I would have thought that a pint of Old Peculier would be the ideal match for a wedge of Stinking Bishop, but I’m bound to admit that a glass of Old Bastard did the job surprisingly well.
Stinking Bishop is a cheese, and it and Theakston’s Old Peculier, a beer, share ecclesiastical nomenclature. A ‘peculier’ is a parish independent of the jurisdiction of a diocese, and so cheese and ale can meet on equal terms.
Cheese is invariably a feature of the informal wine tastings held from time to time in the HK Golfer offices, and Stinking Bishop (sourced from the local branch of Classified) is a favourite, although essentially so in its own right, rather than because it is a particularly suitable partner for any wine with much in the way of subtlety about it.
It is a soft, washed rind cheese, and the wash employed is a perry made from the Stinking Bishop pear – so named, apparently, after the grower who bred it – not a malodorous cleric at all, but a civilian called Mr Bishop who was renowned for his evil temper.
There is nevertheless a clerical link. The cheese is made by methods believed to have been employed by Cistercian monks, and even if the name is derived from fruit, the suggestion of an emphatic aroma is a good fit. There aren’t many wines with the bottle to face up to the Bishop.
Which brings us to Old Bastard. The Kaesler estate, now called Kaesler Vineyards and Winery, in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, was established in 1893.
It is no longer family owned. Since 1998 winemaker Reid Bosward has been co-owner and estate manager, and Old Bastard was the first wine he made there.
Had he known for sure the quality of what he was going to come up with, he might have been less flippant with the name.
Old Bastard has been compared to Penfold’s Grange and Henschke’s Hill of Grace, both of which just sound like more serious wines.
Bosward wasn’t messing around with either his winemaking or his vineyard management however. Old Bastard is a single vineyard wine made from old vine Shiraz, hand pruned, hand picked and low yield.
According to Bosward the wine was fermented in stainless steel and matured in Burgundian oak for 19 months, then bottled without fining or filtration.
His description of the vintage reflects the same colourful cast of mind that gave the wine its name, and commissioned its highly distinctive label.
Bosward describes the colour as being like “arterial blood” and says of the nose “once opened, and when it’s young, exhibits soy sauce, vegemite, mandarin rind and flowers. After a few hours with air, and more suggestive of its future, it leans slowly towards dark chocolate embedded with black, ripe yet still sour cherries. After five hours or more, small berried fruit, black and red, start streaming though, and vanilla lift adds a nice topping and ethereal afterglow”.
I don’t know about you, but while there are many aromas I look for and like to find in a bottle of wine, Vegemite is emphatically not one of them.
Fortunately by the time we opened it the wine had spent six years developing in the bottle, and there wasn’t a hint of an Australian breakfast spread about it, although Bosward was spot on with the dark chocolate and cherries. Loads of both.
On the palate this is a thick, luscious, almost overwhelming wine. It cries out for food and can certainly stand up to strong flavours if the successful partnership with Stinking Bishop is anything to go by. Think in terms of game, steaks and other strong cheeses.
Although not sweet, this is a port drinker’s red. At 16.5 per cent alcohol by volume it packs a considerable punch, and it is unlikely that at a single sitting two, or even three, would proceed to a second bottle. It is one to sip and linger over, and a distinctly hard act to follow. Armagnac or Islay malt are perhaps the way to go.
It is also not easily available in Hong Kong, which is why this magazine's special reader offer (see below) will be particularly tempting for many.
Special Reader Offer
HK Golfer is pleased to offer this exceptional wine for sale at HK$1,300 per bottle for the 2005 vintage and HK$1,200 for the 2006 vintage. No minimum order required and professional storage available if required. Delivery at cost. Please order by email – firstname.lastname@example.org – or call (852) 3590 4153