Some thoughts on our progress

thoughtsWith the passing of the years, the vines are changing from being producers of youthful, vibrant fruit to ones that deliver more brooding, moody, nervous fruit. It is as if they have given up their years of childhood frivolity and have taken on the angst of teenagers; more aware of the complexity of life yet not fully evolved to deal with the twists and turns that can so quickly beset them. Not fully mature, but nevertheless, full of Continue reading

A Perspective on Biodynamics & Intuition…

When people come to visit us, they often ask questions and want to find out more about biodynamics. I try to explain that to fully understand biodynamics requires a shift in thinking, a shift in thinking that requires judgments to be not solely scientific.  I suggest that embracing biodynamics requires an instinctual understanding of the space we inhabit, the land we farm, and an understanding of the importance of intuitive perceptions. Acceptance of intuition is something that our scientific community finds difficult to embrace.  In an earlier Newsletter I quoted a scientist – Professor Stuart B. Hill now of the University of Western Sydney – about the scientific basis of the BD preparations.  I would like to quote him again if I may, this time about intuition:

“A purely scientific approach does not allow for the intuitive understanding of the ‘good’ farmer. Most people, including scientists, make decisions partly based on ‘feelings’ and intuitions, probably more often than they recognise, but science makes no allowance for that.  In fact, most aspects of science are in denial about the phenomenon, and scientists set-up experiments which ignore it. Those feelings or intuitions are, in fact, based on readings of inputs we don’t consciously recognise, and while most tertiary courses provided no support training for use of those intuitive registers, and in many instances actively worked against them. In social ecology we talk about mystical or spiritual dimensions, which are not scientific but represent our best attempts to acknowledge that conscious human knowledge represents only a minute portion of the sum of knowledge in the world.”

To illustrate his point he refers to an image, used by André Voisin, a French agronomist, where a minute dot beside a huge circle represents the sum total of human knowledge with the circle representing the knowledge there is to discover.

“There is no doubt we need to get better at recognizing and making use of these intuitive inputs”.

To further reinforce his point he talks of his grandfather, an ‘uneducated man’, who knew intuitively just when and where to plant particular vegetable crops.

“He couldn’t explain it. He just knew the time was right and that is what he should do.  Although the reasons may have been inexplicable, but the inputs he was tapping into were still real, and the results he achieved with his intuition out-stripped those of people taking the more limited ‘scientific’ approach. It’s the same with really good farmers, although the modern trend to put farmers through degree programs strongly focused on conventional science is tending to kill that by closing them off to intuitive inputs, which are real even thought they can’t be easily measured.”

I wonder if the criticism now being leveled at Australian wine of ‘sameness’ would be tempered if our highly-skilled, highly-trained,  science-based winemakers listened to their inner-self, their intuition, a little more often.

On Lunar Cycles

Those of you who have followed us from the beginning will know that I place great faith in the Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar. I never make any major decisions with regard to our wine on root days, indeed I try not to even taste wine on those days, my palate simply lies to me on such days. Many of my colleagues think this trait of mine ‘quaint’ and have often told me so. So it is with great interest that I recently read a report of its use by the big end of town, from the London-based NNA news agency, part of which I reproduce here.

Spraying vines with biodynamic preparation 501.

Spraying vines with biodynamic preparation 501.

Lunar cycles and the taste of wine

LONDON (NNA) Maria Thun’s “Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar” is probably one of the better kept secrets of the wine trade. Yet, as the London Guardian newspaper recently revealed, for major supermarket chains such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer it has long been used as a tool to determine the best days to invite critics to wine tastings.

Grapes are harvested on a fruit day.

Grapes are harvested on a fruit day.

“The biodynamic calendar is a very familiar concept to people who work in the wine trade, and has been for decades,” Mary Rochester Gearing, Tesco BWS PR Manager, told NNA. “Tesco have been referring to the calendar when choosing a date for their tastings for the press over the past years, something that Marks & Spencer also do and have done for a long time,” she added.

Maria Thun’s calendar is used by biodynamic farmers to determine the optimum days for sowing, pruning, and harvesting various plant crops, based on the rhythms of the moon, planets and constellations. Days are categorised as fruit, flower, leaf or root days, depending on these astronomical relationships.

