1993 Beechworth whites

When was the last time you tasted a 1993 wine made from sauvignon blanc?  Probably in 1994.

Recently, Beechworth Vignerons' Association hosted a tasting weekend for members of the wine trade and journalists.  For me, two of the wines which stood out were from the 1993 vintage.  On one of them, I might have been alone in my opinion, but with another I have been backed up in print by Jeni Port.

1993 was a cool and wet year (before my time in Beechworth, I'm relying on Barry Morey's word).  The wines were lean and higher in acid; that's exactly what you would expect from a cool year. It's the next bit that is the surprise.

Giaconda hosted a tasting of magnums in their inspiring cave, blasted (yes, blasted) out of the granite underneath the vineyard.   1993 chardonnay was the first wine in the line up and looked great.  The next day Sorrenberg hosted a tasting in their cellar (under their garden, but not blasted out of solid granite).  The first wine Barry poured was the 1993 sauvignon blanc /semillon.  This wine was brilliant.

These were two lovely wines, both very European in style.  The range of flavours certainly had more of a vegetable/vegetative character than ripe fruit: I've tasted the wines before (10 years ago) and noticed that at the time.  Think mushroom, cabbage and cashew nuts for the chardonnay, and tomato plants that you've pulled out at the end of summer for the sauvignon blanc. They taste mature, but not old.  They have structure and that structure retains the flesh that they started with years ago (19 years ago).  It's not a word I use much, but Jeni Port pointed out that part of the Beechworth character is minerality and that was particularly evident in these wines (Jeni Port used the 1993 Sorrenberg sauvignon blanc/semillon as her example).  These wines aren't curiosities for wine nerds.  I agree that the modern-Australian-commercially-adjusted-palate might find them lacking fruitiness, but to anyone who has drunk a Hunter Valley semillon, a 5 year old Australian riesling or almost anything French and white, the style will be classic.  Rather than steely or acidic, they were tight.  In the world of wine they would be most similar to a white Burgundy from the 80's or 90's in the case of the chardonnay, or perhaps a 10 year old Vouvray for the Sorrenberg.  The bottles we had were not oxidised, spoiled or off in any way, and they were fermented with wild yeast and sealed with cork.

Sure, both these wines had never left the cellar where they were bottled, but they were made from very young vines.  The bulk of Barry's vineyard was planted about 5 years before this wine was made.  Giaconda maybe a few years before that.  In the meantime, the vines have set their roots down deeper, but the winemaking practices in both wineries have remained similar, if a little more refined.


Obviously 1993 whites are not available commercially from either Giaconda or Sorrenberg.  So what should you expect of recent years.  As it happens, the 2010 vintage was cooler than many (but not wet), and the 2011 and 2012 vintages were particularly cool and damp.  It's true that bigger, bolder years get better reviews when they are young, but if you're looking for longevity and a whole range of characters that develop slowly with maturity, perhaps you should be buying cool year wines.  Isn't this comparable to the reasons we sought out cooler climate wine growing regions in the first place?


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