Le Dead Arm 2009

2014.01.23 2009 d'Arenbery The Dead Arm


…named after the father of winemakers who was brutally punched in the arm in the first vineyard and upon seeing the deep dark purple bruise which marked his now dead arm, was inspired to create a wine to mimic its color, depth, power and intensity like none the world has ever seen…or not. Would be cool though!

The Dead Arm Shiraz comes from low yielding McLaren Vale vines and is one of the flagships of d’Arenberg. It gets its name from a vine disease caused by the fungus Eutypa Lata that reduces one half of the ‘arm’ of the vine to deadwood. The good news is that the good arm gets all the good stuff and produces amazingly intense fruit. The 2009 vintage is well scored, highly acclaimed and falls under the Outstanding category in the Langton’s classification.

I have previously tasted the 2006 vintage with good results so I was looking forward to this. I was a bit pressed for time so I only got to decant this for about 20-30mins via an aerator. The results were…not pretty. Extremely tight and closed nose, inky, murky and thick. A tonne of undergrowth and wet forest floor dirt with glimpses of caramel.

Palate is minty, but very harsh and a “little” (alot) unbalanced. Thick tannins grip the lips, black olive and an unpleasant streak of alcohol masking what I think is lime acidity followed by a welcomed relief of bright red berries. Finish accents the tannins and  mint on a bed of sun kissed red bricks, desert sand with the dry heat of alcohol making an unwelcome appearance.

Very disappointed and I kid you not, I struggled though this glass. At this stage, I felt unsettled, raw and agitated.

Revisited in a day later….

The tightness on the nose has dissipated though not as much as I hoped. The caramel notes make an appearance, still big and thick but a little more lifted, opened up to some black berries, little black olives, dry twigs, eucalyptus and cracked brown leather.

Delivers much more gently on the palate, fresher fruit flavors are present and tannins are not as raw as the day before but remain firm and watchful. Acidity has broken through that line of uncomfortable alcohol and the wine is now showing a much more balanced approach. Finishes a little dry with flecks of mint and a developing caramel lushness.

The day had definitely allowed the wine to sleep off its hangover or whatever was making it grumpy yesterday. Still shy and not fully developed yet but yesterdays disappointment has been replaced with a sigh of relief and hopefulness (I have a few more of these in the cellar!). This is definitely a big wine, high alcohol but has features which will allow improvements with age and with it, complexity and depth of flavor it currently lacks to make it great. I doubt it will develop a roundness of mouthfeel, but rather maintain its crinkly and quirky feel which I do like about it.

I would avoid drinking now but if you want to, definitely give it a long and tender decant. I think it will pay to revisit this somewhere around 6-8 years to see how it goes and will probability last another 15 years. Good to Excellent wine, definitely worth a try if you enjoy this generous new world style of wine.

Cheers peeps