Category Archives: Australian Shiraz

Apr 04 2017

The seriously delicious Hentley Farm Clos Otto Shiraz

Posted on April 04, 2017 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In the early years of this century, Americans couldn’t seem to get enough of Australia’s top wines, especially the full-bodied and sometimes ridiculously rich shiraz from the Barossa and beyond.

But a spiralling Aussie dollar, changing tastes and some serious competition from both the New and Old Worlds led to an almost sudden collapse in fortune for the Australian wine export market.

As The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown highlights in a recent report, today the South Australian wineries which have continued to make a mark by actively selling internationally “largely fall into one of three categories: 1) those coming from well-established 30+ year-old wineries that, like their ancient vines, have the quality foundations to weather the vagaries of difficult times (think Henschke, Yalumba, Jim Barry, Elderton, etc.); 2) the 10- to 30-year-old wineries that survived the storm by being not just a cut above the rest, but several cuts above the rest (e.g. Torbreck, John Duval, Glaetzer, and Hentley Farm); and 3) a precious few newcomers that have managed to get overseas representation, because they are seriously impressive (e.g. Powell & Son and Sons of Eden).” (South Australia Part 1 – Slow Burn by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, The Wine Advocate 30 June 2016)

Certainly, no-one can deny the pedigree and staying power of The Hentley Farm Clos Otto Shiraz. Made with vines planted by previous owner Otto Kasper using a cutting from an ageing and “secret” shiraz clone, and tended to “with almost antique machinery and a well-practiced hand”, the Clos Otto vineyard (purchased by Hentley Farm in 2004) consistently yields super low quantities with ultra rich flavours. Yet its ability to combine richness and intensity with complexity and elegance has earned it a very loyal following and a serious price tag.

Here’s Perrotti-Brown’s 96+ review of the 2013 … Read the rest

Feb 02 2017

John Duval Eligo Shiraz 2013 – Named by the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown as one of her favourites for 2016

Posted on February 02, 2017 | By merrill@cellarit.com

I couldn’t help thinking that John Duval would have been chuffed to see his 2013 Eligo Shiraz share company with the 2012 Penfolds Grange and the 2013 Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay as the best current release Australian wines from 2016 according to the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown. (Current Releases: Best of Australia 2016)

After all, Duval started his own boutique label in 2003 after a legendary career as chief winemaker at Penfolds. He was responsible for making the Penfolds Grange and developing the highly successful RWT label. During his reign, the 1990 Penfolds Grange was named Wine of the Year by the Wine Spectator in 1995.

The Eligo Shiraz is made in a style similar to the one Duval created for the Penfolds RWT Shiraz. Matured for 20 months in new (75%) and seasoned fine-grained French hogsheads (300 litres), the French oak helps to create an elegant, opulent and fleshy style that is different to the more masculine and assertive style of Penfolds Grange, which is matured in American oak barrels.

Bottled under cork, the Eligo Shiraz is the reserve bottling of the best bunches from specially selected old vine vineyards in the Barossa and Eden Valleys.

Here’s Perrotti-Brown’s stunning review:

Very deep purple-black in color, the 2013 Eligo has an intoxicating nose of creme de cassis, blueberry tart and violets with underlying menthol, cloves, fenugreek, licorice and dark chocolate hints. The medium to full-bodied palate is youthfully restrained, with taut, muscular blackberry and exotic spice flavors supported by fine-grained, firm tannins and lively acid, finishing with excellent length. This is a very classy 2013 Shiraz! 98+ points (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, 30 June 2016)

By Merrill Witt, Editor

The Penfolds Grange 2012 and the Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 are both currently available.

 … Read the rest

Feb 02 2017

2016 Wine of the Year: Tyrrell’s Old Patch Shiraz 2014

Posted on February 02, 2017 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Recently wine critic Nick Stock announced his Top 100 Australian Wines for 2016 in a report for JamesSuckling.com. Describing the character of the list, Stock remarked that it “encapsulates the growing divide between the classic wines and producers and the current generation of younger makers who are redefining the notions of great Australian wine.”

Tyrrell’s Old Patch Shiraz 2014, the 2016 Wine of the Year, is a wine that certainly sits in the former category. According to Stock, it’s an example of how “established producers who have custodianship of gifted terroirs are making the most of their land.”

