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New Iconic Wines

There have always been wines that have been regarded as iconic, ever since word first got out about wine many centuries ago. Throughout the latter half of 19th century and most of the 20th century, these icons were the First Growth’s of Bordeaux as defined by the classification of 1855. Added to the “Fab-Five” were Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau Cheval Blanc, Chateau Petrus and Domaine de la Romani Conti.

There were plenty of others making great wine but as most of the cognoscenti hadn’t heard of them, they were not regarded as icons. A good example of this was the Mount Pleasant Wines in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales Australia where between1932-1955 the brilliantly talented Maurice O’Shea produced some of Australia’s most defining and best ever wines; well kept examples of which are still proving to be amazing today.

After World War II the wine world began to go mad –with upstart ex-colony countries like America and Australia making wine that was actually drinkable. Both of these countries had actually been making superb, eminently drinkable wines but as they were not internationally recognized they weren’t considered iconic. At the same time the other continentals such as Italy and Spain started producing some seriously good wines as well as the quaffers that they were known for.

Some of these upstarts from the back half of the 20th century have gone on to become globally iconic wines.  There are a number of prominent examples, most taking decades to be recognised as iconic wines. The two most prominent Australian examples are Hentschke Hill of Grace (Shiraz) which is made (in part) from vines which date back to the 1840s and Penfolds Grange (Shiraz) being a multi-area blend which has been made since 1951. American examples, from my limited exposure must include Bonny Doon, Turley and Ridge.

I believe that the Spanish icons include Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva, Bodegas Muga and Marques de Murrieta; whereas in Italy we are talking about the likes of Antinori, Biondi, Santi, Gaja and Tenuta dell`Ornellaia.

Some wines have become overnight stars and then gone on to become icons, such as California’s Opus 1 and Screaming Eagle.

An amazing example of the phenomenon of instant iconship is Chateau Le Pin from Bordeaux. When Le Pin was first released at what seemed like an exorbitant price at the time, it was frantically snapped by Japanese businessmen.  It has gone on to justify its icon status over the years.

Dominio de Pingus is a Spanish example of meteoric rise to icon status. Launched in 1995 and propelled into the limelight by stellar praise from Robert Parker Jr., the wine has gone on a meteoric rise from there. Other examples are Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita and Descendientes de J. Palacios.

During the 2000s, there was a dearth of new iconic wines around the world, but that has now started to be rectified. While I am not personally aware of any “new” iconic wines in the USA, here in Australia there have been two recent launches of what will, I am sure, become iconic wines. The first was last year’s launch of the Irvine Wines Merlot Royale 2005, whose maker Jim Irvine has long been recognised as Australia’s best Merlot maker and was internationally acclaimed as “The Best Merlot Maker in the World” in 1992 and 1996. Launched in 1986, the Irvine Grand Merlot became recognized as one world’s best Merlots with a power and depth which in some vintages rivals that of Chateau Petrus. The new Merlot Royale is a couple of notches above the Grand Merlot in depth and character as well as in price.

The other more recent release has been that of Parawa Estate’s Ingalalla Grand Reserve 2007, a blend of all five varieties allowed in Bordeaux’s claret. If it wasn’t for political correctness it would be called a Bordeaux blend. This wine can truly be called a designer wine in that the vineyard was specifically planted to make this blend, with five clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, four clones of Merlot, two clones each of Cabernet Franc and Malbec along with Petit Verdot being planted. Most of these clones were sourced from a nursery in Dijon, France.

To date the wine of which they made only 200 dozen and retailing for around $1,000 per bottle has been rated at four and a half or five stars by five MWs (Masters of Wine) and was rated the same as Chateau Latour in a 2011 blind tasting – not a bad start for the new kid on the block.

With its motto of “French style with Australian character” the Ingalalla Grand Reserve is rapidly gaining the tag of being the “Southern Hemisphere’s only First Growth.”

Only time will tell if these two Australian wines will become true iconic wines like the ones mentioned above, but they certainly seem to be made of the right stuff to make the grade.

So the big question right now is who is currently aiming for the “highest ground” in the USA? Who is putting in those extra yards to make a wine that the whole world will take notice of and eventually become a new member of the short list of global iconic wines?

I would be very interested to find out.

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    Dan Traucki

    Dan Traucki
    Wine Assist P/L Wine Industry Consultants South Australia Dan Traucki JP, Wine Industry Consultant, and Director of Wine Assist Pty Ltd, has nearly 26 years experience in the wine industry. He regularly writes articles for wine industry magazines, such as Wine Business Magazine and occasionally for Australian Grapegrower & Winemaker Magazine. Read More About Dan