Henry’s Drive: The Postman Rings Twice

Postmistress Bottle 82x300

Is it true the postman always rings twice? Have you .,,, er, gone postal lately?  Just what is it about the postal service that creates the potential for such drama?

Last night I had a fun meeting/tasting with Kim Longbottom, who with her husband bought property in the Australian region of Padthaway, part of the Limestone Coast in the southeast of South Australia.  Now I’m not sure Kim has ever been in advertising (you know the types, from the Mad Men TV series) yet she is incredibly creative and witty, and knows enough about marketing to realize that ‘you gotta have a story.’

This is especially true in today’s wine world, where brand creation and recognition is key.  So Kim cleverly tied the story of the wine around the life of a long ago postman named Henry.  When I inquired if there was anything juicy or especialy interesting about Henry Kim paused, as if thinking up a fun story.

Well, we know Henry was real and maybe one day Kim might sponsor a contest where someone could win a case of wine for making up the highlights of his life. For now, let’s just say that the entire winery offers brands revolving around a postman theme, which range from young, easy drinking reds and whites to complex, concentrated Cabernet Savignons, Bordeaux-style blends, and Shiraz.

Joining myself and Kim is winemaker Renae Hirsch, who had been tasting with sommeliers earlier. Our tasting begins with “The Postmistress” Blanc de Blanc, a sparkling wine made from 100% Chardonnay. Then we have “Morse Code Chardonnay,” a barely oaked style that is clean and linear.

Of course, my interest was firmly planted in the reds, as Australia is Shiraz’s natural home. Now the Morse Code Shiraz is their entry level wine, sourced from the Estate’s Padthaway vineyards. The soils in this area are varied, including red loam, black loam, and deep sod over limestone. The 2009 vintage is quite the bargain considering the terroir.

The Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot blend is called Pillar Box Red, with aromas of blueberry, licorice, and dried mint. Kim tells me it is named after the red postal boxes that used to dot the Australian landscape.

I like the Pillar Box Reserve Shiraz. It is black and inky and looks and, to some degree, palate, which always tips me off in blind tasting I am about to encounter a new world Shiraz/Syrah. The wine has lots of concentrated rich fruit, and this wonderful black licorice component.

Would the modern equivalent of the ’08 “Dead Letter Office” Shiraz be a returned email? (joke!) The flavor is so rich and concentrated I ask Renae if it is old vines, and she says not. The fruit comes from the vineyards grown in red loamy soil over limestone, and it is barrel-fermented and matured in oak for 12 months.

The perception about Australian wine in the United States is that it is very fruit forward and high in alcohol. Though these wines were on the higher end of the alcohol spectrum, they were balanced and, for the higher end wines, displayed much elegance and finesse These had body and muscle that seemed to represent the terroir and skills of the winemaker.

The postal theme is very clever, and Henry – wherever he is – must surely feel honored. One smiles to think of the time, in the very near future, when a young consumer points to the red letter box and asks a store clerk or sommelier what it means. “Before email, people had to write things on paper and a postal worker would deliver it by hand,” would be the likely answer. Thank you, Kim, for producing such quality wine to commemorate your excellent terroir and its many stories.

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