Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chile vs. Australia: 2002 Elderton Ashmead and Don Melchor

I love blinded wine tastings when they are most like a scientific experiment, controlling as many variables as possible for a deep palate-learning experience. Tonight we have two New World Cabernets with the same amount of age (2002 Southern Hemisphere), but separated by the vast Pacific. A perfect experiment would have the same winemaker on both wines, but tonight terroir and wine making blend together to create different results:

It is no secret that I love Elderton's wines, but most of those have been Shiraz. Tonight we tasted their high-end Cabernet Sauvignon offering, the 2002 Elderton Ashmead. An absolutely gorgeous nose - leafy tobacco, violet and blackberries at first, then some earthiness, wet stones, toasty oak and a wallop of Barossa fruit - some nice evolution over the evening. A palate of ripe, juicy fruit, terrific balance, and a lengthy finish, a well-made, classic New World cab. Smoother, softer and fruitier than the Chilean below, you could drink this now but I will keep my other bottle for a few more years.
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$69 (LCBO)

One of Chile's most celebrated wines is Concha y Toro's Don Melchor. The first whiff of the 2002 Don Melchor hit me with a powerful dose of ripe, dark, peppery fruit (blackberry and cassis), which I thought Aussie, but that blew off to reveal a green, funky, earthiness and some raw, gamey meat and classic violet notes. Spicy and fresh, I loved the velvety texture and meatiness that emerged over the evening, as well as the more restrained use of oak, but it was a touch more awkward on the palate than the Ashmead. But that awkwardness was sorting itself out over the evening and I wonder if these scores will reverse in a few years...
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$44.78 (SAQ)

Scores can be misleading, and although the depth and complexity of the Ashmead gave a slightly higher score I preferred the Chilean with a bacon-wrapped filet mignon. Now some might take issue with the very material $20 price difference, but that is misleading as the Don Melchor routinely commands higher prices these days (in line with the Ashmead).

Blinded, the three tasters had no trouble picking which was Aussie and which was Chilean, as the initial fruitiness of the Chilean dissipated and the peppery fruit of the Ashmead screamed Barossa.


David said...

sounds like you can't go wrong with either of these!

Shea said...

MMM. I gotta try some of those. Somtimes it is painful to wait for bottles to age!

Joe said...

Actually very impressive grouping. What I am even more excited about is the fact that I have about five vintages of that Don Melchor, and this was supposed to be the worst of the bunch. The Ashmead was a slam dunk - I always like Elderton. These could age but are fine with a decant.

Cameron said...

Sounded like a fun tasting! I would have loved to have been there. Also thank you for your kind words regarding the Ashmead Cab. Happy New Year - Cam Ashmead (Elderton)

Joe said...

Hi Cameron - it would have been awesome if you had joined us...someday! As for the Ashmead, the quality remains consistent with the house you run. I look forward to one day visiting you in Australia.

Shea said...

So how's the Command Joe?

Joe said...

Shea - are you serious? Check out my links in the post - I rave about the Command - easily my fave Aussie shiraz (and I have a nice vertical going - maybe Cameron can help me build it out?)