Wine Review – Is Bigger Better? – 2002 Peter Lehmann Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia

Winery: Peter Lehmann Wineslehmannlogo

Bottling: 2002 Barossa Valley Shiraz, 3.0 L Double Magnum

Importer: The Hess Collection Winery

Region: Australia

Sub-Region: Barossa Valley

Estimated Retail Price: Friend said he paid around $60 for it at Costco.

Purchase Details and Tasting Source: A friend brought this to a party.

Tasting Notes: I was totally stoked when my friend walked in cradling like a baby, this impressive double magnum of Peter Lehmann Barossa Valley Shiraz.  If my memory serves me right, I don’t believe I’ve ever sampled anything from a double magnum before so I was excited based on that alone.  Larger format bottles are supposed to be better for a wine in terms of aging and storage.  The larger the bottle, the smaller the ratio between the volume of liquid and the space of air in the neck of the bottle.  The result?  Slower aging and more resistance to wine’s number one enemy – oxygen.

Theoretically, a magnum, double magnum, etc. of one bottle cellared alongside a smaller bottle of the same wine should age more gracefully and longer.  With this wine being a 2002 vintage, I was curious to see how fresh it tasted.

The stumbling block of the evening was the fact the so-called wine expert in the house, yours truly, broke the cork and ended up pushing the cork into the wine.  Luckily we had a cheese cloth to jerry rig the spout, to ensure no cork particles found their way into people’s glasses.  When that was done we were good to go.

Aromas of sweet blueberry, smoke and forest floor were what we got on the nose.  In the mouth, wow!  Loads of blackberry, blueberry black currants and a really nice finish of creme de cassis.  A very nice well-rounded feeling in the mouth and a finish that just kept going.  The flavor of the wine left an impression that was so memorable, I feel like I can still taste the wine in mouth as I write this.

Notice the janky, makeshift, soaked cheesecloth filter tied to the neck of the bottle.

Notice the janky, makeshift, soaked cheesecloth filter tied to the neck of the bottle. Also notice the nifty, two-handed arm cross motion.

The wine was a hit at the party, but I think more so because of the showmanship involved with the size of the bottle and the two hands required to pour it.  I can imagine how much more fun it would be to have had a Nebuchadnezzar (equivalent of twenty 750 ml bottles) on hand.  It’s obvious we could’nt tell if wine from a larger format bottle is better than a smaller one since we didn’t have the same wine in a smaller format to compare it to, but who cares?  It was fun just having to pour a bottle with two hands.

I never gave much thought to large format bottles and their usefulness or purpose.  Because our store never had racks that could store the bottles properly, I always saw them as more being more cumbersome than what they’re worth.  We had customers that were always intrigued by them and often asked if we would be bringing any in.

More than anything, when it came down to it people saw it more as an opportunity to skirt extra bottle corkage fees as opposed to having the convenience of one less bottle to pour or having a bottle that will age better and stand the test of time.  Bravo to them on the bottle corkage fee by the way.  Never would have thought of that myself.   So simple, yet so effective.

Food Pairing & Context in Which to Enjoy: I feel a nice dry-aged steak would be perfect with this wine.  There was a loamy quality to the wine that was very interesting and I think that it will pair really well with the earthiness of a dry-aged steak.  I know its a  pricier cut of meat, but I think it would be so worth it.

Winery & Other Background Info: The story on the Peter Lehman website about the history of the winery and Peter Lehman himself is a nice, heartfelt one.  Lehmann himself is affectionately known as the “Baron of the Barossa” and after reading the story, you’ll understand why.  The content is pretty long, so instead of covering it here, just click on this link to get the full story.  The website does a good job of recounting the history.

The winery makes a ton of wines to say the least, but what little I’ve had such as their semillon and various shiraz, I’ve found to be very good.

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