Wendouree Offline

Ah Wonderful Wedouree, will I abandon thee, or be forever enchanted by your virtues? [scratch.gif] vs flirtysmile

…was roughly my tweet on my way to the offline. It’s fair to say that Wendouree are legendary, elusive and divisive. Many will know the history, they are one of Australia’s oldest wineries (from 1895), with a rustic and uncompromising approach to traditional techniques, style and marketing (an email address only arrived around 2006, cellar door is generally closed, they have no website and AFAIK only two photos exist of winemaker Tony Brady when googled… he’s modest, want the focus to be wine, yet from some reports enjoys the power he wields over the allocations). Wines are exclusively sold through the mailing list, and even then numbers are mostly limited to 3, 6 or 12 each depending on the vintage and label. Nothing generates as much (slightly tedious) annual forum posting here in Oz as the ‘got the Wendouree mailer, what colour is your crayon, oohh what will I get this year I wonder, hope no-one dumps any after buying as that’s unAustralian, hey I’ve got a signature on mine (aren’t I important), should I buy them all, hope I get my allocation… etc etc.’. But the bigger point of interest is the opinions on the wines themselves (yes, the important bit). Even amongst those who buy them regularly, opinions on how good they are vary dramatically! Not uncommon quotes like “I buy them every year, but still not sure if I like the style or not” certainly generate plenty of replies!

My personal experience with Wendouree is fairly limited, and I’m not on the mailing list. I sadly missed the last Wendouree night as I was overseas, but by all accounts, the Cabernet Malbec 1990 was by far the best wine of the night. This is in keeping with a general opinion that Wendouree are wines singularly designed to be cellared long term, although recent vintages are challenging that, and I can concur with many others that the wines (Cabernet based in particular) from 2012 are both approachable, high quality and cellarable. I’ve also enjoyed a 1990 Shiraz from Magnum back in 2010, but since then have only had mixed experiences with the smattering of random bottles at offlines here and there. Certainly nothing has ever made me sit up and really take notice (or inspired me to grab a pen and write a letter begging to get on the list (typing or emails aren’t generally considered). Honestly, my impression has always been of style over substance. So was this opinion about to change tonight…?

The theme was “Wonderful Wendouree, bring an older bottle, ideally from the 20th century”. Venue was one of our regular offline haunts, Rocket Restaurant in Chatswood, on Sydney’s North Shore. I heard mention that they had a new chef, but I didn’t confirm this on the night. The menu certainly had a different feel about it, we all ordered a la carte, and based on my own dishes and talk around the table, the food was mostly excellent, with just one pasta dish lacking a little bit of definition or punch for me. Always a top class space in the private room, great service and Charlie the Somm did a top job of being either helpful hands-on or backing off while we do our own wine handling. What started as 12 attendees dropped to 10 after a couple had issues making it, so once this fact was finally confirmed (and the Veuve NV polished off), we kicked off proceedings…

Some brief notes on the lineup in full… (inc a few extra backups and options wines of course!). My points are sometimes miserly (influenced by the impressive consistency and calibration of a fellow tasting buddy Cam Wheeler). Maybe I’m a touch more generous, but I’m no James Halliday dishing out 96 and 97 seemingly everywhere (have respect for the man, just not his points). For me, the + indicates more points likely with more cellar age, FWIW.

Veuve Clicquot Champagne NV – Dosage is apparent, yet retains some bite and freshness. Always a big debate on the quality of Aussie sparkling vs Champagne in the $30-$50 category. Certainly there are a select few good local ones (e.g vintage Clover Hill or Arras with some extra bottle age), but above $30, until shown otherwise, I’ll pretty much always go French. 89

2011 Raveneau 1er Cru Chablis Forets - Nose is impressive after the pop and pour. Saline, salty sea spray, some rounded peach and slate. Palate is on the restrained side, a little oak is noticeable but will integrate and some cellar time will really show its beauty. Big thanks to Danny for bringing this. 92