People normally associate the Barossa and McLaren Vale in South Australia with great old vine shiraz, but the Hunter was also spared from the phylloxera epidemic that wiped out the great vineyards of Europe in the 19th century. Stock calls the Tyrrell’s 2014 Old Patch Shiraz “as unique an expression of great old vine Hunter shiraz as you will ever find.”

Stevens_Old_Patch_380_285About 10 years ago, Tyrrell’s proprietor Bruce Tyrrell set about identifying six blocks (one chardonnay, two semillon, and three shiraz) that were over 100 years old and still capable of producing exceptional fruit grown on their own roots.

The Old Patch was isolated in 2007 and is part of the famous Stevens Vineyard. Like the other “sacred sites” it has some of the rarest vines in the world. First planted in 1867, a few of the cuttings may even have their origins in the original James Busby Collection – a selection of some 433 grapevine cuttings from Europe that were originally planted in the Hunter Valley in the 1800s.

The location of the vineyard, set up against the Brokenback Mountain Range, is well protected, and the dark clay soils retain just enough moisture to sustain the vines without the need … Read the rest

Aug 08 2016

The Ageing Potential of Australia’s Great Wines

Posted on August 08, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti Brown named her top three wines for 2015. These aren’t current vintage wines, but rather rare treats she’s been lucky to sample, often in the company of the winemakers themselves. Of the three,  two were Australian – a 1982 Cullens Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River and a Wendouree Shiraz, Clare Valley 1995. The third – unsurprisingly I guess – was a 1967 Echezeaux, Domaine de La Romanee Conti! (I’m guessing few people in the world would have a chance to try one of those!) (Lisa Perrotti Brown’s Guide to the Best of 2015, December 2015, eRobertParker.com)

Anyway, more evidence, if any was needed, of the wonderful ageing potential of Australia’s great wines. Perrotti Brown even went so far as to say that the 1982 Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon looks “spritelier than many Bordeaux ’82s.”

And, of course, her reference to the ’82 vintage of Bordeaux won’t be lost on subscribers to The Wine Advocate. After all, this is the vintage most famously associated with the rise of the American critic Robert M. Parker Jr. As remembered by The New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov, Parker’s “clear, certain and unqualified” praise for the vintage caused “feverish excitement and a frenzied market that reached beyond professionals and connoisseurs to a new group of buyers in it for the curiosity, status and investment possibilities.” (From 1982, Glasses more than Full by Eric Asimov, The New York Times, 20 March 2012)

wendouree-shiraz-clare-valley-australia-10303447tMost of the legendary ’82 Bordeaux wines, which are nowadays bought as trophies or investments, are terrifically expensive. Fortunately earlier vintages of Australia’s great wines are far more affordable (if you can find them) and by all accounts worth seeking out!

by Merrill Witt, Editor

 

Photo Credit: eRobertParker.com

The Cellarit Wine Market has … Read the rest

Jul 07 2016

Powell & Son – A “Seriously Impressive” new wine label

Posted on July 07, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In her recent report on South Australian wines, the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown singled out two newcomers, Powell & Son and Sons of Eden, as “seriously impressive.”

Anyone familiar with the Barossa’s fabled Torbreck Wines would have already guessed that the Powell in Powell & Son is none other than Torbreck founder Dave Powell. Dave teamed up with his 22 year old son Callum a couple of years ago to start a new small-scale eponymous wine label at the Riverside Vintners in Lyndoch.

Apparently Callum’s birth in 1994 coincided with the pressing of the first vintage of Dave’s own shiraz, so you could say that Callum was born with wine in his blood! Before starting a degree in oenology at Roseworthy, Callum had a stint working under Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage. Dave is quick to acknowledge that his precocious son is already developing his own unique winemaking style.

But only someone of Dave’s experience and bravado would release an inaugural flagship shiraz with a sticker price of $750 a bottle! Yet the critics haven’t blinked an eye at either the price tag or the pedigree of the Powell & Son Steinert Flaxman’s Valley Shiraz. (Only 220 cases of the 2014 vintage were made.)

