Before diving into why this wine is so damn bloody delicious, it's worth highlighting an idea that really is pivotal to all quality foodstuffs - and wine of course is, after all, a foodstuff too. It's a simple notion that is really worth understanding (or at least not forgetting), since it can quite profoundly propel one's perspective on what it means for a product to possess the sometimes greyish label of 'high quality'. Other notions like 'purity', 'concentration' and 'complexity' are very much desirable in wine, but there is a non-negotiable trait that really substantiates quality with a capital Q, and that is 'freshness'.
Take an apple for example. Would you prefer to eat a drab and floury supermarket bought cold-stored one or break into a just-ripe waxy and vibrantly tart fruit straight from the branch? Freshness is everything, at $10 a bottle or $1000 a bottle.
So you might ask then why is aged wine so revered? And why do wines like sherry work? And what about Parma ham? And blue cheese? It's just old and off, surely? Well, yes often it's true, most old wines are terrible, expired, but the best simply preserve freshness the longest. Most don't have the chemical infrastructure and fruit flavour concentration to last, but the odd one does. Sherry (Xérèx) is 'oxidised' but very slowly and carefully under the protection of a yeast flor that preserves and in fact creates nearly all of its aromatic value. Sherry can still go bad too and shouldn't sit in an open flask on Nan's drinks cart for 25 years (my Nan's lasted a week...). (Sherry is serious stuff by the way, and sadly misunderstood, so we will look at one in the next review).
Julian and Alana Langworthy run Nocturne. Julian hopefully by now needs no introduction, he's basically won everything there is to be won across Cabernet, Chardonnay and now even Shiraz. He is chief winemaker at Deepwoods in Margaret River and Nocturne is the side-wine. Pat and I went to University with Jules and he did no work and excelled at everything - super annoying... So this isn't a plug, he really doesn't need one. Anyway, Julian understands freshness and the profound complexity that great grapes can impart on a wine if it isn't meddled with much, just very careful interventions, timed impeccably.
I tasted the 2018 Cabernets from his subregional category which is mainly Cabernet Sauvignon with 14% Merlot (which has a surprisingly assertive impact in the fleshy mid-palate for a typically average-to-shitty grape, so it's doing its job here perfectly). It's dazzling, for a mid weight wine the impact is huge and here's the thing, this isn't even the top-of-the-wazza wine. It's a great wine to try alongside the Phillipe Alliet Chinon featured a few weeks back because of their comparable youthful energy.
Here's what I scrawled:
"Violets, iodine, cherries, sap, cassis syrup. Pepper, nectarine, Satsuma skin.
Fleshy, pithy and raw. Chewy. Floral.
Good - bitter, nascent".
- Tom Riley