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Paul B.


Hybrid Guru




Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:38 am


Ontario, Canada

WTN: 2004 Yarraman "Black Cypress" Australian Chambourcin

by Paul B. » Sat May 27, 2006 11:16 pm

<table border="0" align="right" valign="top"><tr><td><img src="" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>It's been a while now since I was first happily given the tip that Vintages was about to release an Australian Chambourcin. I had always wanted to do a comparison between the Eastern American examples that I've had the fortune to try and one from Oz - a country that clearly doesn't need hybrids for successful viticulture, yet that chooses to grow Chambourcin and make a quality estate wine from it.

I was amused by some of the comments trying to make sense of Vintages' decision to feature an Australian Chambourcin, which I read on a grape-growing e-mail list I subscribe to. They included: "Vintages probably didn't know it was a hybrid," and "It was from Australia. Vintages didn't need to know anything else!" Could it be that someone there actually thought for themselves and didn't feel the temptation to dismiss the wine because of the grape? I sure hope so.

Whatever the reason, I am happy that Vintages featured the wine, and I loudly applaud the folks over at Yarraman for making it. The vines are apparently some 40 years old and this is exactly the kind of commitment to a grape variety that I love to see no matter what part of the world we're talking about.

Here is the winery's write-up on this wine:

Black Cypress Chambourcin: Chambourcin originated in France and is a red grape variety noted for its disease resistance. The 40 year old chambourcin vines at Yarraman Estate are the oldest plantings of the variety in Australia. The wine produced from these stately vines is exceptional. The black cherry and plum characters are pure and vibrant as the wine is not matured in oak. The tannins are soft yet mouth-filling and flavours throughout are highly concentrated. When served slightly chilled, the Yarraman Black Cypress Chambourcin is a delightful drinking experience.

Chambourcin is a French-hybrid grape. I've heard conflicting details about its parentage; some say that the grape, released in France in the early 1960s, is of unknown pedigree, while others have posited Chancellor as one of its parents and another complex obscure riparia hybrid as its other parent. Whatever the real story behind its precise origins, Chambourcin has long had a presence - however obscure - in the Loire, and is also a successful variety in much of the Eastern United States. I distinctly recall my pleasure in trying the 1999 Turtle Run Indiana Chambourcin that Robin brought to our Tour de France MoCool back in 2001. It was redolent with black cherry fruit and classic hybrid torrefazione aromas and had a gorgeous dark ruby colour, and a very well-rounded mouthfeel. A delightful Eastern American estate-crafted red made from a grape that clearly works in our part of the world.

The label picture I've included here is generic and not that of the 2004 - the latter bears the vintage year and indicates an alcohol level of 13.5%. The wine is intensely dark-garnet and well-saturated with a black-cherry/magenta hue - exactly the colour that red hybrids in Ontario display. Big, dark, brooding appearance in the glass. Plenty of legs form with every swirl. Big earthy-cherry nose with secondary plum aromas. With time in the open bottle, it really fleshes out and steps outside its simple cherry-and-brine personality that it shows upon opening. Hybrid reds always do well with ample decanting, especially when young. I highly recommend doing it. Big, opulent fruity nose. I can't help but thinking that a judicious touch of oak would have been welcome in the wine. Don't get me wrong - it's not really lacking without the oak, but it could handle it very well. That said, I see plenty of stuffing here during this second and more studious tasting; the first bottle I tried a week earlier was served too cold and didn't show its personality in full. Huge mouthfeel; a big laser-streak of acidity immediately expands into a fleshy, gritty/chewy texture with ample tannin that's not overly puckery but very present nevertheless. Savoury black-cherry, sweet and jammy fruit - but with excellent acidity bringing unfailing redemption. There is nothing cloying or heavy here; it's all very well balanced and fleshy. I challenge anyone to serve this wine blind to some anti-hybrid folks to see what the reaction would be. The longer it sits in the glass, the fleshier and chewier it becomes. Very warm on the mid-palate; the alcohol is prominent but not overbearing. Warm, long finish with a touch of rusticity. Palate-cleansing. An excellent table wine, this would be a superb choice alongside any red-wine-amenable food.

At just under $19 Canadian, this was an excellent buy. I will definitely buy more.

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