Steinert is indeed a very impressive vineyard. Located in Eden’s Flaxman’s Valley, the vines are more than 120 years old and cost the Powells $10,000 a tonne. Dave and Callum are relishing the opportunity to spend time together in this special vineyard, working it to perfection.

davepowell4Of the inaugural 2014 vintage, Perrotti-Brown remarked that “it’s a very pretty wine possessing a deep garnet-purple color and lifted nose of kirsch, crushed red currants and black raspberries with suggestions of wild thyme, lavender, black pepper and cloves. Medium to full-bodied, it has a firm backbone of grainy … Read the rest

Nov 11 2015

Masterclass: The Stars Align for Hilltops’ Moppity Vineyards

Posted on November 11, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

When the 2013 Moppity Vineyard Shiraz (rrp $70) won the Great Australian Wine Challenge last year, it marked the first time in the prestigious show’s 21 year history that a shiraz from NSW had received the top gong.

With the exception of the Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz, which has the highest ranking of “Exceptional” in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VI, people tend to gravitate towards South Australia and Victoria for top examples of Australian shiraz. Indeed, of the show’s 390 entries, a whopping 268 wines came from South Australia, 66 from Victoria and only 29 from NSW.

While Moppity’s win is causing people to re-evaluate NSW’s potential for making great Australian shiraz, Moppity Vineyard’s proprietor Jason Brown said he always had faith that the Hilltops region offered the right conditions for making superb examples of cool-climate style shiraz.

Moppity Reserve Shiraz 2013 LR-500x500As Brown explained at a recent Masterclass at Different Drop, he and his wife Alecia decided in 2004 to buy a rundown 170 acre vineyard in the sleepy Hilltops viticulture region instead of a well-established vineyard in the world-renowned Clare Valley.

They settled on Hilltops because they were confident that the strong diurnal variations in temperature – hot days followed by cool nights over an extending growing season – offered the right conditions for creating high perfumed shiraz fruit with rich, plush flavours yet elegant tannin profiles.

Certainly, the runaway success of the wines over the past 10 years is the best vindication they could have hoped for that they made the right decision!

We were fortunate to try three vintages of the Moppity Reserve Shiraz – the 2013, 2010 and 2008. They were interesting examples to consider because they highlighted how vintage variation can subtly or not so subtly alter the character of the wine.… Read the rest

Nov 11 2015

Masterclass: Creating a Sense of Place – The Lane Vineyard, Adelaide Hills

Posted on November 11, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

You know a winery is serious about “terroir” when they print the Google Earth coordinates of the particular block each wine comes from on the front label!

The Lane Vineyard, arguably the Adelaide Hills’ most picturesque vineyard, prides itself on creating wines that display their sense of place.

And it’s a very special place indeed!

Last year John Edwards, who founded the winery with his wife Helen, reminisced about their decision 22 years ago to buy a 70 ha cattle grazing property high in the Adelaide Hills overlooking the Onkaparinga Valley: “We’re so blessed to have bought this block rather than the one across the road. This is the gem, the one with the minerals, the rolling slopes and the beauty. This is the piece of dirt that gives us the edge.” (Keys to the Lane: Meet the New Faces of an Adelaide Icon by Anthony Madigan, Wine Business Monthly, April 2014)

Today, day-to-day management of The Lane Vineyard has passed to John and Helen’s sons, Marty Edwards and Ben Tolstoshev, with Marty in charge of viticulture and Ben in charge of marketing. Recently Ben gave a masterclass on the wines at Different Drop’s new warehouse premises in Ultimo.

I don’t think I was the only one in Ben’s audience who was more familiar with the winery’s stunning restaurant than the wines themselves. (The restaurant is consistently rated one of the best in South Australia). But with Ben and Marty at the helm, both passionate and eloquent advocates for their brand, I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about these impressive hand-crafted wines.

The Lane Beginning Chardonnay 2005, for example, was a beautiful reminder of how wonderfully Australian chardonnay can age when well-made. The wine had an enticing bouquet of toasty notes with a hint … Read the rest

Sep 09 2015

Clonakilla Syrah 2013: “As good a Murrumbateman Shiraz as we have ever made”

Posted on September 09, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you’ve ever wondered what NSW wine regions like the Canberra District and Burgundy have in common, you don’t have to look much further than vintage variation. Both regions are subjected to notoriously fickle weather. The wild swings in weather conditions keep vineyard managers on their toes and wine connoisseurs and critics endlessly guessing about the prospects of a particular vintage. In both regions, for example, unexpected severe frosts during the ripening period can almost wipe out crops!

