Wine review | d’Arenberg 2005 “The Dead Arm”


95 Points Robert Parker $50-$75

d’Arenberg 2005 “The Dead Arm” McLaren Vale,  South Australia

Varietal:  100% McLaren Vale Shiraz

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: ? d’Arenberg does not disclose production levels of its wines

Aging: 21 months new and used French Oak.

Price: $50-$75

If you haven’t heard of d’Arenberg, then you are missing out on some of the best Australian wine available.  d’Arenberg was founded in 1912, and is one of Australia’s most renowned producers.  The Dead Arm is their flagship wine.

The name Dead Arm actually comes from a fungal disease that effects vines all over the world.  The disease effects one half of the wine, basically reducing it to dead wood, The Dead Arm is that side of the vine.  Most vineyards dig up these vines and start over.  However d’Arenberg decided to harvest the fruit left on the other side, the side not destroyed.  The vines are very low yield and the fruit is tiny and super concentrated.  The vines are 80-120 years old and the grapes are harvested by hand.

98 Points Weekly Wine Journal

The production:  open top fermentation, the must is not plunged or pumped while fermentation takes place. Only after primary fermentation is the must pressed, and it is done so in the traditional way; by foot!  After foot pressing, the wine is basket pressed and then transferred to oak barrels for over 20 months.  Finally each barrel is assessed for its quality and only the best barrels are used to make the wine.

The Dead Arm has received a ton of critical acclaim. In fact between 1996 and 2006 Robert Parker awarded this wine four 95 point ratings, three 96 point ratings and one 98 point rating.

So how does the 2005 vintage stack up.  At this point the only other vintage I have to compare it against is the 2003.  I have to say that the ’05 is superior, even though they both received 95 points from Parker.

First off the wine is BLACK. and I mean black.  There is a fair amount of sediment present, nothing that a bit of decanting or a strainer can’t remedy.  I think the prescense of sediment is actually a good thing, a foreshadowing.

The nose is intense, full of black fruit, peppery, almost a tar or creosote like burn in the nostrils.  Followed by hints of star anise.

The palate is explosive.  The first sip seemed to excite every single taste bud on my tongue, seemed to electrify my palate.  I literally said “WOW!” out loud. Hands down the best Shiraz I’ve ever had.  Not that I’ve had thousands, but I’ve been enjoying Australian Shiraz at different price points for over 20 years now and this is the creme de la creme.

The palate consists of a subtle sour cherry liqueur which is then vaporized by a dark chocolate pepper and cigar smoke finish.  The wine is not sweet, but there is a tiny element of ripe fruit intermingled in the palate.  Parker in his review in 2007 said that this wine could benefit from 3-5 years of cellaring.  Well it is 2011 now, 4 year later and the wine is still fairly astringent.  This becomes noticeable later on after you have had a few glasses.  It is such a concentrated powerful wine it almost hurts, almost, but it doesn’t.  Another feature that is thankfully absent is the “Aussie fruit bomb” characteristic.  It’s not a sweet jammy syrupy wine.  It is dry, concentrated, complex and tannic, and extremely well balanced.

If you are a pinot noir drinker, this wine will punish you, however if you are a fan of the bigger bolder, and drier wines I think this will be exactly what you are looking for.

Weekly Wine Journal rating: 98 points

4 Awesome Wines under $20

The down-turn in the economy has provided me with some amazing opportunities to try high-end wines.  The metro-Phoenix area has been hit very hard by the recession.  A lot of grocery stores and warehouse stores have reduced their high-end wine inventories, slashed prices, and replaced the floor space with things that people might buy more of in a recession.  Things like bread and vegetables, instead of second-growth Bordeaux.

As a result I have been able to pick up some of these $50-$100 wines for about half price, and I have been reviewing and enjoying them.  It occurred to me last week that not everyone can get their hands on these mark-downs. I decided to balance out my reviewing with some great under $20 bargains.

So, just in time for the Christmas season, here are some awesome wines under $20


Cameron Hughes, Lot 140, 2007, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County.  $13.99 at select Costco’s.

On the nose: Raspberry,  Bing cherry and Anise.

On the Palate: Cocoa and a hint of mint

See my review of it full review of it here .




Next up is d’Arenberg’s “Laughing Magpie”

one the nose: floral notes with cranberry and cherries

on the palate:  Ripe and juicy, velvety mouth-feel

full review here

$18.99 at Costco


And thirdly, just to switch things up a little bit (I have been reviewing mostly reds)  it’s a Sauvignon Blanc from Titus Vineyards:

Deliciously smooth with ripe fruit and well balanced acidity, more on this wine here.

It’s $20 on their website and most wineries websites are a little higher than the average retail, so you could probably find it cheaper than $20 at a retail outlet.  But you’ll have to be quick about it, there were only 380 cases made!


And last but not least:  Chalone Vineyard Monterey Cabernet, 2007

$16.99 retail, although with coupons and discounts I ended up paying about $7.56 a bottle

13.5% alcohol, vanilla oak, well balanced oak and fruit, see full review here

d’Arenberg “Laughing Magpie” Shiraz-Viognier, 2007

I have been drinking the “Laughing Magpie” for  years now.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  It is consistently great.

2004: 92 points, 2005 93 points, 2006: 92 points, 2007: 92 points.

The 2007 vintage is 90% Shiraz, 10% Viognier.   I usually pair this wine with a rich meaty tomato based pasta dish (I will post my recipe later) and topped with aged Parmesan Reggiano.  A side of steaming warm buttered garlic bread is nice too.  Anyone that knows me knows that anytime I am cooking a big pasta meal for my family or friends I always have Laughing Magpie on hand.

Why do I like it?  It is dark and rich.  I like the ripe and juicy texture in my mouth.  I like the tart cranberry juice mixed with blackcurrants and even a hint of apricot.  The tannins are like black tea and there is a white pepper finish.

$18.99 at Costco (I bought a dozen when it when it was on – for $12.97 a bottle!)

The Laughing Magpie is so versatile that it even pairs well with my favorite dessert, cheesecake.