2008 d'Arenberg The Sticks & Stones Tempranillo Shiraz Tinta Cao Souzao

A quixotic blend from d'Arenberg's avant-garde genius Chester Osborn. Predominantly an Iberian-inspired blend from McLaren Vale grapes, the Spanish Tempranillo provides the bulk (47%) with parcels of the black Portuguese varieties Tinta Cao (15%) and Souzao (15%) with Shiraz (23%) completing the quartet. In previous vintages, Grenache was utilised in lieu of the Shiraz but it changes quite a bit depending on the year, according to the ebullient Osborn.  

Both the Tinta Cao and Souzao are prized grapes used in the production of Port wine and are native to Portugal's Douro Valley Region. The d'Arenberg Winery celebrates its centenary this year and if these varieties were around as long may have formed the basis of port wine, Australia's preferred 'tipple' of yesteryear. There are 0.6 hectares of each variety since they were introduced in 1999 with the first Sticks & Stones released in 2002. What these rare varieties bring to the table are pungent aromatics and a complex mix of red and dark fruit flavours and according to the winery, have a greater influence upon the blend                                                                    than their relative percentages would suggest.  

The wine's drawn-out name relates to vine sticks grown in stoney ground but probably more to the point is the quirky reference to the proverb from our youth. Some reviews have questioned the inclusion of the two Portuguese varieties but to paraphrase a famous quote, seeing things as they are and asking why and dreaming of things that never were and saying why not, may go to explain Osborn's thinking behind their presence in this complex, brooding blend. This is one of the things that is so admirable about our winemakers, the preparedness to push the envelope.   

A profound red-purple colour, almost inky in the glass. Mouth-watering aromatics of dark chocolate, fresh violets, dark berries and tea leaves. Medium to full bodied, there is a wonderful amalgam of plum and red current fruit flavours, sour cherry, licorice and star anise spice that give the palate an intense yet seamless and voluptuous texture. A good amount of earthy or rustic notes and soft leather. Secondary flavours of dried herbs and vanilla oak. Powdery tannins add to the overall complexity. There is spicy acidity through to the finish, which although lingering was too hot at the back end. A lot to like nonetheless about this rich and generous blend that kicks like a port. A wine to match a carnivorous feast ! 

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 14.2%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 90+ Points
Website: http://www.darenberg.com.au/

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