“Although biodynamic practices are to do with the work in the field and the tending of the vines – winemakers in Burgundy in particular operate according to these methods – the theory also goes to the extent that wine will show more flavour on certain days,” Mary Rochester Gearing explains, “but from a very basic perspective it makes sense to try and show wines at their optimum which is why we try to hold our tasting on fruit or flower days.”

Marks & Spencer, too, believes that using the biodynamic calendar helps to present the wines to best advantage, even going so far as to advise customers to avoid disappointment from the best bottles by making sure not to open them on root days, the Guardian reports. “Before the tasting I was really unconvinced,” the paper quotes Jo Ahearne, winemaker for Marks & Spencer, as saying after having sampled more than 140 wines over two days, “but the difference between the days was so obvious I was completely blown away.”

And even the Guardian itself found the calendar worked: “The Guardian tested the theory this week and tasted the same wines on Tuesday evening, a leaf day, then again on Thursday evening, a fruit day. Five out of seven bottles showed a marked improvement,” the paper writes.

Bottling is done in accordance with the biodynamic calendar.

Bottling is done in accordance with the biodynamic calendar.

Although Maria Thun’s yearly ‘Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar’ is available in Australia and is a marvelously, interesting book to read, it is designed for use in the northern hemisphere, so the dates and times are not correct for use in Australia. Fortunately there is an Australian version.

Brian Keats has been publishing a Southern hemisphere version for 22 years ‘Antipodean Astro Calendar’. It is available direct from him at www.astro-calendar.com or from Biodynamic Agriculture Australia at www.biodynamics.net.au which is the premier Biodynamic teaching organisation in Australia.

On What is Biodynamics

hornsBiodynamics was first detailed in a series of agriculture lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 and is internationally recognized as a leading organic method working across al1 agricultural systems.

The biodynamic method involves the use of specially developed preparations, better known by the numbers 500-508, which assist in connecting the whole farm unit with the dynamic rhythms of the earth and of its atmosphere. Instead of just acting on the physical, biodynamics goes a step further and works both, with the living soil and the less understood but powerful invisible energies of nature. Biodynamics recognizes that great wine starts in the vineyard, not the cellar, and that a wine-grower must understand his soil and site before he can make a great wine. Biodynamics – because of this connection with the world of invisible energies – helps to dramatically increase the possibility of individuality in wine. The French call this individuality Terroir.

More on the future of Australian Wine

In an earlier post I made comment as to my views on the sameness that Australian wine is increasingly being perceived as, by reviewers in our main export markets; a perception that I believe is ill-formed and ought to be countered more effectively by our governing bodies. I expressed an opinion that our governing bodies Continue reading

Castagna Third Party Reviews

Our recent release of mostly the 2010 vintage wines has been reviewed by three of our most respected wine commentators, Campbell Mattinson publisher of Wine Front and editor of the James Halliday’s Wine Companion magazine; Nick StockPhilip White of the Indaily Adelaide and drinkster.blogspot.com, surely Australia’s most literate wine commentator. I thought it would be interesting to compile the three reviewer work, listing each review, of each of the wines one after another, so you can compare – different yet the same; if you’re interested in our wines it makes fascinating reading.

The wines are available on our website at www.castagna.com.au or you can call us and we will email or fax you an Order Form or Price List.

Castagna 2010 Genesis Syrah

A deeply complex, ripe and compelling nose of granite dust, plum, blackberry, pepper and baking spices, this is a wine that has terrific allure in the glass; fragrant and enticing. The palate is beautifully balanced and texture is driven by fine sheets of ripe tannins that carry black granitic mineral flavour, dark cherry and a vast array of spices, dark chocolate, and dark plum and cherry stone freshness to close. Thrilling wine.

Nick Stock The SMH and Age Good Wine Guide 2013 96 Points

This is less exuberant than previous releases; more reserved. It’s like there’s an inner confidence at play here; like the wines know they’re good, and don’t feel the need to say it so loudly. There’s still the violetty, spicy, aniseedy perfume. Part of this was matured in a concrete egg, so essentially less of the wine has seen oak (slightly). This has a sinewy character that I’ve not seen in Genesis before. Buoyant but not voluptuous. A little more strictness. Castagna’s reds have always been so sexy; there’s a button or two extra been left buttoned here. Long, spicy, meaty finish.

