2008 Westend Estate Calabria Private Bin Saint Macaire

The Saint Macaire grape has fascinated me for some time because of its rarity as a varietal wine. No longer grown in its native Graves region of Bordeaux and with little in the way of substantial literature about it, Saint Macaire is truly one of the world's most obscure varieties.  

Supposedly named after the medieval town of Saint Macaire, which is situated on the right bank of the Gironde River 50 kilometres south-east of Bordeaux or because it was widely grown in the region, statistics indicated that around two hectares existed up until the mid-1990's in the region. It appears that together with the other lesser known red varieties Carmenere and Gros Verdot, Saint Macaire succumbed to the dreaded phylloxera louse in the late 19th century and as a consequence, became all but a shriveled memory.

Despite its obscurity on the world stage, it has been resurrected in California where it is sanctioned for use in Meritage reds and in the Riverina Region of New South Wales at Westend Estate. The Calabria range of wines are premium barrel-matured alternative varietals that give the winery more feathers to its already impressive bow and the mantle as the only Australian producer of Saint Macaire. The two hectares of low yielding vines are from thirty year old plantings. 

Intense purple, almost black in the glass, it's like looking at ink. An aromatically intriguing combination of violets, spice, briary notes, white chocolate and bacon fat. The silky textured palate is complemented by black cherries, sweet dark plum flavours, spice and fine grain tannins. Well integrated vanillin oak characters to boot with a long, warm finish. Tastes older than its four years and will still be around for another four. A powerful yet approachable wine that has broken new grounds for not just the Riverina but Australian wine.    

Source: Winery Sample. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 90 Points.

Website: http://www.westendestate.com.au/index.php 

2008 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Basket Pressed Mataro

The heritage-listed Kay Brothers Winery in the McLaren Vale has grown Mataro, the Spanish term or Mourvedre to use its French name, since the 1890's. The Barossa Valley has purportedly the oldest vines of this varietal in the world dating even further back to the time of the Crimean War.
Mataro / Mourvedre Grapes

The grape's popularity has waxed and waned over the years in sync with its blending partner Grenache right up until the recent upsurge in GSM blends. The tannins and alcohol of Mataro complement the Grenache with structure in addition to earthy, gamey flavours. Unblended examples are rare despite the varietal's extensive growth in the Vale and the Valley but are worth trying if you can get hold of them. Aged in American oak hogsheads for twelve months prior to bottling, this is the first release of the Kay Brothers Basket Pressed Mataro. 

Deep ruby red in colour with intense smokey, red and blackberry fruit aromas on the nose. Visualise the waft of fruit-laden punnets after a fire and this is what you get. Throw a little licorice, cinnamon and white pepper into the mix and you enhance the intriguing aromatic profile.   The palate reveals more brooding berry fruit flavours and dried herbs in addition to bitter black olives, spicy mince pie and tobacco leaf, which were nice. Leather and an earthiness that led me to think of farmyards, add a certain rustic element to the Mataro that I quite liked too but the alcohol heat disappointed. Fine chalky tannins and a smooth, savoury finish make this medium bodied Mataro a serious and complex wine that will develop further with age. Overall, a wine that I neither liked nor disliked but at an affordable price point, a good example to explore this varietal.  

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 15.0%. Closure: Screwcap. 
Rating: 89 Points.
Website:  http://www.kaybrothersamerywines.com/