Since Australian wines are relative newcomers to this country most people assume that it is a young industry there. But that is not the case at all. The planting of vineyards and the making of wines actually began in Australia in the 1800s.
We recently had the opportunity of meeting Alister Purbrick, the fourth generation member of the wine making family that owns Chateau Tahbilk Estate in Victoria. And to taste some of the remarkable wines produced by this winery which was established in 1860.
One of the most historic wine properties in Australia Tahbilk has what is perhaps the oldest vineyard of the French varietal Marsanne in the world and definitely has the oldest plantings of Shiraz in the world.
Tahbilk, the winery recently dropped the Chateau name on the label, produces a Reserve Shiraz from a Shiraz vineyard dating to 1860. These vines are ungrafted, pre-Phylloxera and the wine from these grapes is sought after by wine connoisseurs world wide.
As with the Shiraz, Tahbilk produces an outstanding Marsanne from old vineyards. Here is a white wine that ages remarkably well. Originally from the Rhone Valley in France it is a wine not well known in the U.S. We tasted 1979, 1989 and 1998 vintages of this grape, each a treat to the nose and palate.
The Shiraz vintages we tasted included the 1971 Reserve, the 1986 Old Vine vintage; as well as 1994 and 1995 Old Vine vintages. Also the 1997 Shiraz.
Tahbilk wines are now imported into the U.S. by Brown-Forman Wine Estates and some of the wines available here include the 1998 Marsanne, 1997 Shiraz, the 1993 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1994 "1860 Vines" Reserve Shiraz.
The Tahbilk wines we tasted all had intense flavors and that included the cabernet sauvignons. Alister Purbrick uses open vat fermentation for his cabernets and the wines are aged in 100 year old French oak barrels. These cabernet sauvignons are designed to have a long and illustrious bottle life. Certainly the vintages we tasted proved this to be true.
We were privileged to taste the 1979, 1984, 1993 and 1994 vintages of Tahbilk reserve cabernet sauvignons. All exhibited the carefully balanced flavors, intensity and long finish that is the signature of Tahbilk wines.
The Tahbilk wines we tasted truly place them as some of the very best that Australia produces. As for the name Tahbilk, it comes from the Aboriginal "tabilk-tabilk" meaning "place of many waterholes". What's the aboriginal word for "the place of fine wines"?
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