Campbell Mattinson Wine front 95 Points

Make a pie of whole berries of blackcurrant and blueberry, with a few junipers thrown in. Sneak some really peppery watercress in there somehow: maybe layer the bottom pastry with it before you spread the fruit on there – the pepper in this wine is watercress pepper, not peppercorn pepper. It has some anise, some licorice, some smote granite, some trippy petrichor, and the whole thing about this wine is the adventure, anyway, not the flavour. It’s science fiction, with much ozone oozing bluely from simmering electric connections. Like nuclear fuel rods glowering in the cooling brine. After it’s prickled and twitched your nostrils right up past the Jacobsen’s Organ, it goes kinda velvety and says everything’s all right. Don’t believe a word of it. You’re suckered. The Alien lives within you now.

Philip White Indaily Adelaide & drinkster.blogspot.com 94++ Points

 

Castagna 2010 La Chiave Sangiovese

This is Australia’s best Sangiovese. Ever. It is precise, brilliant and intense. That’s not saying a lot, but it makes my forehead fall to a supportive palm, while my breathe spills its marvels all over my desk. I have never exhaled a more satisfactory miasma born of the blood of St Jove. Which means the chiave, the lock, the latch, is open. Which makes me think of Chios, the Ægean island famous over the millennia for its wine. Not to mention the Teacher’s Chair of Homer. A liquor of sublime elegance, demeanour and poise. No further message.

Philip White Indaily Adelaide & drinkster.blogspot.com 95+++ Points

Australia’s best sangiovese – I’d argue.

This release is a wine of delicate power. Delicate flavour, torrid tannin, yet it all somehow melts together. Dark cherry, toast, rose petals, spice. Whisper of eucalypt. Clever smoky oak. This is a super wine. It sounds like a funny thing to say but you can tell, with the 2010 Castagna reds, that with this year the long drought had broken. The wines are calmer. Their natural sexiness seems more sophisticated; more at ease.

Campbell Mattinson Wine front 94+ Points

An estate-grown sangiovese that offers a very complex nose: bright-red fruits, meaty game and spice, a dusting of fine, crushed granite minerals; it changes rapidly in the glass so decant or cellar for the best results. The palate is built on bright and ripe cherry fruit flavour, and it delivers a wealth of fine, mid-palate tannin that adds a musky edge to the bright, pristine fruit here, lovely and open yet assertive tannins, gentle build, really flows, and great balance to close.

Nick Stock The SMH and Age Good Wine Guide 2013 94 Points

 

Castagna 2010 Un Segreto

One of the pointiest wines I’ve smelt in recent aeons, this is a new thing. Nobody’s done this so well and jumpingly before, and if they did, it’d probably be by genetic modification and a failure. But this has been grown outa the granite and sandstone ground from two sorts of right royal grape vine types, Sangiovese and Shiraz. It is alive, like carbon is alive when it’s on the paws of a giant Black Panther who is pacing on account of the inconvenience of the cage. The edgy reek of its sweat, which is white and salty on its muscular blackness. Back and forth, back and forth, up and down. The Juniper berry’s here again, but it’s really as much the smell of the bark of its tree on the heath there all the way from London down to the gin factory at Plymouth. Cat-scratching music, please. With some well-polished tack riding past. You can let it out to feed forever on the vast veldt of your sensories. In other words, Black Panther (cat not cat) stalks girls on horses, and boys who sometimes think them gals look good. You all deserve it. Stunning.

Philip White Indaily Adelaide & drinkster.blogspot.com 96+++ Points

This sangiovese and shiraz blend has a beautifully entrancing, fragrant nose of bright-red floral perfume, ripe red and blue fruits, dark-brown spices and granitic, rocky minerals – very complex and nicely integrated. The palate is laid out on fine tannins and shows a bright and even shape that offers a sleeve-like, composed dark berry fruit core, moving sleek and long. Holds the finish with impressive poise and leaves an elegant impression.

Nick Stock The SMH and Age Good Wine Guide 2013 96 points.

 

Castagna 2008 Sparkling Genesis

Castagna’s sparkling red is arguably now the Australian champion of the style. It’s certainly the most compelling. This one spent two years on lees and was disgorged in October 2011. It smells amazing. This will be a great wine, given time. For now it tastes of jubes, fistfuls of spice, raisins, tea and toast and earth. It has oodles of sweet blue- and black-berried fruit flavour but it remains dry and focussed. By Australian standards bugger-all dosage has gone into this wine, and its dryness is compellingly apparent. You have to have the fruit quality to pull off such a style of course – sweetness is at heart a masking agent – and this wine has fruit quality to burn. It will develop magnificently.

