Saturday, January 21, 2006

Wine: McLaren Vale: Shiraz: Two Hands Angels Share 2004

My wine buying and drinking habits tend to keep me well north of the Equator. When I do head south, it's often for a wine from Chile or Argentina. This was the case even after our visit to the St. Chinian region of France, where a winemaker who'd apprenticed in South America indicated that one popular oaking method there was to throw chunks of wood into stainless steel vats. My few experiences with wine from Australia in general, and McLaren Vale in particular, have left memories of uncommonly huge, nearly thick, wines that were more sweet than I prefer. I'm also skeptical of the movement toward screw cap tops for red wine.

This bottle was a gift though, and after several years of sticking to my viticultural comfort zones I was eager to try it - screw cap and all. The ever-present Robert Parker reviewed the wine to the tune of 95 points. While he cited blackberry and cassis nose, the fruit had more of the dusty and muted quality of ripe blue berries for me. While the nose was complex, the mouthfeel and drinking experience were strictly crowd pleasing - massively full bodied and palpably sweet.

The packaging of the wine has been carefully considered, everything about the bottle suggests substantiality and darkness. "Two hands" are represented on the label in a variety of ways; debossed on the front, stamped in red on the back, and in the mildly moody main graphic as well.

Few wines offer so much for your consideration or dining table discussion at this price point. Less common geography, references to the wine makers idiom(1), sheer drinkability, pumped up alcohol content. attractive and detailed packaging, the screw-top controversy.

(1)This clause is itself a reference to the phrase "Angel's Share" - a poetic description of the evaporation that occurs during the wine making process. Tough to know how to handle this sort of thing. I suspect many folks who get this far in a review of a wine are probably familiar with the term, also it is described on the label. Even casually mentioning this sort of thing outside of a deliberately self-conscious foot note is obviously pulling an Alex Trebec. For the record, I was first introduced to it at Clos Pegase, which features a cupola of sorts over the bottling line that was included in the design of the building to "capture" the angel's share.

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