Tannin is a strange beast, it is responsible not just for astringency and grip but also helps a red wine feel smooth and even sweet. The fact that one element can be responsible for both bitterness and silkiness is one of the most beguiling aspects of making wine.
Mudgee – and Huntington Estate in particular – has some of the best, most interesting and least understood tannins in Australia. They come from the skin and seeds of intense fruit that is born from old vines in old, lean soils amid warm summers with cool nights.
I have not seen these sorts of tannins anywhere else. In the first year or two of their life they are undoubtedly at the aggressive end of the spectrum, making them quite a challenge for new winemakers to the region to come to grips with. At their best our tannins are chalky without being dry, bold without being aggressive, and weighty without being dominant.
Perhaps most importantly, these tannins are the key reason that Mudgee and Huntington Estate red wines age so well. They can be likened to the solid structure that holds up a skyscraper - the steel and concrete inside the building that holds up the other more visible parts. In their youth these apparently aggressive tannins are also the scaffolding outside that helps build and protect the skyscraper in the first few years.
Once the builders have completed their jobs the scaffolding is removed to reveal what is beneath. And so it should be with best red wines where time and polymerisation wears down and polishes the tannin to reveal the true fruit characters beneath.
Understanding and learning how tannin, and other elements such as fruit and acid, change over time is what making great red wine is all about.
Since my recent failed attempt at flying off the top of a wine tank (during which I lost some of my sense of smell, but not my palate and sense of taste) I have become even more acutely aware of the role of tannin in wine and reinforced the belief that Huntington Estate produces some of the best, most ageworthy red wines in Australia. This is because we focus on doing it thus, in our belief that time really is the true test of a wine.