine industry luminaries from the early to mid 1900s such as Maurice O’Shea, Max Schubert and Roger Warren. Andrew Caillard MW says that “Preece developed the quintessential Australian Sparkling Burgundy style. He was a hugely influential figure during his time and regarded as one of the most skilful blenders of his generation”. So to try a Sparkling red made by the developer of this style of wine in Australia was an exciting prospect.
These wines are exceptionally rare, in fact I don’t think I’ve seen a Sparkling wine made by Colin Preece at auction in all the time I’ve been interested in wine. The label doesn’t say, but it is likely that the wine was mostly or totally made from Shiraz (despite the Burgundy designation).
There was obviously some concern over the (very minimal) leaking, but the level was still extremely good for a wine of this age. We gathered at the restaurant early to open the bottle as a warm up for the “main” event. The cork broke during opening, but on pouring the wine there was an exciting moment as we saw that there were still very light bubbles and that it was a promising colour with a dark red core fading slightly to an earthy ruby red at the edges.
The nose has layers of complexity with cherry, chocolate, leather, licorice and the red fruit tinged molasses that seems to be a common trait with many of these very old Australian red wines. The palate still carried a tingling frizzante sensation which gave the wine a lift to go with the strongly savoury and earthy flavours.
I left some for as long as I could as the dinner progressed, coming back to it occasionally to find that it was still alive. After a couple of hours it finally started to fade away and I finished the very small amount that I had been able to resist.
This bottle of wine even at 69 years of age lived up to, and even exceeded my expectations and I’m very glad to have had the privilege to try it! I guess it shows why these wines are considered legendary when some lucky bottles continue to show their magic.