Sunday, April 8, 2012


1998 (MCMXCVIII) was a common year that started on a Thursday. In the Gregorian calendar, it was the 1998th year of Anno Domini; the 998th year of the 2nd millennium; the 98th year of the 20th century; and the 9th of the 1990s. The year 1998 was designated: International Year of the Ocean by UNESCO.[1]

1998 was also a great year for wines from both Australia and New Zealand.

"Unquestionably a great vintage, the reputation of 1998 seems to be enhanced with the release of each major wine. It's early days and while standout Australian reds like Grange and Hill of Grace are still some time away from release, there's every indication that 1998 could well be rated as the best Australian red wine vintage of modern times, possibly even since 1962. It appears to have married the sheer concentration of another top warm-to-hot year in 1990 with the fineness and purity of fruit flavour of 1994. Essentially a vintage that constantly bordered on drought but just managed to receive sufficient rainfall to enable the vines to bring their fruit safely to near-perfect ripening, it was a season which began and finished early and whose wines show great potential for bottle development."

Perhaps the 1998 vintage is best summarised by a comment made by Joe Babich, Managing Director, "this is the best vintage I have ever seen in New Zealand, and I have been involved in well over 30 vintages". As winemaker, the 1998 vintage has been a dream come true. Fruit quality from all regions has been excellent and all varieties have been harvested at true (physiological) maturity. Indeed in the 15 vintages I have been involved in I cannot remember a time when almost universally harvest date was determined by flavour rather than having to take into account possible poor weather. If I had to pick one characteristic of the fruit this year it is the balance, that is, excellent sugar, acid, pH and flavour. To complete the dream the yields have been good so there will be good quantities of excellent wine available."
We had the 1998

Last night, after a great day at Ocean Beach we cooked a fillet of beef to have with white bean puree and a rocket, Parmesan and walnut salad. What better accompaniment than a good red?
I fossicked in the cellar and brought out a New Zealand red and an Aussi one. I wasn't really looking at the vintages (in the gloom) that closely and it was serendipitous that they were both 1998.

The wines were 'Tom' and Eileen Hardy. 

It proved to be a good comparison.
The Tom, had first, was astounding in its colour which at 14 years of age was expected to have dropped a bit. It hadn't and was rich and vibrant. The taste, at first with a bit of a green edge opened up in the glass to be warm and velvety with only a bit of orange peel character betraying its age. Great wine.

The Eileen Hardy Shiraz also showed a bit of green on opening but quickly filled out and was full, round and with a silky finish. The plum and berry fruit flavours were nicely integrated with olive and coffee notes. Delicious.

With a couple of games of snooker in good company it was the perfect end to a fine day.

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