My three favourite Australian red wines would be Penfold's St Henri, Tyrrell's Vat 9 and Primo Estate's Moda. St Henri is its own creature, but both Vat 9 and the Moda have something 'Italianate' about their tannin, acid and fruit profiles, while also being distinctly Australian.
Where Vat 9, at least in its traditional form, is all about Hunter shiraz in large format old oak, built for drinking from 10 years of age, the Moda tells a different story. The 1998 version says 'Joseph 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot' on the front label, 'Moda Amarone' only appearing on the back of the bottle. This was Jo Grilli's 13th vintage make of an 'amarone' style wine, and it is 90% cabernet, 10% merlot. Sources vary with different vintages of this wine, with the 1998 taking the cabernet from McLaren Vale and the merlot from both the Vale and Coonawarra.
The cork on this bottle had just started to seep and fail - the barest of stained creases under the foil. Unusually for a Moda, the merlot component showed through quite clearly, though the overall impression was of dust, olive, bitter chocolate and beautifully mellow bittersweet tannins, courtesy of the grape drying process. Still fresh and bright, across fruit and acid, with no real dropping off of colour or a thrown crust. Lovely drinking, a wine in a good window at thirteen years of age.
Drunk with a rack of free range pork, roasted in the Weber over stock vegetables and herbs, the pan deglazed with dry marsala. A gratin of organic Desiree potato, cooked in butter in the oven, with lemon thyme and golden marjoram went well with the pork and the wine. Aged Moda and salty, puffy, crunching pork crackling is a very good thing indeed.