Campbell Mattinson Wine front 96 Points

The tiny bubbles and absolutely minimal liqueuring have softened some of the 08’s angular bits, but put a little more sharp into others. The aniseed, blueberry and juniper are all here chugging, the jujubes have taken on a St Elmo’s Fire halo, and the nightshade and tea leaves seem to have been replaced by a thin layer of coal dust, but overall, the similarity with the wine with 100% fewer cavities is reassuring. This is very dry for red fizz. It works that same old teetering see-saw of soothing and excitement, and keeps the sensories alert and entertained. As the thunderstorm breeze whizzed across the table, each sniff or sip drew out another contrast or complement, just as the vineyard changes aroma constantly with wind direction and airborne water. Blueberries at the bottom.

Philip White Indaily Adelaide & drinkster.blogspot.com 95+++ Points

 

Castagna 2009 Sparkling Allegro

A wine that teases is most often a wine that pleases. This salacious pink fizz teases from the very notion that it’s made from bio-dynamic Shiraz, all the way down to its last merry life-giving bubble. It does a tantalising see-saw all the way through, first offering brazen maraschino cherry, then the waft of the summer grasses and granite dust of its source on a rocky rise near Beechworth, then back again. Fru-fru and granite. Granite being very lightly radio-active, I like the tease of that, too: the damn thing really does make one glow. It’s as dry as crushed bone china, but that bright cherry fruit persists with its viscous illusion of sweetness. Up and down, in and out, on and off – the edge of excitement it provides will add a humorous rosé-glassed hue to whatever social precariousness your Exmess lunch can offer. As your second glass runs in, the space between those fruit and country extremes diminishes, the troughs and crests grow close and viscous as the wave-line smooths out and you’re sitting back there with a foolish bemused grin. This is not anything like Champagne. It is a brash, hearty, vivacious wine unique to one tiny patch of Australia. All that big-mouth froth aside, this Sparkling Allegro puts a solid gold seal on my confidence that Castagna would be my Australian winery of the year.

Philip White Indaily Adelaide & drinkster.blogspot.com 95 Points

Daringly dry. So much crushed herb and spice. So textural and creamy yet chalky and dry too. Earthen. Pippy cherries. Not fruity, and yet powerful, full-bodied. Wonderful style of food wine. Crying out for salami and bread. A thoroughly individual wine.

Campbell Mattinson Wine front 93 Points

A three-year rest on lees for this pale rose has delivered a fresh and complex result that smells of ripe dried red berries and background yeasty, bready complexity, some gentle, rose-like fragrance here too. The palate has terrific weight and depth; it’s rich and creamy, there’s unmistakable phenolic traction adding length and shape, and flavours of wild red berry fruits and savoury yeast run deep into the dry, assertive finish. A distinctive style that beckons for the dining table.

Nick Stock The SMH and Age Good Wine Guide 2013 93 /100

 

Castagna 2010 Ingénue

As tight as a kettle drum, this wine of Julian Castagna is as drawn and taut as it is suave and elegant. It’s wired as well as sprung, immediately more acrid and sharp: almost brittle. It prickles the nostrils. I found myself thinking of the smell of Sir Arthur Streeton’s Fire’s On – Lapstone Tunnel 1891 and finally realized that the piquant sandstone country around Castagna is pretty much the country that young Arthur painted as the navvies and powdermonkeys drove a train line through the mountains just the other side of the border and up a bit. Fortunately, they didn’t have to go through the granite also resident at Beechworth. With this wine, the air within my glass smelled the same as the air without. Then, once again, beside the dust and the sunbleached hay, that sweet fleshy grass insinuated itself, this time as cool and cucumbery as Issye Miyake. By Bacchus, it’s a beautiful drink. Those triple-x phenolics dance round in the acid like William Burroughs does when he takes off his skin for his bone dance, and yet there’s still that swoony, comforting, luxurious ?ubrówka flesh. Peking duck.

