I didn’t drink as many bottles as usual this Christmas. I was at my parents, where my wine is kept, for only a couple of days before returning back to my desk in London. However, one bottle stood out as about the best, or certainly most enjoyable, wine that I’ve had this year.
In November 2003 I went on a two-week glory tour of Australia as part of my Young Wine Writer of the Year Award prize. I spent a few days in Victoria, including a visit to Shadowfax in Geelong, about 50 miles southwest of Melbourne. I was hosted by Matt Harrap, a Kiwi-born larrikin whose brother Steve I had befriended when I was in New Zealand earlier that year. Matt is what I’d call a “proper” winemaker – he’s scruffy, dirty and extremely foul-mouthed. A hands-on winemaker, I suppose you’d call him. I recall that the drive back to Melbourne was horrendous – I’ve rarely seen such a downpour, and it was dark. I was still recovering from a fractured foot obtained at a Port tasting (don’t ask).
Anyway, I was given a bottle of 2003 Shadowfax Pinot Noir on that visit, which had been tucked away safely since then. I looked at my cellar list and decided that this would probably need drinking up.
Coming straight of the cellar (or rather, cupboard in the garage), it was very cold and needed to warm up. Perhaps there was some reduction at first but that might have been because the wine was so cold.
Once it was at a suitable temperature (i.e. cool rather than warm, despite my parents’ suffocatingly hot central heating), it really showed its paces. It was dawn-pale in colour, entirely appropriate to Pinot Noir, and as bright as a smile. The nose and palate reminded me more of Côte de Beaune than Côte de Nuits red wines, foursquare rather than lissom, but still elegant and smooth. The tannins have faded like pencil marks on a page and the acidity remains at concert pitch. It was totally delicious and I drank the bottle over several hours on Christmas Eve. I wish that I had another bottle.