February 8, 2007

2002 Kaesler Avignon, Barossa Valley, Australia

This wine presents another great immigrant wine story. Sadly, though, this immigrant story begins with a wayward German (that's not really sad, just my bias). No Italians make up the players in Kaesler's history, thus ruining my standing theory on all great wines coming from wineries/vineyards originally founded by Italian immigrants. But I digress.

It was a German shoemaker, Gottfried Kaesler, who arrived in South Australia in 1845 and set in motion the events that would put this wine on our table 162 years later. Gottfried landed in Australia and fulfilled his dream of becoming a farmer. He chose his land carefully, and built his farm in the Barossa Valley which would become one of Australia's preeminent wine producing areas. Back then, Gottfried and his sons were not sure which vines would survive the Australian climate, so they planted many different grape varietals as an initial trial-and-error to see which might survive, and eventually thrive.

They found that the Rhone varietals of Syrah (Shiraz in Australia) and Grenache were especially suited for the rigors of the sun and weather of the southern hemisphere. It was on these grapes, and the Southern Rhone style of winemaking, that the Kaesler family began to focus and over the years hone with each successive vintage.

This wine is named "Avignon" because it is a blend that matches that from Chateauneuf-du-Pape in Southern France, Avignon being the cultural capital of Provence. The blend is what is affectionately referred to as "GSM," an acronym for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. In this wine it is 58%G, 31%S and 9%M. It is also blended with 2% Viognier, so I guess that makes this one a GSMV.

We decanted this wine for two hours before tasting, and it was good thing we did. When we tasted we could tell that the wine was still in the process of opening up. It was massive. We let it sit while we made dinner and when we came back to it we both exclaimed out loud that it kicked ass. The nose is amazing. We smelled toffee and vanilla, rich roasted vegetables, and something akin to the smell of baking bread. This wine had us, before we even tasted. The palate was full of cherry, more toffee but with a slight burnt edge to it... almost like the burnt sugar on top of a creme-brule. There was a consistent earthy, vegetal quality behind everything that carried through to the finish. This wine was not so much elegant as it was just really damn interesting. And delicious. We would classify it as heavier bodied, but balanced with a long finish. It is a FANTASTIC food wine (at less than half the price of good Chateauneuf-du-Pape) and I could see pairing it with anything from a great piece of beef seared on the grill to hearty stews. It made me crave rustic food with lots of herbs. I would love to have this wine with cassoulet and really crusty warm bread. I'm starving.

cost - $23.99

winecommando rating (1-10) - 9.25

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