Well, on a global scale, clearly there’s a lot of people that still drink Lindemans. They’ve done quite well going down the path of selling cheap Aussie plonk to the world via their Bin series. This has probably paid off for them financially but they are guilty of helping cement the overseas reputation of Aussie wine as being cheap and basic (no, not nasty, well maybe a little, and possibly cheerful to some too). If they had added an Aussie critter to their Bin label they would have sold even more wine. I should have been a wine marketeer!
Lindemans was actually started in 1843 by Dr Henry Lindeman who planted the very first vines in the Hunter Valley wine region. The original vineyard is long gone and they are now located in South Australia and owned by a big corporate, Treasury Wine Estates. So their focus has been on mass market sales for quite a long time.
There’s nothing actually wrong with the Lindemans Bin series of wines, and in 1993 the Bin 65 Chardonnay was Australia’s number one white wine export. My opinion has been that their wines have become pretty bland and tailored to the mainstream foreign “cheap and cheerful” market. They just haven’t appealed to me because I’m always searching for something a little more special. It’s such a shame though that I have developed this perception because Lindemans actually produces far more exciting wines than their Bin series, but brand damage has been done, well at least in my mind anyway. That is how I thought until I was recently reminded, actually a few times, that Lindemans do produce some decent wines, and especially so in the past.
A few weeks ago Stu won a mixed case of old cellared wines on one of the online wine auction sites. In amongst the mixed case was a bottle of 1985 Lindemans Pyrus. This wine won the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy in 1986. Now, this is no ribbon won at the local country fair, it is THE most prestigious and sort after wine award in Australia and is given to only one red wine per year and is meant to reflect Australia’s best wine of that year. If a bottle of this wine were to appear on one of the online wine shops it would probably sell in the hundreds. But this wine somehow went un-noticed and ended up in a mixed case that cost Stu $15 per bottle. And the wine is high into the neck of the bottle and in relatively good nick all over.
How did Stu get so lucky? I’d hazard a guess that someone saw an old bottle with the brand “Lindemans” and automatically dropped it into the cheap box without a second thought. A real score for Stu and he better not drink this one without me!
In one of Stu’s other recent cellared wine deliveries he also received a 1999 Lindemans Reserve Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier – a sparkling that had lost a lot of bubbles but Stu’s wife, my lovely sister, enjoyed it immensely and it was apparently full of interesting flavours.
And then just this weekend my family and I stayed with a good old friend of mine, Sean, and his family and this is where I was to have my own personal experience with Lindemans and what drove me to write about them. He lives in a beautiful house in the Blue Mountains that has a clear view over the bushland, pastures and suburbia, to the skyscraper covered Sydney skyline some 90kms away. Along with the company it was the perfect location to sit back and enjoy some wine.
Sean is a fan of Chardonnay and isn’t afraid to admit it. He noted that it may be out of fashion but he doesn’t care for wine fashion. The thing is, like a recently bought pair of jeans that hugs you so tight that the pitch of your voice jumps up a few notches, what once went out of fashion is back again! People are re-acquainting themselves with Chardonnay but it’s now a much leaner and crisper fruit driven wine that is far less dominated by oak. I find that some of the mass producers are even trying to emulate Sauvignon Blanc. What’s with that? I think they may be a little late to the
Sean likes a good old style oak driven buttery Chardy from the times before they were totally bastardized and turned into dry wood piles designed for the mass market that eventually burnt away as that particular era of Chardonnay faded and the modern style emerged. He had recently attended a trivia night in aid of his kids’ local soccer club. He had been late to win a round and most of the prizes, including wines, had already gone. Sitting almost alone was a bottle of 1999 Lindemans Reserve Padthaway Vineyard Chardonnay that everyone else was not interested in. This, again, was probably because it was a Lindemans and it looked “old”. Being a Chardy fan he happily took his prize.
Sean chilled this wine to have in our company and took it out to show me but put a caveat on it saying he wasn’t sure if it would be any good. As soon as I saw it I had mixed emotions, one being “It’s old, it’s Lindemans so it must be rubbish, but I never turn down free wine” and the other being “It’s a single vineyard reserve Chardonnay from Padthaway that may actually surprise us so let’s happily give it a go”.
We went with the positive angle and hoped we would not regret it.
Getting the cork out was a challenge due to its age. It was stuck fast and the cork tore away through the centre but we got most of it out and poured the wine through a strainer, which kept the wine almost clear of bits.
First thought … “That’s gunna be horse piss!” It totally looked like a dehydrated horse had let go in our glasses. It was golden, almost orange in colour. I have learnt that, yes, this may mean extreme oxidation but it may also mean that it’s just an old banger of a white wine that has gained a hell of a lot of character in its old age. And the smell on the nose was confirming the latter with interesting tropical fruit tones still springing out along with a scent of nuttiness (not from a horse).
Now I don’t know what horse piss tastes like, and you gotta wonder about anyone that does, but this was surely far removed from that. It was oh so toasty! And full of honey! Time had created a smooth and somewhat savoury chardonnay with loads of butter and nutmeg spice that still carried a small but noticeable background of ripe stone fruit flavours making it quite a complex wine that lingered in the mouth for some time after each sip. I asked Sean what his thoughts were and his reply was “I have to say that it’s an unusual amber colour with a mellow mouthwateringly oaky butteriness. A festival of the senses”.
Sean perfectly described a wine that was the exact sort of Chardonnay he was after. It absolutely astonished us and was a bit of a surprise. I’m sure someone with far more knowledge than I could find fault but that doesn’t matter, we loved it! I’m really getting a taste for well aged wine and am discovering that they often last way past what the textbooks say they will (and sometimes less too). No wine critic would have put anymore than a few years on this wine but it had morphed into something special way beyond its allowable age. It just goes to show, even the experts are guessing albeit in an extremely educated way.
Maybe I might just re-acquaint myself with Lindemans wines, although I’ll probably leave the Bin series for when I politely drink a wine someone else pops on the table. I’m a proud wine wanker, but I need not be a wine snob.
Sean, thanks for a great wine experience mate!