Four wines one of the Australian industry's greatest names, Len Evans, would love

Bruce Tyrrell, 4th generation winemaker at family-owned Tyrrells Wines, in the Hunter Valley Photo: David Hancock/AFP/Getty Images

Any wine lover reading this column please stand now, and raise a glass in remembrance of the late Leonard Paul Evans. It’s just on 11 years since the passing of “LPE” and though I never had the opportunity to meet him, I’ve no doubt that I owe him so much for the enjoyment and pleasure that wine has played in my life.

In the 60’s and 70’s in Australia, Len’s indomitable championing of wine appreciation and the message to preference wine as the alcoholic drink of choice, was seminal at a time when beer, spirits, and cheap big brand “box” wine were the go.

Len was relentless in his quest to educate both consumers and trade alike as to quality and standards.

In his 71st year, Len with the help of his mates, established The Len Evans Tutorial program, an intensive course to develop the “best of the best” of the Australian wine world, the duxs of which read like a vinous “who’s who” of great winemakers, wine judges, sommeliers and wine buyers.

I’m told by Lens friends that he was a bit of a classicist and that he passionately despised Sauvignon Blanc: I can relate to both of those.

I’m confident all the following Australian wines would have had Len on his feet, holding court, passionately extolling their virtues and that of the australian wine industry in general. Drink any of these wines knowing that to do so is to enjoy the realised passion of not just the respective winemakers but also that of “LPE”.

2015 Bass Phillip ‘Premium’ chardonnay

South Gippsland, cellar door only, $83

Phillip Jones, owner and winemaker of Australia’s most acclaimed pinot noir producer has conjured up this wine of immense power and style, way more reminiscent of great white burgundies than Australian chardonnay as we mostly know it.

Fabulous attack on entry with the powerful, chewy mid palate crammed full with notes of yellow stone fruit, tangerine, cashew, creamy stewed apples, and an ever so lightly toasty note. The beautiful natural acidity keeps this heavyweight en point, with an agility barely imaginable in a white wine of such power.

I reckon Len might have called this as Australia’s Montrachet and at a fraction of the price. Less than 100 dozen made and a bargain at the price.

Enjoy reverentially, with lobster mornay, or pork cutlet with a creamy wild mushroom fricassé sauce.

2015 By Farr Farrside pinot noir

Geelong, $86

This would be a killer wine for the game that Len made oh-so-famous: “Options” – tasting “masked” wine and answering a series of questions, each with three “options” one of which was correct, became a favourite party trick for keen wine enthusiasts. It was an innovation which focussed and turbocharged the development of the Australian wine industry and the national vinous palate.

“Blind” I’d struggle to pick whether this was from Gevrey Chambertin, Willamette Valley or Sonoma coast. But Geelong environs? Gimme a break.

Just shows what masters of pinot noir the father and son team of Gary and Nick Farr are. On the nose this features a beguiling bouquet, full of wild strawberries and plums, refreshing with its breezy aromatics. The fruit attack on entry grabs your attention, delivering punnets of crushed berry flavours, with a real middle palate core of grip and weight. There are lots of complex flavours which extend all the way to a long lingering fragrant farewell.

Enjoy this benchmark new world pinot with your duck of choice. Bravo!

2012 Tyrrell’s Vat 1 semillon

Hunter Valley, $85

Lens love of the Hunter and its wines led him to establish The Rothbury Estate, which became a “ must do” pilgrimage for wine lovers far and wide, whether it be to hone their tasting skills and improve their “ribbon” colour (status ), or to participate in a grand dinners in Rothbury hall complete with the signature Evans options game.

No dinner at Rothbury nor snapshot of Lens vinous loves would be complete without at least one example of the grape variety synonymous with the Hunter – semillon.

Hunter semillon is inimitable and at its best one of the world’s great wines and wine values.

The aging potential of these relatively low (10-11.5%) alcohol wines is extraordinary, with 15-20 years being a comfortable cellaring norm.

Historically bottled under cork, at 5 years of age typically you would see some colour development and with some waxy lanolin aromatic notes.

Thankfully this wine under screwcap from one of the regions very best producers is still (reasonably) primary. Just starting to to show the classic characters of burnt buttered toast on the nose, while the palate features zingy citrusy fruit with lemon curd richness, while staying vibrant and finishing very long.

Will age effortlessly and gracefully for the next 15 years.

For those of us with less patience ( and/or more advanced years), sensational now with fish and chips

2015 Cullen Diana Madeline

Margaret River, $135

Len liked his Bordeaux. And while he consumed more than his fair share of great Burgundy, the consensus amongst his buddies is that Bordeaux was his first true love. This wine would definitely have brought a smile to his face.

This cabernet sauvignon-dominant wine has lots of latent complexity and a really sneaky intensity.

It has the shape and vitality of an Olympic marathon runner with the same staying power. The palate is tightly wound with the black currant pastille fruit coating superbly integrated tannins and acidity leading to a very long firm lingering finish.

This is Bordeaux like in almost every way, reminiscent in its style of classically structured vintages: that is, not overripe and palate cleansing with its raciness. Classic.

Cellar for 20-plus years. Or enjoy in a few weeks time with spring lamb.

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