Nick Ryan – The Australian. Posted 12 February 2019
I’ve never been a poker player.
Having to hold a couple of playing cards has always seemed an unnecessary impediment to the beer drinking, chip eating and bullshit talking that is the real purpose of a poker night.
Flops, turns and rivers make me think of swimming, not gambling. But the one thing really working against me is the utter absence of a poker face. I’m a more obvious read than a Dan Brown novel. I could learn a thing or two about masking my emotions from Andrew Quin.
Quin is the winemaker at the esteemed Barossa Valley producer Hentley Farm. He’s also on the organising committee for the Barossa Valley Wine Show, at which I serve as chair of judges. It’s in these respective roles that I learned Quim possesses a poker face of the highest order.
At the pointy end of the event, when all the best drops in the various classes are assembled to compete for the crown of best wine of show, judges apply a preferential voting system.
With six wines in the line-up, a judge will give five points to their favourite, four to the second favourite, and so on. As each of the judges presented me with their score sheets, it quickly became evident that it was a race in two, and it was going to be very close.
One wine, a shiraz, was getting more first-preference votes, but the other, a Grenache was attracting second-preference votes from just about every judge, apart from the few who had put it first.
This system can sometimes mean the best, most interesting and compelling wine doesn’t succeed because the characteristics that won over some judges were the same characteristics that had perturbed others, and a compromise candidate, a mid-pack wine that nobody really loves nor hates, Bradburys its way to the podium.
So I conferred with the committee and explained my belief that the chair of judges should have the right to override the numbers if the best wine happened to be beaten by the vagaries of the system.
The Grenache beat the shiraz by a single vote, but I was considering awarding the shiraz the trophy through weight of first preferences.
“You do whatever you think gets the right result,” said a straight-faced Quin on behalf of the committee.
In the end I let the pure numbers stand, mainly because if I had been voting with the judges I would’ve had the Grenache just in front of the shiraz.
“Understand completely,” said Quin. “That’s a really good result.”
Not once did his face betray that the shiraz pipped at the post was his. In fact, two of the wines in the final line-up were his, the first releases under the Quin Wines label he’s established with wife Skye, in addition to his day job at Hentley Farm.
The shiraz trophies are the most hotly contested at the Barossa Wine Show. To win one is a big achievement. To win two with your first wines under a new label is unheard of. It’s testament to Quin’s precise and intuitive winemaking touch.
There’s a completeness to Quin’s wines that set them apart, a deep layering of detail that speaks of a man who has a grasp of his craft, his region and the varieties with which he works. His wines at Hentley Farm have always been outstanding, and the wines under the Quin label represent one of the most impressive debuts of recent times.
This is a Mighty Quin indeed.
2017 Quin Wines Eden Valley Shiraz, $55
Sourced from a vineyard 450m up on Mengler’s Hill, this is a wine deftly combining cool elegance and restrained power. It’s satin-draped and sere-footed, rippling with boysenberry and mocha, blueberries and brambles. It’s a creature of supple flesh and slinky curves, a beautifully structured with microfine tannins and a long, gently sustained finish. A worthy winner of the trophy for the best 2017 shiraz at the Barossa Wine Show.
2016 Quin Wines Barossa Valley Shiraz, $55
This wine is sourced from three separate blocks on Andrew and Skye Quin’s vineyard at Seppeltsfield in the Barossa’s northwest. There’s licorice and slate, fruit mince and dry woody herbs, blackberry crumble and cocoa powder. Rich fruit but nicely corseted, tightly packaged with no blown-out edges. Chiselled and defined, lively through the mouth, it tapers well with fine, gritty tannins beautifully set into the wine. A brilliant wine.