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    « Documentary evidence | Main | Whistle while you work »

    Bulgarian oak comes into its own

    Justinian's wine panel - Francis Douglas, Cameron Jackson and our wine editor Gabriel Wendler - get to grips with four bottles from the Kay dynasty at McLaren Vale's Amery vineyard ... Tasting notes ... JustyFlix records the action 

    In February 1891, 15 years after Sir Samuel James Way had, at the age of 39, controversially appointed himself Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, the brothers Frederick and Herbert Kay took title to Amery, a 339 acre property in McLaren Vale that had been established in 1849 by Richard Aldersey, an émigré from the village of Amery in Hampshire, England.

    Although the property included a seven acre vineyard, predominately the land was devoted to cattle and sheep farming. 

    Amery also comprised an attractive ironstone home flattered by, as Sir Samuel told the brothers Kay, "gentleman's chimneys". This delightful, spacious home had been constructed on a hillock commanding views to Aldinga Bay and St Vincent's Gulf.

    Perchance Sir Samuel had acquired an adjacent impressive vacation property which he named Sea View and where he rejuvenated from the rigors of high judicial office and found refuge from the fierce southern summer.

    Sir Samuel Way: Masonic neighbour of the Kay brothersAt Sea View Sir Samuel pursued his hobby, breeding Shropshire sheep.

    He was a committed Methodist and Freemason with no interest in viticulture and its obvious consequence -   demon drink

    As far as Sir Samuel was concerned imbibing wine or spirits facilitated temptation and irretrievable ruination of one's character.

    Dr John Bray, enthusiastic consumer of wine, poet, classicist, and former brilliant Chief Justice of South Australia, considered  Sir Samuel: 

    "not a great jurist - his pragmatic cast of mind inhibited intensive historical research or jurisprudential analysis". 

    Sir Samuel resented the creation of the High Court of Australia and in 1906 declined an offer of appointment to it describing the court as: 

    "No more needed than the fifth wheel to a coach." 

    By  March 1895 the industrious brothers Kay had planted Amery to Shiraz, Riesling, Cabernet, Malbec  and White Hermitage - a variety also known as  Trebbiano and Ugni Blanc.

    A winery had been constructed and the brothers celebrated their first crush producing over 9,000 litres of wine.

    By the turn of the century a wine export business was operating and by 1926 was exporting 25,000 gallons of mostly bulk dry red wine to England under the description London Blend.

    In 1933, the year the Law Council of Australia was established, Herbert Kay was appointed chairman of the Australian Wine Board, and during that time his  son Cuthbert (Cud) incrementally took control of the management of Amery

    In 1947 Frederick died, predeceasing his brother Herbert by a year. The brothers Kay had made a valuable and enduring contribution to Australian viticulture.

    It was in the 1960s that Amery moved from predominately bulk wine sales to the bottle trade.

    Under the direction of Cud Kay some wonderful and iconic Rieslings were made, some of them in the late picked German auslese style from vines he planted in 1947.

    In the early 1970s Cud  was also responsible for creating some outstanding highly sought after clarets.

    Colin Kay: top of the classIn 1963 Cud's eldest son Colin graduated at the top of his oenology class at Roseworthy Agricultural College.

    He travelled widely before tutelage under the ebullient George Kolarovich of Kaiser Stuhl Winery in the Barossa Valley.

    In 1968 Colin joined his father at Amery and two years later became chief winemaker.

    In 1973, about the time in Australia when Commonwealth attorney general and later High Court judge Lionel Murphy raided ASIO and the International Court of Justice ordered France to cease nuclear testing in the Pacific, Colin's brother Bill designed the new winery at Amery. It was built in a style that complimented the original 1895 cellars.

    Colin Kay is Amery's  third generation winemaker. His indefatigable attention to meticulous vinification practices ensures excellent value-for-money wines that have wide appeal, domestically and internationally.

    The Block 6 Shiraz made from a vineyard planted in the nineteenth century is one of Australia's iconic dry red wines. 

    *   *   *

    Justinian's tasting panel evaluated the following four Amery wines. Hereare our tasting notes: 

    Basket Pressed Shiraz 2008

    Cameron Jackson noted ripe fruit-driven style lacking structure and grip - 90 points.

    Francis Douglas noted insinuation of chocolate tones, typical South Australian Shiraz characteristics. Volatility and dusky tannins - 86 points. 

    I noted an attractive robe and ripe brambly fruit, a typical Southern Vales Shiraz - 91 points. 

    A value for money claret.

    Hillside Shiraz 2008

    Douglas noted blackcurrant aspects, good ripe fruit with well integrated tannins – 87.5 points. 

    Jackson described the wine as: "good honest strapping South Australian Shiraz" - 93 points. 

    I noted excellent grip, blackcurrant drive on the middle palate - 92 points. 

    Basket Press Cabernet Merlot 2008

    Douglas found this wine surprisingly flat in all of its dimensions – 85 points. 

    Jackson and I found it thin and overly sweet, curiously devoid of complexity and corpulence - we each awarded it 88 points. 

    Basket Pressed Grenache 2010

    We all thought this was the standout wine.

    We detected liquorice, all spice, a subtle peppery twist with robust finish. Its colour recalled Indian ink. Bulgarian oak integration - average score 93.5 points. 

    All of these wines are good value for money and are available by mail order from the Amery website

    Gabriel Wendler

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