1990 Mount Mary Cabernets Quintet
(Tasted 29 September 2013)
The first time I tasted the 1990 vintage of this cuvée was on 9 April 2000. I haven’t, to my mind, tasted a better Australian wine since then.
Naturally, I was very eager for the opportunity to acquire this bottle, some 13 years later, to see if it still holds up to expectations.
Uncorking an aged bottle of wine is quite a fine art that is very little appreciated. You need the right kind of corkscrew, not too thick and sufficiently long, so it gently goes right to the end of the cork without stressing it. Based on how easily it penetrates the cork, you’ll have an idea of its condition; if it goes in too easily, the cork might be compromised and break apart. The cork in this 23-year old wine was delicate, but it came out intact. Wine had very slowly seeped to the top, leaving slight encrustation under the capsule; but nothing to worry about. I was a little relieved.
A quick sniff suggested that I would be pleased although the brittleness of the cork indicated it might not keep much longer. No severe indication of cork taint, though. Aromas of sweet blackcurrant dominated, followed by hints of secondary woody characters.
After decanting, I poured a little into a large Bordeaux wine glass, swirled gently, then had my first sip.
For the first half hour after opening, I was confronted with opposing impressions.
On one hand, it reminded me of a 1978 Mouton Rothschild I had about 5 years ago. Aged Bordeaux. In fact, if tasted blind, I would have thought it was indeed a Bordeaux. A very old one. It was soft and silky smooth with very fine tannins and hardly any sediment or encrustation. The colour was reddish purple, low in viscosity owing to a modest 12.5% alcohol content, with little of those long lingering legs that typify big reds. On the nose, more blackcurrant and hints of yeasty toast. Soft like silk on the palate, drier than suggested by the smell of the cork.
Simultaneously, a hint of something disturbing: possible cork taint or oxidation. Perhaps I am over sensitive to this; however, it was so subtle I wasn’t sure. Or perhaps it was a sense of elements in the wine not coming together, falling apart, as the wine aged. I encounter this in many aged wine over 20 years old. Even with big age-worthy Australian Shirazes. This wine did not have the high alcohol content, nor the jammy ripe fruitiness, to mask it. A hint of mustiness came and went in my glass, suggesting that this wine had already peaked. I poured more wine from the decanter to make sure. I wondered if this wine was indeed past its peak.
Then over an hour later, something remarkable happened. Contrary to what one would expect with delicate old wines, instead of falling flat, things started to come together. The wine began a dramatic transformation in my glass, and a hidden power from within began to reveal itself. I was very pleasantly surprised. It was as though the wine was finally able to breathe after 23 years. As the hint of mustiness dissipated, a fragrant aroma of fruit and secondary earthy characters came to the fore: subtle yet taut and confident. Soft, mellow and very seductive; yet, bold and well-structured, a perfect complement to the roast lamb I had. And it only continued to surprise: three hours later virtually everything had come together. (I planned to save a little for the following day, to see how it would evolve; however, I ran out of wine!)
To conclude, I feel that this wine has lived up to my expectations, although I do think that it has peaked and, depending on the condition of the cork, should be drunk now. Of course, those in magnums would have potential for further development for there is certainly a hidden power that is strongly reminiscent of what I experienced when I first tasted it in 2000.
Enjoy on its own or with Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and a duck.
(Tasted: 9 April 2000)
Deep purple-red, with attractive viscous legs. On the nose, a powerful, complex mélange of rich, ripe berries and sweet oak leaps out of the glass. Certainly, it is reminiscent of the finest Bordeaux with its dense, robust, intense multifarious flavours and harmoniously integrated tannins. With its great firm, well-proportioned body and superb structure, this wine obviously has years ahead of it! A simply transcendental experience that is quite unforgettable! (Its pairing with the chargrilled Kangaroo loin was simply perfect!)