Sena, Henschke and some boring Zins
This morning I went to a seminar on Terroir and innovation in the new world, put on by Lay and Wheeler to showcase their portfolios from Henschke and Sena/Arboleda. Prue and Stephen Henscke, and Eduardo Chadwick gave presentations, and we tasted their wines.
I was very interested in what Prue had to say about the vineyards at Henschke: they are adopting a melange of organic, biodynamic and IPM practices to create their own sustainable form of viticulture. I also thought that the Henschke range, which is pretty broad these days, was admirably consistent. Hill-of-Grace 1998 is developing into a very nice wine. 2002 is currently youthful and tight.
If I'm honest, I was disappointed by Sena, Eduardo Chadwick's icon wine. Four vintages were shown: 2004, 2003, 2001, 1996. They were all good, but no more than just good. For me, they lacked excitement and life. 1996 Sena, for example, was ageing gracefully and tasted nice, but I wouldn't say it was world class. And Sena is the icon wine that beat a bunch of first growths at the Berlin tasting back in 2004.
I have a problem with the results of this Berlin tasting. I'm shocked that (1) the given group of journalists actually preferred the Sena and its stablemate Vinedo Chadwick over Lafite, Margaux and Latour, and (2) that they didn't spot the Chilean wines as Chilean in this line-up. Look, I'm not suggesting that Chilean wines can't be as good, or better than first growth Bordeaux - after all, I love to think I'm open-minded - it's just that so far, I've not tasted a Chilean wine that has in qualitative terms even come close to top-notch Bordeaux. I'll be brutally honest with you: if these Senas I tried today are representative, then I reckon the tasters tasted badly that day. They got it wrong. I will be thrilled to report back on the exciting, complex, vibrant, balanced Chilean wines that I taste when I visit Chile in January, but so far, I haven't met them.
Stephen Spurrier, famous for his 1976 tasting where Californian wines outshone French classics took part in the Berlin tasting, and preferred the French wines. 'Logic dictated that the French or Italian wines were going to win, but what happened was that the Chilean wines took the top places', he recalls. 'The tasters preferred the Chilean wines, which was quite extraordinary.'
Tonight I've opened a few bottles. A couple of Zinfandels that were as boring as the one I mentioned yesterday, with just some red berry fruit and a hint of greenness, and then a much nicer Shiraz Viognier from McLaren Vale with ripe pure fruit and a bit of elegance, albeit at 15% alcohol (Battle of Bosworth 2005 - organic - £9.99 Oddbins).