Where wine and spirits meet

By Halliday Wine Companion

7 Sep, 2021

The team at Robert Mondavi is reimagining the way we age wine, blending Californian winemaking with the tradition of spirits ageing.

The Robert Mondavi Private Selection is a range of wines aged in spirit barrels – a technique that imparts nuances of toasty oak, brown sugar, and vanilla. The wines include a cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, both aged in used bourbon barrels, and a merlot that has spent time in old rum barrels.

Long before California’s Central Coast became synonymous with exceptional wine, legendary winemaker Robert Mondavi pioneered the region. He inherently recognised the Central Coast’s potential to produce outstanding grapes and high-quality wines that exude the fresh fruit character and bright acidity that come from a wine shaped by the influence of the Pacific Ocean. In 1994, he founded Robert Mondavi Private Selection to celebrate his passion for the Central Coast, ultimately seeing them become the number one spirits-aged wine brand in the US and, most recently, taking out double gold at the Melbourne International Wine Competition for their cabernet sauvignon.

California, as a wine-growing region, has a blend of fog, wind, chill, and warm sunshine, almost every day; conditions that cause the grapes to ripen slowly, producing intense, pure fruit flavours. So, while you may know Californian wines, the notion of ageing in spirit barrels is one you need to experience first-hand. Introducing Robert Mondavi Private Selection.

2018 Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

RMPSFollowing the southern traditions of bourbon whisky ageing, this cabernet sauvignon is bold, expressive, and full of flavour. Deep, rich yet ruby in colour, this wine is reminiscent of luscious blackberry cobbler, blueberry pie, praline, and sweet vanilla custard. On the palate you’ll be treated to notes of caramel and mocha, with a hint of coffee and smoke. Soft, chewy tannins and toasty oak round out the wine with a long, lingering finish.

Delicious pairings: Think classic bourbon-glazed ribs, sticky and moreish, with a side of twice-cooked fries. And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, consider a charcuterie board to start with myriad cured meats, including mortadella, 'nduja and rillette, and a rich crumbly aged cheddar.

2019 Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chardonnay

RMPSGolden straw in colour, this wine is rich and creamy with balanced acidity and concentrated flavours of grilled peach, lemon pie crust and vanilla bean. Baking spices, and toasted oak lead to a lingering palate that is long and evocative. This is a wine that keeps on giving. 

Delicious pairings: The perfect complement to a long lazy lunch. Think grilled fish and roast pork, alongside a fresh, seasonal garden salad of ripe tomato and lovely leaves, tossed in lemon juice and olive oil. This wine is refined yet bold, so start your meal with gorgonzola and bacon-wrapped dates – a beautifully balanced starter of sweet and salty. 

2019 Rum Barrel-Aged Merlot 

RMPSBlending the craftsmanship of Californian winemaking with the tradition of dark rum barrel ageing, this merlot evokes flavours of black cherry and raspberry, caramel, sweet oak, vanilla, and dark chocolate. Complex and layered, drinkers are treated to a long, lush and sweet finish that lingers with great reward. 

Delicious pairings: This wine is as versatile as it is delicious. Taking you from mains right through to dessert, it will stand up to a slow-cooked, luscious bolognese as easily as it will to a spicy curry with plenty of weight and flavour. Pull it out at dessert and partner it with a good quality dark chocolate, or a creamy brie smothered in fig jam.

There's no denying this unique approach to ageing wine is one that is gaining popularity and recognition globally, for its ability to transform wine and impart layers of flavour and complexity that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.

This article was produced in partnership with Robert Mondavi Private Selection.