Friday, 23 March 2012

"Whistling Duck” Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)

The “Whistling Duck”, after which this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is named, is actually a species of duck found in South East Australia that performs a distinctive whistling call and makes a whistling noise when flying due to the flow of the air over its wings. Living in lagoons and wet grasslands, the Whistling Ducks of South East Australia are a common sight near vineyards, due to the large number of irrigation lagoons that have been dug. Typically a friend of the vintners, due to the free fertilisation and insect eating services that they provide, the Whistling Ducks after which this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon was named, are more than just a daft name for a bottle of wine!

A man who saw more Whistling Ducks than most Australian winemakers was the legendary Len Evans who founded the Evans Wine Company (the makers of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon) in 1996. Described as doing “more to advance the cause of wine in Australia than any other individual” and awarded an OBE (he was British born) for his services to wine, Len unfortunately passed away in 2006. The Evans Wine Company continues though with Denis Power the new chairman.

Producing numerous different wines from across South East Australia under the “Bulletin Place”, “Kingsvale Ridge” and “Nine Stones” brands, the “Whistling Duck” range of wines is one the Evans Wine Company’s latest ventures. Producing two wines that are inherently Australian blends (the “Whistling Duck” white is a Semillon-Chardonnay blend), the focus with these “Whistling Duck” wines is on producing wines which are easy drinking and accessible, as well as inherently Australian.

The two most planted grape varieties in Australia are Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and blending the two of them together, as is the case with this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, has been common for many years. “Bordeaux blends” of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were never really successful in Australia (the climate is just a little too hot for Merlot in most places) hence the planting of sun-loving Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon instead. Typically Australian Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon blends (in which Shiraz is the major player – like this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon) emphasise the dark fruit of both grape varieties, but tone down the sometimes overt spiciness of the Shiraz grape. The result is often thereby smoother than varietal Shiraz, although wines can lose the nuances of their regional identity.

The bottle of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is tall shouldered (as are the bottles of most Shiraz/Cabernet blends to come out of Australia) and sealed with a screw cap. The label depicts a duck whistling somewhat more melodically than the Whistling Ducks that roam the vineyards of South East Australia may normally.

In the glass, this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is a clear (i.e. non-faulty), intense ruby red colour. There is a slight fade in colour towards the rim of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon that is accompanied by a little rusticity. The alcohol content of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is relatively high (as you may expect given South East Australia’s climate) and this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is labelled at 14.5% abv. When swirled, the legs of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon take a while to run down the side of the glass as a result.

On the nose, this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is clean (i.e. non-faulty) and displays pronounced aromas of ripe red and black fruit. Sweet strawberry jam that is wonderfully deep forms the bulk of the bouquet of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, although this is also underlain by darker plum and mulberry notes.

One in the mouth, this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is dry and full-bodied. Soft and sweet ripe fruit is accompanied by moderate acidity and a moderate level of well integrated tannin influence. Persisting from the nose, rich and (slightly) sweet strawberry notes lead the palate of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon with plums, mulberry and damson adding depth. The palate of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is long, lush and fruit-filled. Particularly smooth, the tannin influence on this wine is not obvious and whilst there is just enough structure there to prevent the slightly gloopy fruit of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon becoming cloying, it is slightly overwhelmed by it. The finish of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is moderately long, but relatively plain with fading strawberry jam fading on.

In conclusion, this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is an accomplished and easy drinking, full-bodied red. The smooth and slightly sweet fruit that forms the palate of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is very appealing, if a little simple. All discernable spice that one might expect from the larger Shiraz component of this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon has been obscured, although juicy plum notes remain which integrate nicely with the darker fruit components lent by the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Unusually good for drinking alone, due to the smooth and ripe fruit exhibited, the moderate level of tannins and their integration, this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon would also be a good match for pizza and pasta with hearty sauces. Whilst often recommended as a match for red meats, we would suggest a varietal Shiraz with more of a spicy character, or a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon with more of a pronounced structure than this wine would be better suited to this foodstuff than this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon.

At £10 per bottle, this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon initially seems a little expensive for a wine that is comparatively simple. However, this “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is unusual in that the component flavours and grape varieties are quite so well integrated and in that the finished product is so appealing and easy drinking. This “Whistling Duck” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that is likely to suit a broad range of tastes.
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"Whistling Duck" Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
Score: 84/100 – Simple but very well made. Very, very drinkable!

Value for Money: 7/10 – At £10 per bottle, this "Whistlign Duck" Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon may be a little expensive for a wine that is styled for “everyday” drinking, but this "Whistling Duck" Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon a very good “everyday” drinking wine.
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