I’m not going to lie to you. It was not my discerning eye, but the canny manoeuvring of a cheeky Vintage Cellars staff member, that led me to choose this particular drop. When I stumbled upon it, it was labelled as the “Best Wine of 2014” and even had one of those labels dangling round its neck like a baby’s bib just to show it was special and needed taking home.
Now, I’m not normally one for picking a wine just because it won Bronze at Aunt Gertrude’s lemonade stand in Ballarat in the “Most Closely Matches the Colour of My Roses” category – especially as those who understand the wine scoring system know that giving a wine a bronze medal doesn’t mean the wine actually came third in the competition*. But I figured anything rated tops for a whole year at a wine store (albeit by one of those big evil corporations) deserves a crack at being my next favourite Friday evening pizza-and-a-movie tipple.
*(Bronze, Silver, and Gold correspond to how high the wine scored when the judges were tasting it, like giving a movie a 3, 4 or 5 star rating – i.e. giving a wine bronze says it’s a 3 star vintage which, granted, probably means they thought it was better than tepid dish water. But there could have been 20 more bottles in the same category they liked more.)
Alas, when I returned home and glanced at a Vintage Cellars magazine that was conspicuously placed on the counter, I was informed of the error of my ways: the Head Red Shiraz was the primo plonk of 2014! Imagine, if you will, my dismay. What is a man to do?
Well, I did what any self-respecting individual does to assuage the shame of being duped – I cracked open the bottle I had at hand and started to pour with all the intensity and ferocity such a delicate and borderline sedentary action will allow.
And then… then something magical happened. I sat down to drink and before long realised that here was something special.
We are, all of us, like Goldilocks when we are drinking wine. It is always easier to point out the flaws in something than it is to identify exactly what it is you like about it. This is too hot and that is too cold; this one tastes like grass and that one tastes like sticks; this one tastes like piss and that one tastes like… you get the idea!
But when I came to identifying the faults/idiosyncrasies/quirks of this wine I was stumped. It was not too sour, not too sweet, not too cloying, not too dark. All of things one can normally identify as being just that little bit off in a GSM were marvellously in balance from nose to stomach and all the way in-between. Even the fine acid and tannin kept everything in line and the alcohol was where it should be: pleasantly warming my belly after drinking the wine, not exploding in my mouth during.
And then it dawned on me what the real wonder really is: if this isn’t the best wine Head Red have got, how good must the Shiraz be?
I’d better get on to Aunt Gertrude in Ballarat and tell her to get her gold stickers ready…
Cognitive bias: Glass totally full