Go too deep and you may fumble: Deakin Estate 2002

Deakin Estate Shiraz 2002
Here's a drink-now screw-the-decanter wine to be celebrated. The Deakin Estate Shiraz 2002 is likeable from the very first sip. It has big ripened flavours, tantalizing spice and some complexity. It was practically effervescent when I uncorked it with bread and cheese. Oak is present, but not so much that it would put off those who have a problem with oaked wines. In the end, it's perhaps best described as a party wine. I would open this during the Super Bowl and enjoy it with southwest fried chicken, all-beef hot dogs, baked beans or a napa cabbage salad with anchovy dressing. You could have it with virtually anything. Anchored by a tannic punch, the jamminess is reined in. The result: a well-balanced wine at an affordable price.

But like the hardest party-goer, Deakin loses its verve if you park it on the sofa for too long. Of all the wines that I have sampled in the last few months, I suspect this one gains the least from exposure to air -- not that you are going to see it turn to vinegar. Strong plum and cassis fruits seem to amplify with prolonged air contact. They just get rounder and rounder. Meanwhile the tannins are left to pick up the slack of faint acidity in order to create any sort of backbone and the wine begins its clear descent. What was lively and potent one night is flabby and flat the day after, even if you reseal the leftovers in a snug half-bottle. This is not a wine to hold onto for too long. Right now, 2002 could be considered to be a vintage on the edge for Down Under Shiraz varietals. A lot of 2005's are already on the market and this is a grape that does not have a lot of aging potential. On top of that, Australian wines in this price range are not known to be full of finesse and you can be reminded of this if you try to fancy up this staunch Shiraz too much. So no aeration, no decanting, or filtering, or letting it out to breathe. Open it at a barbecue and let it flow till the bottle's dry. Or, with any luck, about 20 minutes.

Kulkyne Way Via Red Cliffs, Victoria, Australia. 14.5%.

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