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The Harem Barossa Wines from 2012 are Released
Wednesday, 19th March, 2014  - David Farmer

To be entrenched like Glug is in the Barossa Valley you must show case the two remarkable varieties mataro and grenache. This was the idea from the beginning in 2004.

I remember the start rather well as Ben and I did very little but discuss business plans over long lunches at the remarkable venue Bar Vinum (now closed) which was hosted by the affable Barossa identity Bob McLean.

I recall a long lunch which was still going at 6.00 and a waitress who I gather had just finished her 'responsible service of alcohol course' becoming visibly upset at my behaviour. I told her not to worry too much as later I would simple lie down in the garden where she was to cover me with a blanket.

Unfortunately this inflamed her even more and I was banned. Alas this was not the first time this had occurred and my general riposte is to say 'I've been thrown out of better places than this'.

At some time Ben took up the challenge to develop a range of wines around mataro and grenache and frightened me by pulling from somewhere the idea that these would be called Harem wines. I watched for years as he slowly evolved this idea and talked a few winemakers into helping.

In 2006 the first wines were released, the Harem Rosita Barossa Valley Mourvedre Grenache Rose 2006 and the Harem 'Fatima' Barossa Valley Grenache Mataro Shiraz 2005. They were both superb and I have strong memories of the Fatima as it was most tempting. The 2012 I can assure is just as good.

The 2012 reds and the 2013 rose were released on the 19th March and here are my notes from the email sent to customers.

Harem Sultan Barossa Valley Mataro 2012

The Sultan is a brilliant wine and I would match it against any Mataro made anywhere in the world. It is also a very stable wine so I think it can go for 20 years if you wish. The way this maker builds flavour and length, and builds stability is by finishing the ferment with a prolonged post maceration soaking,. This leads me to believe that it will not develop any angularity with age and to explain this some wine writers use the term seamless. Our maker is a very careful person, risk averse yet daring with all of his methods and is steadily pushing forward perceptions of what can be expected from Mataro, Grenache and Cinsault. Astute tasters will note a similarity with the last Sultan as the wine was made in a similar way and while elegance and the Barossa do not belong in the same breath this wine is careful in the expression of its origin.

Harem Shazada Barossa Valley Mataro Shiraz 2012

Shazada is the son of Sultan, and while related by variety and origin they diverge significantly and a tasting will show they do not have much in common. Two unique talents, both with a passion for the Barossa Valley, have approached the same problem in different ways. Having found the best Mataro vineyard or vineyards how do you then express the complex appeal of the variety while reflecting upon the uniqueness of the Barossa Valley? The maker of Shazada has let the grapes hang to reflect strong ripe characters and uses simple small open vat fermenters to preserve this ripeness. Oak and maturation then play a big role. Glug of course want a range of Harem wines which are clearly defined so we asked for the final blend to show pronounced mid-palate weight and to build this Shiraz was added as an overlay.

Harem Layla Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2012

I have watched with interest the development of Grenache blends for decades and by the 1990s these had settled into the style called GSM's with roughly a third of each variety. Placing Shiraz in the middle makes sense as we know a lot about variety and it gave the impression it shouldered the weight. Grenache though is the key and the percentage must vary to strike the right note. Winemakers are far more confident with Grenache these days and the most exciting wines currently being made in our warm climates are those experimenting with this evolving style. The first job when arriving in the Barossa 2004 was to plunge in which meant drinking all I could find. This enjoyable pastime has led to the creation of this quite profound example of the style which is as good as I have ever tasted.

Harem Fatima Barossa Valley Grenache Mataro 2012

The Grenache for Fatima must be robust and once this style has been found it can be supported with a strong beefy Mataro. I have imported and drunk a lot of Rhone's and Fatima is made to reflect the Barossa image of these complex wines plus it will cellar so you can explore maturing flavours over time. Four wines were blended; two of Grenache and two of Mataro and already the excitement is showing with layers of fruity complex character pushing forward and this will only get better and better. I ask myself, where have wines like this been through my career. We imported them and now we find a brilliant expression can be made right at home. Thank goodness there is an awakening in the Barossa but I do ask where have our producers been over the last 50 years, and for that matter where were the retailers who should have been promoting wines like Fatima. This wine is a triumph.

Harem Rosita Barossa Valley Grenache Cinsault 2013

The Rosita is profoundly original and to pigeon hole it by colour does it a disservice. If you wish to make a world class rose you must pick the grapes to make rose not make it as an afterthought by colouring white wine or bleeding off the early juice from red grapes. The maker of the Harem selected the grapes from old vineyards suited for this project. Of the six or so roses we have sold since living in the Barossa this is the most authentic and original. Actually I do not know what you should call it; any colour descriptor like red, white or rose does the Harem an injustice as it's a profoundly original expression of Grenache and the very rare Cinsault. Why we have never seen a wine like this before I do not know but here it is. Forget the insinuation of the pale delicate rusty pink colour, as this is simply very great wine which is fruity, bone dry, bitter-sweet and offers challenges.

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