Pirie and Kreglinger go head-to-head

xPipers Brook Vineyard was established in 1974 by Dr. Andrew Pirie to make both still and sparkling wines, the latter being bottled under his own name. The vineyards were taken over in 2001 by the Belgian-owned Kreglinger. This firm is in the wool and sheepskin business, having been established in 1893, but entering the wine industry only in 2000, when it founded Kreglinger Estate in the Mount Benson region of South Australia.

Pirie was supposed to stay on, but was unceremoniously booted out of his former winery in 2003. After a less than friendly few months, relations between the two parties improved, and Pirie won (purchased?) back the right to his own name. The Belgian firm renamed the Pirie sparkling wine Kreglinger. It might have been more logical and more prestigious to simply rename it Pipers Brook, but if one can be eponymous, why not the other?Pirie will bring out his own sparkling wine as from the 2005 vintage. He told me his sparkling wine activities will be much smaller than in the past, although the product will be sourced from vineyards matched to the old ones … same spacing, same district, same age and same aspect”.

To keep the Pirie brand going, he has purchased some of his old 1998 vintage. Curiously this means that the same wine will be available under different labels from the two wineries. Or does it? To find out, I asked for samples of both, and here are my notes:

Pirie 1998 Tasmania
Rich colour, with hint of gold. Mature, but fresh, and not ageing prematurely, this wine has rich, creamy-biscuity, yeast-complexed aromas, followed by rich creamy-biscuity fruit on the palate, and a long finish. 92/100 Drink now-2008.

Kreglinger 1998 Tasmania
White-straw colour, relatively dumb nose, with a light hint of cloves, and stripped-fruit on the palate, with no richness, creaminess or biscuity complexity, and an abrupt finish. Was this the effect of near subliminal TCA? Unable to score on a single example.

Just looking at the contrast in colour, the Pirie looked as if it had been disgorged considerably longer than the Kreglinger, yet examining at the corks, the Pirie bloomed outwards in a fashion the French call juponne, which suggests it had been in the bottle for a much shorter time than Kreglinger’s cork, which bulged in the middle, rounding inwards for the last third of its length. The corks contradicted the look and taste of the wines, which gave credence to the possibility of near subliminal TCA taint.

Pirie’s cork looked beautiful, smelled sweet, and was obviously expensive, with a smooth mirror-disc, branded with his initials and the vintage. Kreglinger cork looked cheap, had an uneven mirror, with burst lenticels looking like grey blisters on the mirror-disc surface.

Before I smelt the Kreglinger cork, I expected I might pick up TCA, but if it was present, it was below the threshold for detection. Overall it was quite sweet, with a clove-like aroma I took to be eugenol, which is commonly found in tiny concentrations in oak casks and thus, I suppose, not impossible for it to be found in cork. On the other hand, both wines were fermented in the same casks, so the clove aroma could also be in the Pirie. If it was, it went unnoticed because, unlike the Kreglinger, Pirie’s wine has not had the fruit and creamy-biscuity richness stripped out.

If Kreglinger send me another bottle from a batch it is happy with (i.e., no cork problem), I am prepared to repeat the head-to-head, but for now Pirie wins hands down.