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The Colonial Estate winery was created in 2001 from a collection of small plots of old vines in Australia’s Barossa Valley and was the brainchild of the legendary Jonathan Maltus.
Englishman Maltus rose to global prominence with his purchase of the mediocre Chateau Teyssier in St Emilion in 1994. By buying parcels of better vines from the area and introducing new world techniques to the region, he transformed the sleepy Teyssier into one of the best estates in St Emilion.
Of particular note are the series of single vineyard wines he created, especially Le Dôme, Le Carré and Les Astières, which have achieved cult status. He personified the “garagista” sobriquet and was justifiably lauded for his achievements.
In 2001 he ventured to Australia for his next adventure and The Colonial Estate exploded onto the scene in 2002 with the release of it’s first vintage. The names of the wines imply a man feeling somewhat far from home: L’Expatrie, Explorer, Exodus, Émigré, Envoy and others, including laterally a series of single vineyard offerings he named after legendary explorers. The flagship label, however, was The Exile. This stunning creation was the product of a single ancient vineyard from the 1800's in northern Barossa, (75-85% Shiraz, then mainly Mourvèdre, and a smidge of Grenache).
Robert Parker gushed over this new star in the firmament, giving the first vintage of Exile, the 2002, 98 points and heaping praise on what Maltus was bringing to the Barossa. With 20-20 hindsight, this instant success may have set the stage for the ultimate collapse of the operation in 2009.
However, from 2002 to 2008, Maltus took the Colonial Estate on a superb run, producing vintage after vintage of 90+ rated issues. As before, The Exile was the star of the show attracting top rankings every year. Needless to say, this was reflected in his pricing, with a very hefty premium on most of his releases, and for the first few years all production was exclusively sold overseas.
Throughout all this growth, he insisted on retaining the painstaking manual processes that gave the wines their distinctive craftsman quality. These were without question lovingly handcrafted gems, with the massive Exile sitting proudly at the forefront.
In 2008, and by now known as JCP Maltus, Vigneron and Winemaker, he went to California and did it again, creating World’s End winery in Napa Valley. Once more, he brought painstaking manual techniques to play, with close cropping, hand-picking, double-sorting, and lees in suspension and created something exceptional. His first release of single vineyard wines again were all rated 90+, with the quaintly named Led Zeppelin tribute “Good Times, Bad Times” top of the bunch, being ranked alongside Opus One.
However, as the world lurched and stared into the financial abyss, something had to give and it was The Colonial Estate which went under. The rapid expansion, using the techniques which led to success on a smaller scale, would only have been sustainable if the premium pricing of old had been possible. In the event, it wasn’t, and the shooting star of a mere 7 years crashed to earth and went into receivership.
Maltus’ two other ventures continue to excel, and it is with a sense of what might have been that we look back at one of the outstanding creations The Colonial Estate produced.
The early vintages are almost impossible to obtain in any quantity and the 2003 Exile in particular is extremely rare. This, only the second vintage produced, was rated 94 by Parker and is a magnificent successor to the perhaps slightly overrated 2002.
With vines planted in the 19th century forming the core, and aged in new French oak, this is a massive wine, port-like in it’s appearance and power. The colour is a stunning dark purple which promises depth and length and one isn’t disappointed. Decanting is essential and will reward the forward planner who gives this 4 or 5 hours to open up beautifully.
Parker found “hints of truffles, blackberry liqueur, smoke, and licorice” here, but the overwhelming sensation is that of dark chocolate and masses of fruit lingering in the never-ending finish. This is an outstanding wine, which may just be shading the 2002 at this stage in their development. Drinking superbly now, and for the next 5-6 years.
Special Reader Offer: We can offer a very small parcel of the extremely rare The Colonial Estate Exile 2003 in cases of 6, OWC.
Retail price was previously over HK$2,000, we can offer this in cases of 6 OWC for only HK$800 per bottle, delivered anywhere in Hong Kong. Offered subject unsold. Minimum order of 6 bottles, professional storage available if required. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 3590-4153 to order.
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