Philip White Indaily Adelaide & drinkster.blogspot.com 95+++ points

It’s easy to put a high price on a wine but it can be excruciatingly difficult to back it up with real quality. This wine does. Look, it’s just a fascinating wine. It’s far easier to swoon over than it is to describe it. Hay, dried grains, squeezed ginger, juicy melons, apples maybe. Sounds a bit sexual and that’s the way it tastes. Heady but compelling. Mouthfeel at every turn. Spicy, rocky, prickly exit. Super.

Campbell Mattinson Wine front 94 Points

This viognier has a lovely floral side, fragrant wild flowers, some mealy barrel fermentation notes, nougat and sourdough bread; really complex wine here. The palate has terrific texture and richness that delivers a savoury layer of nutty flavour across a melon and peach core, lovely acidity and grip through the finish, sweetly spiced and very concentrated.

Nick Stock The SMH and Age Good Wine Guide 2013 93/100

 

Adam’s Rib The White 2010

More chardonnay than viognier this release. Spicy, lively, intense. Great power and great floral/gingery flourish. Creamy mouthfeel. Bright. Has interest at every turn. Not sure why we don’t pay wines like this more attention. Super release from Adam’s Rib. Linger of exotic flavour:

Campbell Mattinson Wine front 92 Points

Both makers will probably dislike me saying this, but in style this is so far out there the only other horse in the race is Johnny Gilbert’s forthcoming By Jingo Grillo.

It’s about nothing smelling much like what everybody thinks grapes smell like, and letting the wine run off with its own flavour. Like it smells like wine, not grapes. Both those whites are big mature profound babies as thickset as the girls in Rubens’ room in the Louvre. This one’s got her face in a bowl of broad beans in butter and garlic. She’s just let it have another blast of pepper grinder, a grinder which doesn’t have a friggin torch in it. This is candle-light wine. Somebody’s stewing jam melon in the corner. Woodstove business. Pears, too, but creamier and more buttery than any pear I’ve yet pillaged. But it’s no dessert wine. This is cassoulet wine. Everybody’s laughing! Oyster omelette wine. Wah Hing salt’n’pepper eggplant wine. Pig belly wine. Park Lok pig tripe in chicken stock with onion, mustard seed and white pepper wine. I just drank a whole bottle thinking that up. Oh yes. It’s Chardonnay and Viognier, and don’t you worry about that. Radical blanc for hardcore sensual rouge revvos.

Philip White Indaily Adelaide & drinkster.blogspot.com 94 Points

 

Adam’s Rib 2010 Beechworth Chardonnay

Grown on the Smith’s vineyard, the oldest chardonnay vineyard in the Beechworth region. The first varietal chardonnay under the Adam’s Rib name. Barrel fermented.

Takes some time to open up in the glass; benefits from a decant. Grapefruit and melon and almond. Touch of toasty oak. Spent time on skins and it shows in the wine’s skin-like texture. Lacks aroma but lingers deliciously on the finish. Glycerol. Will be better again in 12 months but if you’re opening now, give it some time to come around.

Campbell Mattinson Wine front 89+ Points

 

Adam’s Rib 2010 The Red

Nebbiolo and Shiraz. Granite. Clean Beechworth air. Wild yeast. Approachable. That’s what it tells me on the outside. On the inside, add the triple-X rating. It’s like the fruit section of a bacchanale in the final movement. The jellied fruit wrestling. Where all is ripe and red and rude, and we’re rubbing it on each other in the bath. It smells deep and yearning and it wants you in there with it. The edge of it is pure smashed granite that sets the nostrils twitchin’ and itchin’. That’s just a carapace, a front, to protect and hide the rich soft within. There’s glowering, prickly anise, too. Drink. That stone-dust edge is in the palate like a vividly coloured exotic reptile skin designed, too, for protection. Which is what it will do, keeping the fruit department preserved and fresh for a long time while it scares everything else away. This has to do with Nebbiolo tannins in a great year, but it’s not much like you’d expect of either of its components. They writhe so well together you can’t pick them. There’s also really sinuous acid, which will help with the preservation. But hang on, that’s a raspberry. A pretty raspberry gel. That’s the leader. Behind that there’s a stack of much darker blackcurrant and rude blue gunbarrel fig. But that’s just because I think like that. Rub it all over me so I forget. Beautiful, elegant, intense, joyous wine for participation. As the label says. “Approachable.” Really.

