Have They Got You Over a Barrel?
Barrel tasting is a key part of the Two Hands process, providing proprietor Michael Twelftree and winemaker Matt Wenk insight into the state of the vintage and guiding them through a whole range of important decisions, key among them the composition of the final blends. And even after the final blends are put together, a close eye is kept on the wines through barrel tasting. But according to Twelftree, barrel tasting and tasting a bottled wine are two different things—despite the fact that many critics rate wines from barrel, and many people make buying decisions based on those ratings.
“I’m very skeptical of the barrel score system, as many of the wines reviewed in this way are never properly reviewed once they have been in bottle,” Twelftree says. “This leads to the barrel scores becoming gospel and the only way a particular wine is judged in its lifetime. Sadly these barrels scores lead to a frenzy of buyer activities and plenty of money changes hands before the wine is even assembled and in most cases even bottled. It’s a bit like ordering a steak at a restaurant, on the advice of the chef and then having him tell you that he just needs to go out the back to kill it and your meal will be ready in two to three weeks.”
Twelftree says that when a wine writer visits Two Hands in the Barossa Valley, “I am more than happy for them to barrel taste.” But this “is more because I love it and find it a fun way to waddle from barrel to barrel to get a feel for a vintage.” And Twelftree says he stipulates that writers not take any formal notes on any barrels. “I am a fast taster so I blow through a heap in a short period of time,” he says. “I have even had one wine writer ask for mercy and to slow the pace down!”
So if you do come across a published Two Hands review, good or bad, please rest assured that it has at least come from the same finished bottle that is available to you at your wine shop or on a wine list.