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1998 Australian Reds, including Grange

A selection of top Australian red wines from the successful 1998 vintage, tasted at a recent Waitrose (UK supermarket) press tasting. These wines are currently all available from the Inner Cellar rooms at Waitrose’s Kingston and Canary Wharf branches, and some of them are carried by Waitrose Wine Direct (mail order). Overall, I was a little disappointed with the way some of them were showing five years down the line. Grange 1998 was head and shoulders above the rest of the field, and if you can lay your hands on any of this at the indicated price (£110), you’ve got a bargain considering at what this much-hyped vintage is trading for elsewhere.

Tatachilla Foundation Shiraz 1998 McLaren Vale
Vinified in open fermenters and then aged in French and American oak for 18 months. Opaque colour. Concentrated, structured wine with tarry, minerally fruit that has a distinctive minty edge. A big style that is currently a little awkward now that the lush fruit has receded a touch and the oak is evident. Very good+ 88/100 (£16)

Capel Vale Kinnaird Shiraz 1998 Western Australia
Single vineyard wine from Whispering Hill in Mount Barker. Spends 17 months in a mix of new and second-fill French oak barriques. Surprisingly evolved, this is shows intense herby black fruits with a minerally edge. The fruit is fading a bit. Good acidity. Very good+ 87/100 (£20)

Peter Lehmann Eight Songs Shiraz 1998 Barossa Valley
From 80–90 year old vines this is matured in French oak for two years. It’s an expressive, boldly styled Barossa wine: spicy and rich, with good tannins and a tarry edge. Very good+ 99/100 (£25)

Katnook Estate Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 Coonawarra
From a mature low-yielding vineyard. Rich, intense black fruits dominate the nose. Bold, spicy and rich on the palate. A big style, perhaps aiming for too much ripeness? Very good+ 88/100 (£30)

Rosemount Estate Balmoral Shiraz 1998 McLaren Vale
Spends two years in American oak. Opaque but slightly fading colour. Evolved sweet herby nose. The rich fruit on the palate is receding and it’s currently quite herby. Very evolved and a little disappointing. Very good+ 86/100 (£35)

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 South Australia
15 months in new American oak. Intense, rounded nose with sweetly spiced licquoricey blackcurrant fruit. The palate is concentrated, bold and spicy with firm tannins and good acidity. Bold stuff with real potential. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£40)

Penfolds Grange 1998 South Australia
This legendary wine spends 18 months in new American oak. Opaque red/black colour. Tight nose with complex tar, black fruit and spice notes. Massively tight on the palate with firm tannins dominating. Lots of spicy richness here and a firm core of minerally, tarry fruit. A significant wine. Excellent 95/100 (£110)

wines tasted October 2003

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