1993 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec – Kevin had some doubts about this upon opening it mid afternoon. But like an old Barolo, decanting time is the key. It’s quiet, slightly plush, yet screams restraint and elegance. A Bordeaux-like feel with the acid and earthy fine tannic structure. I really liked this, will it last longer? Probably, but not too long. 93
1996 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec – Started off on the nose with a VA lift, quite hot, some soy and jammy sweet red fruits. I spent some time enjoying the 1993, and 10 mins or so later when I returned to this, it had fallen apart, really porty, soy and brown sugar galore. Assume poor cork or storage? NR

1991 Wendouree Shiraz – I expected this to be the highlight, and it most definitely was. Well resolved, in harmony, plush, velvety and just delicious. Should hold quite a few more years, but I’d be enjoying it now or soon. A testament to the reputation of Wendouree. 95

From here on, the youthful structure of the wines was apparent. They were less resolved, tannins more firm and evident, fruit ripe and upfront. Still mostly enjoyable, but needing plenty of time!

1999 Wendouree Shiraz Malbec – Can I say ‘classic 1999 Aussie Shiraz nose?’ (Cheers Dave Vino :smiley: ) Tannins are a feature, firm, robust, ripe. While it’s a bit of an unfair job following the 1991, this is a solid wine, just needing time. 91+
2001 Wendouree Shiraz Malbec – Bigger structure, more fruit weight and even firmer tannins than the 1999. More lifted and dense, but the style is quite similar. Needs 10 years. 91+

1997 Wendouree Shiraz Mataro – More advanced than the 01, some increased complexity is really welcomed here after the youthful simplicity present in the previous flight. The tannins are softer, wine feels more together and composed overall. Perhaps fruit lacks the purity of the 2001. My contribution, so might be slightly biased! Drink now or over the next 5 years. 92
2001 Wendouree Shiraz Mataro - I think this is a step up from the Shiraz Malbec from the same vintage for me. Wonderful fruit, fine, furry tannins but still youthful and just starting to come together . Needs 5 years at least, ideally 10 or 20 and should be a beauty. 92+

2002 Wendouree Shiraz Mataro – Not dissimilar to the 2001, just slightly more lifted and bigger fruit profile. Some disliked it and tipped it out quickly. I certainly preferred the 01, but the structure on this was solid, and like the 2001, it should show quite well in 10+ years. 90+
2002 Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon – Very odd nose. I note that other Wendouree 2002’s have shown badly, so I’m starting to wonder if there was something weird happening this vintage. This had fruit, but with slightly oxidative notes and some jersey caramel. A well regarded vintage for them, but I’m starting to doubt this. Hopefully just a bad bottle. NR

2003 Wendouree Shiraz – Adair’s wine finally arrived and he was rapturously announcing it’s arrival. [bow.gif] Ah, we so often like the wines we bring. In all fairness though, it was a well composed wine. Seemed more advanced (in a good way) and thus more complete than the previous 5 wines. Drink now or over the next 10 years. 92
2003 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier (served blind) - What a fascinating counterpoint to the Wendouree. Thanks for bringing it Adair, and kudos to Dan for picking it blind, nice work. This was really good, textural, memorable and luckily only the merest hint of the dreaded ripe apricot. (Mick – I really think you would have liked it). Drink now or over the next 10 years. 93

2012 Marius Symphony Shiraz – Yeah, I really should have decanted it at the start of the night I know, but wasn’t sure if we’d need/want it. And given it’s rarity (i.e hype) this vintage, if it wasn’t needed, I’d bury it deep and give it the age it needs! But talk about Marius did eventuate, this wine was mentioned, a few had bought, but only Adair had tried it, so with a few drinks under the belt, naturally I took one for the team and opened it. Impressive, fruit quality is evident, young (obviously), still oak driven at this early stage. Will age amazingly well. Hard to rate, and especially so given the huge scores given by a few critics! But for me it’s a 92+

2002 Wendouree Muscat of Alexandria (375ml) – Medium gold, light toffee notes, clean and still fresh. Hint of spritz and an enjoyable lightness. Simple but enjoyable. 89
1993 De Bortoli Noble One – I was nervous about bringing this along as was unsure how it would show, but was hopeful! Hope was rewarded with result. A real depth, an unctuous Sauternes-style character, just the right balance and acid. For me it was a lovely way to finish the night with a delicious banana & caramel dessert. 93

