A sterling effort tackling the concept of wine tasting (versus drinking)

ww 0914 2We still have our training wheels on when it comes to wine tasting, not because we don’t know what we’re on about, but because our wine tastings invariably become wine drinking sessions.  We promise to work on this. We promise to start spitting out perfectly good wine. We promise … oh who are we kidding.

A challenge associated with being sent wine samples is that you have to open and taste them in a timely manner. The wineries that send samples typically do so with current vintage wine, and are generally predisposed to actually selling some of it so they can eek out a living. So in that vein we organised a wine tasting and invited a couple of fellow vino enthusiasts to join us.

In addition to the aforementioned samples we had a shipment of wine sent to us by Sterling Wine Auctions that comprised a few bottles of vintage wine that was, for one reason or another, difficult to sell. It seems there exists a prejudice of sorts among many wine aficionados against wine that is older than about 20 years. We harbour no such prejudices, on the contrary scoring wines at auction that are 30-40+ years old is one of our best kept secrets (until now). These older gems are often great value, have a fair amount of ullage, and you must accept a small failure rate and factor that into the value proposition.  It is also advised to decant them and give them time, sipping them repeatedly to draw out the pleasures that are hidden within.

ww 0914 1A critical component of wine tasting is ensuring you have good food to enjoy the wine with, this time it was Matti’s turn to feed us and he did not disappoint. Truffle salami, wild boar pate, Argentinian Chevre, smoked wagyu beef and more.  Bloody delicious and the perfect array of food to have some fun with the way wine flavours reveal themselves differently with with food.  A symbiotic relationship that never fails to amaze us.

Now the wine.  We will stick to the highlights so we can pretend we know when to stop 🙂  We decided to have a little fun with our tasting notes, and as time drew on the notes become more outrageous.  I have copied the notes verbatim as we wrote down on the night, some of the descriptions somewhat unconventional, but hey, we are unconventional.

We started with a 1994 Tahbilk Marsanne from Sterling.  We decanted this and let it warm up to close to room temperature.  This was amazing, aged Semillon like, flavours all over the shop like tangerine juice, peach, almond, dried apricot.  As Sterling said to us, a shape shifter, to sip over time.  This wine was a revelation and we have already tried other vintages that have also delivered, and are great value on the auction circuit.  We picked up a 2000 for $11 that was a cracker.

ww 0914 4Next up a 1970 Bollinger from Sterling that had huge ullage and the fizz was well and truly gone.  A curio really that took some time to open up, antique furniture flavour, think furniture polish, stewed peach, walnuts and prunes.  Really interesting, a challenge to get your head around, but worth the effort.

Next cab off the rank a 1965 Seaview Burgundy from Sterling.  This was a favorite of the afternoon, the fruit was still there as was the balance.  The Helen Mirren of wines, great pins.  Gently toiled earth, topsoil, Belgium chocolate, an old English country club.  Incredible length for a wine that I am sure was not supposed to last this long.  We assume this was a shiraz, the naming conventions in Australia at that time were somewhat arbitrary.

ww 0914 7We then opened a Palmarium 2010 Exemplar Heatcote Shiraz.  This wine is an interesting concept, winemakers are selected and asked to create a wine with no commercial constraints, ie in a perfect world how would you make a perfect wine.  The best fruit, the best oak, no time limits.  These wines are getting noticed (Halliday gave this one 96 points), and despite a hefty price tag, make for an interesting proposition.  We loved this, chocolate and spice, with a lovely savoury finish that lasts and lasts.  Full on tannins suggesting that this wine will reward some time in the cellar.

Moving on to a Howling Wolves 2010 Small Batch Cabernet Sauvignon from the Margaret River.  This is a cracking medium bodied delight that revealed chocolate and dark fruit, capsicum, tea, with a beautiful savoury finish.  Perfect balance and poise this wine will satisfy all lovers of this region’s cab sav.

ww 0914 6
Wine Wanker Down

We finished the evening with a 1998 Chateau d’Yquem with a Tirimasu.  This was a real treat, and if we are completely honest, probably not the time to open such a special bottle of wine.  We were fortunate that Conrad had hit a brick wall (“tired” apparently) and the bottle only needed to be shared between the remaining three of us.  Not much point carrying on about this wine, there have been reams written already. Nectar of the gods, does it get any better?

A great afternoon/night, we promise to work on our wine tasting v drinking but there is every indication (given the picture above) that there is still work to do on that front 🙂

Author: Neal (The Wine Wankers)



  1. I could print and frame each paragraph of this story. Each bottle is its own chapter and I can taste everything as if I was there. 🙂


  2. I totally agree that wine is so much better tasted with food. I find it quite difficult standing at cellar doors with often a minuscule amount of wine dribbled into a glass trying to decide what I think about it. Some wines, like pinots for example, really need a decent amount poured to sip over an hour or so with something to eat in order for for me to work out what I think about it. Ok, maybe it’s a failing of mine but that’s the way my taste buds work.


  3. What a spectacular success! Glorious food, superb and complex wines, and an outstanding nap to follow. Can’t think of a better way to spend time. Must go hunting for similar excellence…see you later! 😀


  4. Awesome! I am so glad our blogs met(: I love nothing more than to eat, sip and be merry with a group of like minded wine lovers and enjoy the deliciousness of it all. I am so stoke in following your posts


  5. Check it out! Okanagan Wine Festival in beautiful British Columbia. That’s where we live, western Canada is kind of like the California of Canada and we love our wine too. Interesting prose on here and thanks for checking mine out too!


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