I tried 12 back vintages of Rockford Basket Press, one of the Barossa's finest reds - here are the standouts

Rockford Wines in the Barossa Valley

Historically, lovers of Australia’s great red wines have used a celebration as a good excuse to reverentially extract a vinous treasure from their cellar, often a South Australian shiraz from the Barossa or Eden valleys. Think Grange and Hill of Grace.

However having had a extended period of fraternising with many wine and food loving croweaters (I married one 16 years ago…) there’s another wine which seems to hold a special place in many SA hearts: Rockford Basket Press shiraz.

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I know my late father-in-law Max had a special fondness for Basket Press.

While he knew of the quality – and cost – of the aforementioned big boys, it was the Rockford he would turn to for an impromptu celebration of some family good fortune or turn of events. It was Max’s style of wine in a distinctly Australian sort of way. In style and cost, it’s more RM Williams, than Prada and in size and shape, more Hugh Jackman than big Arnie (even in his long past prime). And there was always just a natural drinkability about Basket Press which made it so enjoyable.

I couldn’t help but think of the above when listening to Robert (Rocky) O’ Callaghan, Rockford’s owner and winemaker at a recent Tasting Australia masterclass of 12 vintages of Basket Press. While ostensibly telling us about the wines and why they were all similar and yet different, Robert engaged with his audience in an easygoing, satisfying unforced manner, telling a story of real depth, interest and complexity.

This was was no surprise, as the wines reflect precisely those qualities, and I’ve always been a great believer that an artist’s work is the tangible manifestation of their personality. Winemakers and chefs are no different.

Rockford’s owner and winemaker, Robert O’Callaghan.

Of the 12 vintages tasted, none disappointed. Get yourself on the mailing list:

My standouts were :

2010: A bouquet of exotic red and dark fruits, with vigorous, shapely, lively medium weight palate, and lovely plush fruit which rolls through to a long balanced finish with rounded tannins to close.

2008: A bouquet of essentially dark fruit notes, the palate is generously sized yet remains light on its feet, with the finish buttressed with fruit coated firm tannins. Really long. Delicious.

2006: A vintage described by Robert as “90% perfect” with a real summerfruit pudding and cream bouquet, the palate is decidedly slinky and IMHO was the first of the wines shown to display some “black” fruit characteristics. Full, flavoursome, agile and very sexy.

1991: A vintage which has lived in the shadows of the more acclaimed 1990, this wine showed the inherent balance of the best wines of this superb year: generous bouquet of dark black fruit notes with real lift and vitality. The palate is very generously sized, with a melange of dark fruit flavours and background iron/mineral notes, with excellent intensity. Very even, from the entry, right through to the long finish, this is in a very sweet spot for drinking and has plenty of time in hand.

* Frank Wilden is a retail food strategist and a “lapsed” restaurateur whose love of wine began nearly four decades ago. He believes that on the road to wine nirvana, if you don’t end up in Burgundy you have probably taken a wrong turn somewhere.

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