Philip White Indaily Adelaide & drinkster.blogspot.com 93+ Points

A vertical of ten years of Castagna Genesis

We’ve had several questions recently, both directly and through social media, about the age worthiness of Genesis. As any opinion I might offer may be seen as partisan I thought it would be very interesting to re-publish Philip White’s look at 10 years of Genesis. And if a further opinion is needed, Genesis did win the Provenance Trophy at the last Royal Melbourne Wine Awards.  

Castagna Vibrates under a full moon! castagna wine genesis biodynamic syrah

By Philip White

As good as wine tasting gets. Genesis from then to now. And tasted on a root day!

Away back on the other side of last vintage I sat down at the laden table of the Castagna family at Beechworth, on the northern foothills of the Victorian Alps. To me, this is as good as wineries get. While I think about thirty of Australia’s 2600 wineries make consistently brilliant wine, Castagna is as close to the top of that thirty as I would care to measure. Or could measure.

No need to remind my long-term readers how I feel about stuff like that. But for those who came in late, a tasting like this at Castagna is such a flash of stately brilliance that I wish I had to walk home from Rome across China to Shanghai or somewhere, just to fully digest these notes. Julian and Adam Castagna first gave me a tasting of barrels. 2012 Shiraz in a new Burgundy barrel? Creamy, creamy in the mouth; crème de cassis; sublime intensity and elegance. Finish? Pickle of granite in acid and mace.

Same wine in a Bordeaux barrel? Still creamy, but much more austere and precise: pencil shavings and more gradually tapered, like Bordeaux.

Same wine in old barrel? More like the most soulful of Castagna. And on we went. Same vineyard picked eight days later with one per cent more alcohol in a new Burgundy barrel? Another beast again. This was architecture more than cooking, the most precise shard of a wine, agro allspice, sandy smashed windscreen tannins. Gehry. “I’d never use Bordeaux oaks on stuff this strong,” Julian said. Same wine in a barrel from another Burgundy cooper? The wine’s much more pungent, sick and creamy on the one hand, yet as edgy as wet hessian or burlap or the wheatbags of hemp seed we could get at Charlicks in the seventies. It was called Racing Pigeon Food.

So there we went, on through the dancing mysteries of Castagna Sangiovese and Nebbiolo in different oaks – trippy – and right to the verge of one of the most exciting tastings this writer can remember in Australia or anywhere: a serious uncorking of a set of Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz, and a day to wallow in them.

Castagna Gensis Syrah BeechworthMy first contact with the Castagna occurred when the 1999 Genesis poked its noble head from a row of hundreds of glasses of masked Shiraz and ended up winning the highest points out of the thousands of everything tasted for the 2001 Top 100 in The Advertiser, South Australia’s major daily. For consecutive years thereafter, Castagna repeated the conquest with one wine after another. Blind tastings; wines I’d never tasted before. They kept winning.

So here’s that wine again.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 1999 (13.5% alcohol; 96++ points). “Not like any other Australian Shiraz,” I scratched out. “creamy, opulent, luxurious, harmonized essence of Shiraz, almost leaden in its incredible authority and weight. The fruit simply melts into a pot of red gold.” And then Julian butts in. “This is off two year old vines,” he says. “I took one bunch off every vine. That’s all. That’s all. I think you’ll see that these wines are of this vineyard,’ he says. “Of this vineyard.”

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2000 (13.5% alcohol; 95 points) shares the 1999s creamy wholesomeness, but it’s sharper in the herbals. If the oak contributed any precise aroma to the ’99, it was mace, made from the peel of the nutmeg. This is the nutmeg itself here in this 2000. While still smooth and harmonious, this wine has feints of soot, licorice and star anise. It’s more slender and sinewy, vivacious and bright than the ’99, and the better one to drink now, as it won’t last as long as that venerable.Castagna Genesis Syrah Beechworth Fermentation