2008 J.M Seleque Cuvee Partition Extra Brut - Nothing like finishing a night with some fresh, vibrant Champagne. Could have been nice half way through the reds to freshen the palate, but also a nice cleansing finish. With tired palates, perhaps some subtlety was lost, but I enjoyed it and loved the musical theme on the label. (although that treble clef and notation is a bit wonky) 90+

So did I eventually answer my opening question? Well, neither answer seems appropriate. Wendouree make some great wines, and if you get a good cork, the right varietal combo from a good vintage, given enough time, you will be very happy opening one. I read of stylistic changes happening around 2004 making the wines more ‘approachable’, yet other than the enjoyable 2012’s I can’t otherwise confirm this. Few wineries generate as much interest as Wendouree, they are both off the radar and very much in the red zone. One thing is for sure, they may be very elusive, but when you hit the right note, they’re world class wines.

Thanks to DavidM for organising and I look forward to any comments or notes from other attendees and non-attendees!! I’m sure there will be some differing opinions, such is the nature of Wendouree. We had a great time discussing the wines, a really enjoyable night.


A few iphone pics…


Wow! Thanks for the fabulous notes and photos. The (very) few Wendouree bottles I have had have most definitely backed up the great reputations the winery has - perhaps the best Australian wines I have ever had, and some of the best wines period. I only wish there were a few to be had here in the States, they are literally like hen’s teeth.

Great write up, thanks for the notes.

We had a 1977 Wendouree Shiraz Mataro a few months ago, the wine was very fresh and a truly superb wine.

Thanks for the write up. I have never tasted it and have been trying to buy a bottle for years with no success. I even had a friend who travelled to Australia try to find me a bottle and bring it back, but she had no luck. I guess I will have to look harder. I have had 11, 16 and 17 year old Aussie shirazes from other producers in the past few weeks and they have all been excellent.

Thanks for the notes. I did manage to snag some Wendourees some years ago, and it’s difficult to know when they are “ready” to drink.


Thanks for the notes on a great producer Tim.

A little rumour doing the rounds is that Wendouree is for sale. Wonder what price it would go for?

Nice write up.

I have been buying Wendouree since 1997 vintage. They just delivered the 2012 vintage. I should get around to trying a few bottles to get the feel of 2012 vintage.

Tim, nice notes and great to see a good selection of Wendouree wines being opened and tasted like this. I was on mailing list for 10 years and bought my allocations assiduously. I stopped buying the wines about 7 years ago and I have a lot of it in the cellar waiting. I laughed at your description of the online comments each year about what crayon or initial one received. I checked and I have 9/10 of the Wendouree wines in this line up in my cellar. Only missing was the 1991 Shiraz.

I was not able get a clear sense of what you thought about the different vintages. Did any of the vintages standout for you in this tasting ?

All the best


I’ve yet to taste one, but did um and ah about a Shiraz Mataro a few years ago - it sounded the wine most closely aligned to my palate. Rare as hens teeth in UK.

One thing that shines through in their general approach, is the respect for the history of the label. No room for brand managers here (take note Lindemans!!!)

Thanks for the comments everyone. Brodie, pretty hard to define based on just a few wines, but FWIW, based on this tasting and various other bottles…

75 - huge tannins, seems immutable.
90 and 91 both superb. (I heard Lita at Wendouree rates 1991 as her favourite)
96, 98 and 02 - too much bottle variation for me to form an opinion.
97 - more approachable, starting to drink well.
99 and 01 - still youthful, time will define them, for now fairly similar in style, a bit more power in the 01’s, both enjoyable.
03 - good now but ideally needs some time.
05 - massive structure, definitely needs time.
12 - more approachable, Cabernet based wines my preference. (and now thankfully under screwcap)

Here’s a link to another recent tasting… (highlighting the rampant cork taint issues in the late 90’s wines). I note no wines in common with our night, would have been nice to compare but as we know, these wines are rare!



I hear you on the cork issues. 95 Shiraz opened last week was badly corked.