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Where it's still the '70s, only better


Whitey manages to get into the very secret tasting vault at Genders.

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Genders Keith Shiraz Grenache McLaren Vale 2008
$55; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points

“I live to make ’70s wine,” Diana Genders said a week ago. “I just don’t do micro-ox or those things. I’m here to wait. Like we used to do.”

We were in her comfy tasting-by-appointment-only winery on McLaren Flat, drinking her best vintages from the last 15. The oldest, the 2000 Cabernet, was just beginning to awaken. Now I’m startled to realise that like that wine, I’ve had this new release Shiraz Grenache opened all that time, and it’s showing signs of stirring, too.

A week back, this was so brutally reclusive it scared me. It reminded me of ’70s Penfolds reds: tight and compressed within their surly sappy carapace, sometimes softened a little like this, with some Grenache.

Now it’s a rich, smoky, surly stew of a thing, a welling wallow of blackberry, mulberry, dried fig and prune with a prickly aniseed/fennel edge. It’s syrupy of texture, and almost seductive, but then the reinforcements arrive: the acid and tannin foot soldiers rock in to warn you that this is not gonna be a walkover.

It does indeed remind me, too, eventually, of the rich, staunch wines Diana’s dad Keith made in that same little building when I was still in pimples.

I reckon Diana’s wines are cleaner and more precise, which serves only to make them more gradual about getting around to your actual glowing. As she said, she’s not into deliberate oxidation as has been the fashion for years, softening wines with the vinous equivalent of the fish tank bubbler.

This very seriously is a trip into the past. I wonder if I drink a case, will I get my yoof back?

Being very aware that not all ethanologists have the patience to wait a week for a drink to awaken, I’ve stuck to my points from the moments after opening. I’d add a bit more to the score of this bottle at hand if I were pointing it after all that air.

Genders Duncan Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
$55; 14.3% alcohol; screw cap; 95+++ points

Roast fennel with aniseed and chicory, some peaty soot with that type of red seaweed – Chondrus crispus – that the Irish jokingly call moss and use for clearing chests, blackberry leaf … after a patient week nudging this braw laddie, these are indicators of the wine being Cabernet.

Below all that decor, the fruits, a compote of all sorts of red and black things, glower upwards, gazing through the murk like the eyes of ancient pike. I’ll thank Ted Hughes for that image. Diana Genders, come to think of it, is the only vigneron in the Vales as elusive as Pike, the mythologised hermit of Marius, and perhaps the only soul in the joint who makes wine as determinedly individualistic and outstanding of quality.

But I’m wandering ratbrained now. It’s the wine. This is a massive, impenetrable, hewn menhir of a drink which I don’t reckon many would have picked as a Cabernet upon opening and even fewer would have recognised as the sort of classic McLaren Vale tincture we’d drink in the ’70s.

Although Cabernet was a rarity in these parts back then. When the teenaged Duncan Genders, brother, planted these vines in 1967, he found it very difficult to find cuttings. Nearly 50 years ago. That’s the sort of timeframe I reckon all Diana’s wines can claim. They will live for such great stretches of time that in these infant days the best lesson they can teach can be learned ideally by those who’ll spend their $55 and ponder a glass each day until you hit that mad rushy peak like I’m hitting now.

I’m gonna finish this bastard off.

A warning. It’s not fair to go bothering Diana to drop everything to open the doors and pour unless you are a 100 per cent hard-core heavy progmetal warrior of exceptional gastronomic patience and a tendency to guilt. Not to mention an obligation to buy some of these incredible scarcities.

Show due respect to the wallet of the dogged individualist who runs this remarkable place pretty much single-handed.

No point in making enemies at the Genders temple.

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