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A very occasional occasion

 Where is he gay today? Adelaide, South Australia.

Grange Hermitage

Today, I am the guest of my good friends Lady Sonia McMahon and Lord Denning

Some very fine news arrived during my stay, and they decided to throw a party in honour of it.

They served some very fine wine.  The wine was older than several of the guests.

Penfold's Grange Hermitage (or nowadays, simply Penfold's Grange) ages better, perhaps, than any wine in the world.  Few buyers wait for its prime; they'll quaff the stuff after a mere decade.  If you want the best vintages, and want to drink them now, you'll need to fork out a pretty penny.

My hosts are smart, rather than extravagant.  They know a good deal about wine, and being of a certain vintage themselves, they managed to pick the right years to buy Grange at the cellar door.  Further,  they had the patience to wait.

Sometimes, conoisseurs such as my hosts will keep an eye on auctions and deceased-estate sales.  You can pick up well-aged Grange for a (relative) song, from punters who never quite made it to their last tipple.  It pays to be patient with wine, but not too patient.

Unusual among wines of such quality, Grange has no terroir.  That is, the vineyards which supply the grapes vary from year to year.  Further—quel horreur!—Grange is a blend.  

Years of drinking too much, too-cheap wine have given the Honourable Husband a crude palate.  But here is how I understand the genius of Grange.

Grange is mostly shiraz.   World oenophiles know the variety as the French syrah, or under the appelation hermitage.   Disguised with a mildly-phony Arabic nickname, the shiraz grape adopted Australia as its spiritual home.  

Generally, the winemakers start with a base of strong, mid-bodied Barossa shiraz.  To this foundation, they add a limited amount of cabernet—less than 15%, I understand. 

Cabernet is a small, severe grape, which gives your mouth a real wallop: lots of tannin, pepper and mineral.  Long, hot Australian summers, though, allow the grape to develop a sweet side, with fruity blackcurrant flavours.  

In Grange, the fruited-up cabernet complements the gentler spice of the shiraz grape, making the result rich and berrified.  Nonetheless, it still maintains a strong hint of—I love this expression—the cigar-box

To find these two (arguably) competing flavours in such abundance, in a single mouthful, is rare.

Cabernet, though, can have a difficult, strident personality.  It takes a long time for the edge to wear off.  The more easy-going shiraz, in this case, calms the cabernet while it chills out.  On the other hand, the cabernet keeps the shiraz alert.  Like a good marriage, it takes a long, long time for them to learn each other's habits.

I have drunk Grange before—Husband is a man of the world, after all—but seldom of this vintage.  It was exquisite.

And seldom had I tasted it, or any other wine, in such good company.  Love and congratulations.  Many, many thanks.

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