But as the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown notes, “fickle weather makes interesting wine.” If you’re looking to drink wine that expresses both its time and place, then you’re naturally inclined to seek out the best vintages for the region and perhaps throw in a dud vintage or two for interesting comparisons!

2013_syrah_01At the Canberra District’s Clonakilla, 2013 turned out to be the greatest vintage to date for its Clonakilla Syrah. According to winemaker Tim Kirk, “This is as good a Murrumbateman Shiraz as we have ever made.” Warm days followed by cool nights allowed the grapes to “develop great colour, dramatic aromas and profound texture and flavours.”

A small production single vineyard wine from Clonakilla’s North-East facing T&L vineyard, winemaking was kept as simple as possible to allow the unique qualities of an exceptional vintage to shine through. Whole berries were fermented warm by their own native yeasts. The wine also spent a month macerating on its own skins and 15 months maturing in fine-grained French oak.

I had the opportunity to try this outstanding wine at Clonakilla’s Cellar Door last week. It proved to be one of the highlight wines of a very rewarding two day tour of the best Canberra District wineries.

Here’s Perrotti-Brown’s 95+ review:

Medium to deep garnet-purple in color, the 2013 Murrumbateman Syrah flaunts a Read the rest

Feb 02 2015

The delights of drinking aged Penfolds Grange

Posted on February 02, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Over the past couple of months I’ve had the good fortune to try two bottles of aged Penfolds Grange, the 2003 and the 1982. Both were opened (as they should be!) to celebrate two very special occasions – first a memorable birthday and then a farewell retirement party for our warehouseman Joe.

The 2003 had an absolutely beguiling bouquet. Cedar, Asian spices, and an assortment of dark berries – the fruit was so fresh!

If I find the aroma of a wine really enticing, I’m sometimes nervous to actually drink the wine, lest it disappoints. But the voluptuous, intricately layered palate of the 2003 lived up to my expectations. Every mouthful was sublime!

The bouquet on the 1982 was less enveloping but equally inviting. The fruit, while not as fresh as the 2003, was still very vibrant. As you would expect, the tannins had seamlessly integrated into the body of the wine. But the lack of overt tannins hadn’t diminished the wine’s structure. It still displayed remarkable depth and opulence – both signature characteristics of the Grange style.

An article by the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown shed some excellent light on why Grange needs to age.

When Grange’s creator Max Schubert designed Grange, he decided to finish off the fermentation off-skins in new American oak barrels. Apparently he had witnessed the practice of finishing the fermentation process in barrel on a trip to Bordeaux in 1950.But as Perrotti-Brown notes, most great Bordeaux wines typically finish fermenting in vats on skins and remain on skins for a total of 2 – 4 weeks prior to racking, primarily to extract more skin tannins. Schubert probably witnessed an unusual practice.

In any event, the technique worked well for his main fruit of choice – beautifully ripened warm climate shiraz, which is naturally high … Read the rest

Sep 09 2014

Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz – The Wine You Choose to Impress your Guests!

Posted on September 09, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent review of Yalumba’s The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 2008, The Wine Front’s Campbell Mattinson referred to it as “one of a select group of Ultimate Business Lunch Wines. When Barossa Shiraz is all that is called for, and nothing else will do.” (The Wine Front, 29 January 2014)

This comment sparked quite a bit of discussion from readers about other popular wines people like to order at important business lunches. Favourites include Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Blend, Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier, d’Arenberg’s The Dead Arm Shiraz, Balnaves of Coonawarra The Tally Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz and Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon.

Given Huon Hooke’s recent commentary about the diminishing number of Australian wines listed on top restaurant wine lists, perhaps news that people are still ordering top Aussie wines when they want to impress their guests may cause some sommeliers to rethink! (Restaurant Wine Lists Too Trendy by Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 August 2014)

The Octavius is Yalumba’s flagship shiraz. It’s sourced from very old vineyards in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, and matured  for 22 months in American and French oak ‘octaves’ of 100 litre capacity. Yalumba claims that it’s the only red wine in the world that is matured in such small barrels.

The winery is able to prevent the smaller barrels from overpowering the wine with oak by overseeing all aspects of  barrel production at its own on-site cooperage. The American oak, for example, is seasoned for up to eight years before use.

The Octavius is certainly a wine for drinkers who enjoy oak’s contribution to the flavour profile. The coffee, cedar and chocolate flavours of the dominant French oak marry well with the fresh, full flavoured … Read the rest