Unusual and delicious wines from the Australian Tahbilk Estate

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A Rhône-inspired producer in Victoria

Tahbilk Estate was founded in 1860 in the Nagambie Region in central Victoria in Australia, and has almost always impressed me, delivering very affordable white wines from the Rhone grape Marsanne. For around ten euros it is wines that can be aged for several decades! I have also been impressed by their “Museum Series” with older red vintages that I’ve tried at the London Wine Fair over the years. The winery and vineyards is since 1925 in the hands of the Purbrick family and today it was Alister Pubrick, the fourth generation, that led the tasting.

Alister Pubrick of Tahbilk Estate
Alister Pubrick of Tahbilk Estate, copyright R Eriksson

The property is of an impressive 1200 hectares, of which 210 hectares are cultivated with Rhone grapes like Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne, and red grapes like Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre, as well as traditional grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Sauvignon blanc, Verdelho, tempranillo and sauvignon blanc, so there are a lot of grapes to choose from! And in order to make the wines as fresh and long-lived as possible they only use screw cap for all white and red wines.

The white Tahbilk wine that has been around a very long time in Sweden it is the Marsanne which in its country of origin, France, is usually blended with Roussanne. They have one of the world’s largest single plantings of the grape, and make even a small amount from vines planted back in 1927. The grapes are cold-pressed, fermented at low temperature and aged exclusively in stainless steel tanks, although one can feel some faux barrels notes in older wines that come from the ageing. Around 20% of the harvest is set aside each year for a later release as Museum wines, as the 2010 vintage in the tasting.

Tahbilk whites
Tahbilk whites, copyright R Eriksson

Tahbilk Marsanne 1994

Golden-yellow colour, very mature aroma of peach, botrytis (however, there is none) and tropical fruit, dry, fairly full-bodied mature flavour with tropical fruit, still with good acidity and very decent length. Impressive for a 22-year old wine, but you can keep it more!

Tahbilk Marsanne 1997

Golden yellow colour, fairly big mature a little closed, also with much tropical fruit, feels fairly full-bodied, fresh and mature with a certain bitterness, good balance and length.

Tahbilk Marsanne 2001

Golden yellow colour, fairly mature, fresh nose with hints of yellow apple, fairly fresh palate, with yellow apples and some bitterness.

Tahbilk Marsannes
Tahbilk Marsannes, copyright R Eriksson

Tahbilk Marsanne Museum 2010

Light yellow colour, fairly big mineral-driven nose with some maturity and hints of yellow apple, medium, dry, high acidity, tangy, mineral-driven palate with yellow apple and length.

Tahbilk Marsanne 2012

Light yellow colour, young, fresh nose, with mineral and spice. Young, fresh, dry, medium-bodied palate, with mineral and length. Gives me some riesling vibes!

The red grapes are fermented in 100-year-old open wooden vats and then aged mostly in old and very large barrels of French oak.

Tahbilk Shiraz 2000

Brick red colour, fairly big, mature aroma of dark fruits, with hints of blackberry and herbs, quite full-bodied, mature, palate with dark fruit, with some acidity, blueberries and herbs, balanced tannins, good length.

Tahbilk Shiraz 2000 and Marsanne 2001
Tahbilk Shiraz 2000 and Marsanne 2001, copyright R Eriksson

Tahbilk Museum Shiraz 2008

Bluish-red colour, medium aroma of dark fruits, with some maturity and blackberries, quite full-bodied palate with dark fruit, with hints of blueberries, slightly sharp acidity and with balanced tannins.

Tahbilk Reserve Shiraz 1999

Brick red colour, medium power, fairly mature, nuanced nose with dark fruits with hints of herbs and menthol, medium-bodied, dark fruit, mature flavour, quite dry with fairly easy tannins, long.

Tahbilk ESP Shiraz 2002

Brick red colour, quite mature, dark fruit and spicy aroma, mature palate with dark fruit but somewhat dried-out, with balanced tannins and length.

Tahbilk 1860 Shiraz 1995

Brick red colour, powerful fairly mature nose with dark fruits, elegant, with hints of barrels and herbs, elegant palate with dark fruit and mature with silky tannins.

Tahbilk Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon
Tahbilk Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, copyright R Eriksson

Tahbilk 1860 Shiraz 2006

Brick red colour, big, quite mature and complex nose of dark fruits with hints of barrels and black currant, fairly full-bodied palate with dark fruit, with fresh acidity and still with a bit of hard tannins so it probably needs to be get few more years in the cellar.

Tahbilk Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Brick red colour, powerful nose with dark fruit, fairly mature with hints of red and black currants, medium-bodied, fairly mature palate with dark fruit with hints of black currants and herbs, long and very well balanced.

Tahbilk ESP Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Brick red colour, powerful nose with dark fruits, ripe, with hints of barrel, black currant and herbs, ripe medium-bodied palate with dark fruit, with hints of black currants and herbs, soft tannins and a lively fruit acidity, long.

Tahbilk ESP Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Brick red colour, powerful pretty mature aroma of dark fruits, with hints of black currant, menthol and eucalyptus, big full-bodied flavour with dark fruits, mature with black currant, perfectly balanced tannins and length.

This was a very interesting tasting. All the white wines, regardless of age, has a lot more to give, and none of us participants could believe that many were so old. Even the red impressed greatly, but as Alister said, the firm’s flagship 1860 Shiraz is perhaps rather ambitiously prices. But to get a wine from a vineyard that is only half a hectare, ungrafted and pre-phylloxera, with old vines imported from Hermitage in 1860, for just over 70 euro feels after all not unreasonable at all!

Roland Eriksson writes on BKWine Magazine on wine tastings with wine merchants and importers in Sweden. Roland is the author of a book on cognac (A Handbook: Cognac, 2007, published in Swedish) and one on rum as well as one on tea.

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