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Bob Campbell
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Ian Mckenzie


South Australian Ian McKenzie shares something very special with Merrill J. Fernando, Founder of Dilmah - a life devoted to a passion. For Merrill it is tea, and for Ian it is wine. Since 1959 when Ian began his career with Berry Winery (now BRL Hardy), he has developed a passion for wine, and emerged a pre-eminent Australian Winemaker, Connoisseur and Taster. Ian is currently Consultant Winemaker to Southcorp Wines, which produce some of Australia's finest wines under the Penfolds, Rosemount and Jacob's Creek brands, and is a Wine Judge and wine consultant to Qantas Airways.

Notes for Ran watte
Colour - Bright light tan leading to burnt orange with attractive green/gold at the meniscus. Similar to a well aged amontillado sherry.
Aroma - Lifted, lively, lightly herbal aromas with undertones of delicate lemony/citrus fruit with added complexity of light aromatic spice. Hints of orange rind also come through.
Taste - Light, lively, fresh, herbal front palate developing with fine grained tannins to a soft elegant but flavoursome mid palate and finishing with a dry lightly astringent sensation. Palate is left clean and refreshed. Lovely balance of herbal flavours and tannin with great palate length.
A lighter bodied beverage, in many ways similar in texture to a fine manzanilla or amontillado sherry.

The reference to Champagne on the packaging is probably more relevant to most consumers as few would understand what a fine manzanilla or amontillado would taste like.

The strong attributes of this tea are its elegance, finesse and length of flavour. Very much a fine aperitif style.

Clearly at 6,000 feet of altitude, the climate in which this tea is grown is quite cool and this is reflected in the fine elegant structure of the brewed beverage. These same characteristics are usually found in the wines made from grapes grown in cool climates.

Although slightly off the subject it is also interesting to note that the tannins derived from American White Oak trees used in making wine barrels are also much finer and less astringent when those trees are grown in extremely cold climates such as Wisconsin in the USA.

Also the tannins in French Oak from forests such as Troncais and Vosges, both cold climate, are fine grained and have a degree of elegance.

Notes for Uda watte
Colour - Attractive bright tan with orange tones. Deep golden green at the meniscus, similar to a well aged oloroso sherry.
Aroma - Very typical dried "tea" character with undertones of sweet new mown hay. Fresh and lightly aromatic, even fruity and not dissimilar to the slightly gamey forest floor aromas found in pinot noir.
Taste - Entry is immediately flavoursome and supple leading into a soft round medium bodied mid palate.
Back palate develops richness and depth with mouth coating but fine and complex tannins resulting in great length.
Overall a lovely balance of attractive, almost fruity flavours and soft generous tannins.
A medium bodied aperitif style.
A medium bodied beverage with an extra dimension of richness and softness which develops from the excellent tannin balance.

The comparison to pinot noir on the packaging is a very good analogy in my opinion as this tea does display many of the attributes of a good pinot, viz complexity, softness, roundness and full flavour and with non aggressive tannins.

The tannin structure in this tea reminds me of that derived from wine barrels made from French Oak from the Limousin forest, still relatively cool but warmer than say, Vosges.

Notes for Meda watte
Colour - Attractive deep golden brown with hints of green at the meniscus.
Aroma - Sweet, lightly pungent and aromatic tobacco-like characters with complex roasted nut undertones, reminiscent of lightly charry barrel ferment characters found in many fine red wines.
Taste - Immediate sensation of strong rich and full bodied flavour with an extra dimension of complexity and extract leading to a very satisfying mouth feel. The abundant tannins are quite assertive and pleasantly drying but not in any way aggressive nor bitter.
A full bodied tea with an almost continuous sensation of flavour from palate entry right through to back palate. Clearly a good deal "stronger" than Ran Watte or Uda Watte and a style I would imagine would be popular for breakfast, being quite robust and very satisfying in flavour.

Of all the grapes one could have used as a comparison, I guess shiraz is as close as one could manage. The style of shiraz to which the majority of consumers would relate is ripe, rich, robust and full bodies typical of the warmer regions of Australia even though there are quite elegant and spicy styles from some of the cooler regions. Within shiraz there is a similar hierarchy of styles which are dependent on climate as there are with the teas under discussion.

Notes for Yatta watte
Colour - Deep chocolate brown with rich golden highlights intermingled with some greens at the meniscus. Similar to a nicely aged Australian Rutherglen Tokay.
Aroma - Pronounced, aromatic rich and sweet with malt extract and hints of dried rosemary-like herbal characters. Toasty, nutty complexity adds to an already powerful bouquet.
Taste - Entry is rich and full flavoured building to a round mouth-filling soft richness and leading to surprisingly and pleasantly soft and velvety tannins on the back palate. Quite heavy initially but agreeably soft and smooth on the after palate.
This tea is somewhat of an enigma. The colour, aroma and initial palate sensations which are all big, rich and flavoursome lead one to expect a strong and heavy mouth puckering tannin finish. The surprise is that instead of intensity of flavour building as expected at the finish, it actually diminishes.

This structure reminds me of pinot meunier sparkling base wine in that there is an immediate rich ripe full mid palate flavour but which then falls away. In winemaking parlance, a "short" palate.

Winemakers often use the term "cold tea" to describe some of the desirable characters found in Australian Rutherglen Tokay and it is in Yata Watte that I find this character most pronounced and for this reason I find it very attractive.

I have some difficulty with the reference on the packaging "in the style of a Cabernet Sauvignon" as shortness of the palate of Yata Watte is not an attribute one seeks in Cabernet Sauvignon, where length of palate is regarded as almost mandatory.

Apart from possibly zinfandel, which is not widely known to consumers in Australia, I really can't think of a suitable red wine alternative. The pinot meunier, to which I referred earlier, is also relatively obscure in consumers minds. Possibly a more meaningful comparison would be with a full bodied rich and ripe chardonnay where there is an abundance of rich mouth- filling mid flavour but with a lesser impact on the back palate.

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