June 19, 2015

Wild Duck Creek Estate, Duck Muck, that Robert Parker score and a dog named Merv

WDCE Shiraz resLast week, I was privileged to get a visit from David ‘Duck’ Anderson. Right up front, I have a disclaimer. I am a long term member of the WDCE mailing list and buy wine from them each year at the advertised member price. Now, as a member of the Wild Duck Creek Estate mailing list I see Duck at least once a year when he delivers his mailing list wine orders. It does not matter that his red van has seen better days, he personally delivers these orders up and down the East coast, from Melbourne to Newcastle, making sure that he gets caught up on a year’s worth of news over a glass of wine.

This visit was different.

This visit, I got a sneak preview of the 2013 vintage reds that are about to be released.

For David Anderson, wine is all about sharing. Sharing laughs, wine, highs, lows .. more laughs and most generously, time. With his family being more involved in the winery, David spends even more time now building the relationships that go with selling wine. He is tireless in his efforts of getting as much Wild Duck Creek Estate into glasses as possible.

At least now he is not alone in his van as he regularly makes his way between Melbourne and Sydney. He has the most charming of companions, Merv. A small grey dog of suspicious parentage and determined nature. Not only has Merv got more hair than his owner, he almost wins in the whisker department too, just like the Cricketer Merv Hughes. Hence the moniker. He is a shoe in for the next Wine Dogs book.

While Duck’s personal delivery service could be seen as ‘quackers’, the loyalty that this trip inspires should not be undervalued. By far, more Wild Duck Creek Estate wine is sold via the direct route than through any other means and this has continued on despite that Parker hype beginning to die down. However this year, the indomitable winemaker was very pleased to announce that they are releasing a Duck Muck. The first since 2007.

It was the 1997 Duck Muck that caused such a stir by scaling the heights of the Robert Parker elite by achieving a score of 99/100. A rare event for an Australian wine and one that immediately delivered a certain amount of fanaticism as stock sold as rapidly as prices escalated. Almost overnight, a bottle of Duck Muck could only be bought in the United States for thousands of dollars.

This event shot a relatively unknown small winery into the limelight. Not bad for a critic shy, self-taught Australian winemaker whose major motivation to make wine was so that he and his friends could drink the wines that they enjoyed without the big price tags. Not surprisingly then, while Duck watched the price of his iconic wine skyrocket overnight, he remained pragmatic that his loyal customers should always come first and his wines should not be out of reach.

Duck’s irrepressible innovative spirit is certainly apparent in the next generation.

And so, being only made in exceptional years, the 2013 vintage has seen Duck Muck return with a vengeance. This is the year where everything came together and Liam and Duck decided to go for it again with Duck Muck 2013. It has all the hallmarks of a Duck Muck. Big, bold – unashamedly rich and voluptuous as expected. Cocoa oak adds its heft to ripe blackberries, mulberries, earth and chocolate without taking the front and centre stage.

I have found only a handful of winemakers that can produce wines of this power and get away with it. One other is Pigg’s Peake, where Steve Langham can bring out a whopper over 16.5+% that makes you sit back and take notice of the vibrancy of the fruit without giving much thought to the bigger than Ben Hur body enhanced by that alcohol. Pigg’s Peake, like Wild Duck Creek Estate is a winery that sells most of their wines direct to their members and therefore sell the wines that their members want. The larger than life Duck Muck 2013 has the compelling personality and layered complexity to delight its fans, new and old and gain super star status.

However, since the last release of Duck Muck, there has been plenty of changes in both wine range and winery investment. Wild Duck Creek Estate has become as professional an outfit as the rather more free-spirited David Anderson can cope with. With his son Liam taking over more of the winemaking helm, the last eight years has seen the range expand as he tries his hand at more interesting blends and the grape varieties that he wants to experiment with.

Duck’s irrepressible innovative spirit is certainly apparent in the next generation. One of the first new wines introduced was the Yellow Hammer Hill Shiraz Malbec blend which filled the need for a juicy weekend at-home treat in that $20-25 bracket, which was followed by Ducks and Drakes where Cabernet takes the lead over Shiraz, and a Sparkling Shiraz that is velvety and irresistible and NOT just for Christmas. Then came the Little White Duck Viognier and I am still not sure how Liam snuck this past Duck, but he did.

This other news for this year is that ‘The Blend’ has morphed to be a more interesting Cabernet Carmenere blend. Plus there is also going to be an exclusive wine, Black Duck, for the long term members known as ‘the Puddlers’.

The old favourites are still there, of course. While Shiraz hogs the spotlight in the region, Heathcote Cabernet Sauvignon produces ripe berry fruit with plenty of savouriness. I think it shows more eloquence and detail than the region’s Shiraz. These 2013 vintage Cabernets are showing a more elegant style and will last the distance in the cellar. Particularly Alan’s Cabernet from the vineyard named for David’s father. This is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec and is looking good now, but better with a few years under the belt.


While The Blend was a good wine, the Wild Duck Creek Estate Cabernet Carmenere 2013 has more charm. Using the Carmenere instead of Merlot to blend with Heathcote Cabernet has polished this wine with a prettiness that will win more hearts. Violets and chocolate sit in that sweet cherry and currant fruit along with an earthiness to keep it grounded.

Plus there is good news for those who enjoyed the Mia Mia and Cornella shiraz pair. They are back for a second showing and Duck is happy with the results. He believes that the differences in these two ‘sub-regions’ of Heathcote have potential that is yet to be recognised and will continue to explore them with these wines in the future.

With the release of the 2013 Duck Muck, there is bound to be plenty of excitement. However, it is nice to know that come August, there will be a distinctive van starting its journey north on its delivery run driven by a man named Duck and his side kick Merv….


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