I've heard a few things about d'Arenberg wines over the last couple of years. I've been told their quirky names, but also that they're pretty reliable. I've been wanting to try one of their wines, in particular, for a while. 'The Dead Arm' Shiraz. I'd heard that it was a solid, fairly typical example of a big Aussie Shiraz. Big Shiraz should be packed full of ripe fruit. This gives them great aromaticity and concentration of flavour, but can lead to over-extraction and a tannic, chewy mouth-feel. The more balanced, smoother examples can be sumptuous though. As an example, the 2005 Bishop by r was one of the first Barossa Valley wines I'd tried, and that really did not disappoint! Incidentally, I've also tried d'Arenberg's fortified Shiraz, 2005, and that was crazy yummy!
The Dead Arm Shiraz from d'Arenberg is made from McLaren Vale vines infected with a fungus called Eutypa lata. This disease kills-off one 'arm' of the vine, turning it to deadwood. The other half of the vine continues to produce a small but ripe crop of berries. The grapes are small but full of flavour. The grapes are hand harvested and processed with great care. After fermentation, the wine is aged in new oak (french and American) for 22 months. I don't know much about Australian vintages so I cannot comment on 2007 being good or bad. However, one of the main attractions of new-world climates, is that they're more consistent than in Europe. This means that vintages, unless they're really bad, are perhaps less important.
I have to say i was not disappointed at all by the Dead Arm. This is a really lovely wine. I didn't decant it, which may have been a mistake. However, on the first evening of drinking it, i left it in the glass for 20 minutes before tasting, so it had a reasonable amount of air. The second evening showed what happens to good wine if you give it time. All the aromas and flavours grew and intensified.
In the glass the wine was really deep in colour. A dark red/purple with only a slight lightening as it thinned at the edges. There was a tiny hint of age at the rim, with a slight 'bricking' of colour. The wine was dense and viscous when swirling, and the tears were heavy and alcoholic. The nose of this wine jumped out at me. I swear I could smell it at arm's length while swirling the glass on the table! The nose was big and bold, and classically Shiraz. Concentration came first, with bits of light, sweet red fruits, raspberries and then cherries. The largest proportion of the aromatics came in the form of lightly smokey, spiced black pepper, liquorice and vanilla. The sweetness seemed to be centered around, what I thought was, quite herbaceous green peppers. Overall the nose is so full, ripe and juicy that it makes your mouth water. The palate follows on from the nose, with ripe, slightly jammy, sweet fruit. The body is on the fuller side, as expected, and soft tannins are present through the middle. This means a very smooth, rounded mouth-feel. Although slightly chewy towards the end, it is not at all bitter. The finish is really long. The fruitiness remains with only a hint of spice.
Although this is a great wine, it is expensive. I think it's about worth it if you're looking for this style of wine and need reliability. It's obviously well made with all elements in balance. The high alcohol (14.5%) is melded beautifully with the fruit and tannins, and just the right acidity remains for such warm-climate grapes. The 2007 is showing the first signs of age, but the firmness of tannins, acidity and fruit should see this wine living for many years yet. I found this Dead Arm in Tesco's, of all places, at about £25. Online would probably be your best bet for picking this up a little cheaper.