A personal challenge that can't be completed until it's suitable day for drinking a very nice bottle of wine?
All part of business as usual at Chateau Purple Teeth.
On Tuesday, I spent the whole day as an associate judge at the International Wine Challenge so, I didn't go swimming on Monday because I wanted an early night. As a result, I completed a 44 mile (equivalent of swimming The Channel twice) challenge in my local pool in aid of the Aspire Charity, which helps those with spinal cord injuries. You can read more about my challenge here. The charity was especially relevant as one of the IWC crew was out of commission with a broken neck, putting her wine shop out of business. Anyway, onto the wine.
First things first.
An absolutely huge THANK YOU to Debbie Kerr, Managing Director at Milton Sanford Wines, who gave me this bottle as a personal thank you after I completed my contract with them, during the summer.
Quickly, the focus moved from the source of the celebration and onto the wine.
How often do we get to drink a taste of history?
Seppelt made the world's first sparkling Shiraz in the 1890s. It was named "Irvine’s Sparkling Burgundy" (yes really) until the 1980s, when it was renamed Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz in later vintages. Only released in truly exceptional vintages, you can pick up a bottle of the 2004 (the last release) for around £60, from this website. Be quick - he only has 2 left. I can't trace any of the 1985 in the UK, and that's a shame because it means you'll just have to read about it, rather than tasting history with me.
A taste of 1985. I left my job in the Polaroid accounts department and went off to the University of Strathclyde. I was listening to Talking Heads, Simple Minds, Aztec Camera and The Smiths. I was drinking Black Tower, Hock and whatever else was on sale at the student's union. I shudder to think that I probably consumed lots of white Zinfandel. My "wine drink of choice" was the Castaway - a sickly sweet white wine cooler, with fruit juices. I'm not proud.
Had I even heard of Shiraz? Probably not.
Fortunately, the good people at Seppelt were having a wonderful vintage, in Australia's Victoria, and laying down this incredible wine for our enjoyment in the years to come.
It opened with a gentle pop rather than an exploding cork. It was actually quite tough to remove the cork, unlike much commercially available Champagne which can leap out of the bottle almost before the cage has been removed. But a 30 year old fizz that's been in bottle for around 20 years will not be so full of pressure. Was it worth the wait?
And then, the finish. The flavour lasted in the mouth for full minutes. Smooth vanilla, chocolate, cocoa, rich and velvety. There was no rush to take another sip because the flavour remained. It was incredible.
How does it get to be this way?
The base Seppelt Great Western shiraz wine goes through a process of fermentation in seasoned large format French oak barrels for around 12‐16 months. Then the wine undergoes a second fermentation and ageing in the bottle (in the same traditional method as used in Champagne) for seven plus years before disgorging. At this point the crown cap is removed, the lees (or dead yeast cells) are removed and the wine is traditionally corked, trimmed and ready to go to market, where it will age in cellar for, as we've seen, easily 20 years. This wine had serious potential to age for another good few years.
While there are other sparkling red wines made in Australia, this is the only wine of its kind that is sourced solely from mature Great Western vineyards, and then aged for so long in the bottle on its lees prior disgorgement. Trust me. If the only Sparkling Shiraz you've tried was made by Jacob's Creek, you haven't tasted a "true" Sparkling Shiraz.
And what did Mr Purple Teeth make of it? Keen readers will know that he's not a fan of fizz. He is, however, a fan of Shiraz. Would this simply be a good Shiraz wasted for him?
"Not too fizzy. That's good"
"Wow, it's fabulous. Delicious. Really purple. Black fruit driven but with much more smokiness. It lingers and lingers. Not overly tannic. Is this really 30 year old wine? It's amazingly fruity"
A bit later...
"My Kind of Fizz."
"Can I have a top up?"
"Heaven in a glass".
I couldn't have put it better myself.
If you've enjoyed reading this review, perhaps you'd consider donating to Aspire for my Channel Swim Challenge. You can text HHPT67 £3 to 70070 or clink on the link on the left.