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2001 (13.8% alcohol; 94+++ points) smells like a three-year old wine. It reminded me of Gago’s rad Bin 620 Penfolds, with all that brash confidence and luxurious intensity way beyond its short years. I’m not saying it’s aged prematurely, but that it has adult flesh of the finest athletic form far too early for its own good. And I’m begrudging in this praise. It seemed as slender and athletic as the 2000, but then with air made itself more so, with more sinuous, snaky acidity and finer tannins. A most refined and elegant wine on any table. And another one sure to swell with a decade of dungeon.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2002 (13.5% alcohol; 96+++ points) had more of a pronounced dried herbs touch than its predecessors. It’s also minty, like peppermint, and impossibly youthful and bright. It’s fruit is still fluffy, like a whipped confection. Call me your little whipped confection if you like, as long as you tip this into me. As it settles its minions onto the prairie of the palate, it brings a hint of chocolate crème caramel from a great city restaurant many horses distant. There is no other Shiraz like this. Astonishing. Ravishing.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2003 was not released. The vintage was not up to standard.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2004 (14% alcohol; 93+ points) is where the crème de cassis, the jujube fruits, licorice and star anise well together in a sullen sort of a well, giving nuffink away until you get it onto the laughing gear, where all the above are liberated very slowly, like one hostage at a time, surrounded by and scribbled upon by the heavy lead of the 6B carbon pencil. The wine is slightly hot from its alcohol. Profound and confounding. Its heavy lack of primary humour reminds me of Dorris Lessing, but its fine silky tannins draw it out to a prime tension probly beyond Dorris.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2005 (14% alcohol; 93+ points). Oooh dear. Musk, blackberry, blackcurrant, jujubes, jello, lipstick, tea tin, dried herbs, mace, bay, star anise, cedar, licorice, Marveer … and then, dammit, it smells like a clarinet!!!!!!!!! Not the most intense, but one of the most entertaining of the Genesis suite. The alcohol’s not particularly hot, but because the rest of the wine is more slender, with lower fruit levels, that 14% still seems overt here. Answer? Wait five years. Or pretend it’s an oboe. Whatever it is, and whatever I think, will be two very different things once you have a wine like this in your glass. It will take your heart away.

Grape vines Castagna BeechworthCastagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2006 (14% alcohol; 96+++ points) is probably one of the great Shiraz wines of history. Anywhere. After many hours of air, it still begrudgingly begins to release shards of fruit of impenetrable depth and compression. It has the usual mace and anise and whatnot, but in a wine of this promise and provenance, who gives a damn? Everything else is here, so why not them? The only disconcerting thing is the tension of its compression: it’s like my buddy George Grainger Aldridge folding his vast frame into an economy seat. There’s a pallet of this put aside somewhere. I hope they keep it buried for another decade, at least. It reminds me of the Paul Jaboulet Ainée 1961 La Chappelle Hermitage.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2007 was not released. The vintage was not up to standard.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2008 (14% alcohol; 94+++ points) is heavy metal. Death metal. I know of few wines so strangely, deliciously metallic. It is welder’s flux, with the phosphoric acid of Coca Cola gnawing away at the blood pudding away below. Not swearing it’s there, but you get my drift. Juniper berry tannin. Then there’s a range of fleshy flavours which kinda swoop in heroically like the Valkyrie or something off a Wagner single. Sabayon, fudge, chocolate crème caramel are suddenly there as cushioning agents. Come, sweet agents, cushion me! Which all should serve to warn you that this wine needs to be left snoring for a decade more. Very black magic.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2009 (14% alcohol; 95+++ points) is a softer, more fleshy wine from the hellfire and brimstone of a vintage which saw many dead across the Alps of Victoria. While the flavours are much tighter and more sinuous than the bouquet would indicate, with blacksnake acid and blackdust tannins, there’s a wallow of softer, much more cuddlepot fruit over the top, making the wine remind me of Welcome To Woop Woop. This is the most approachable Genesis of the more recent years. Which is never to say it’s a pushover.Castagna vineyard Beechworth

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2010 (13% alcohol; 96+++ points) The time for rewriting is past. “Impossible to understand,” my notes verbote, “at this its obscene zygotic mystification. Face cream. Blackberry leaf. Carbon and black granite. Tourmaline. Totally barren of sensuality and flesh. Gunbarrells. Not one skerrick of humour. NOT FUNNY AT ALL.”

So let that be a lesson to you. My advice is NEVER miss a tasting of Castagna Genesis or anything else from that bonnie vineyard up on the rocky shoulder of Australia itself. Just buy the wine and put it away and hope you don’t die too fast. It is indeed about as good as we get from single vineyard Shiraz. On Earth. If you think I’m wrong, there’s only one reason I can think of. We did this tasting on a root day. Fair dinkum. A root day. We miscalculated. Too much Full Moon.

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