Category Archives: McLaren Vale Shiraz

Mar 03 2015

South Australia’s McLaren Vale – Focus on Terroir is Yielding Exciting Results

Posted on March 03, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you think South Australia’s McLaren Vale is all about super rich, high alcohol reds, now is a great time to challenge your preconceptions. According to wine critic Huon Hooke, McLaren Vale is “alive with a new surge of vitality and is making superb wine.” (Red Means Go in the Vale by Huon Hooke, Good Food, SMH, 6 August 2013)

The seeds for transformation were sown around 15 years ago when the region’s top wineries began shifting their plantings to better suited, mainly red wine varieties. But confidence really started to surge about five years ago, coinciding with the release of the area’s first detailed geological map!

First detailed geological wine map released in 2010

In 2010, after decades of research, geologists confirmed what top winemakers like Clarendon Hill’s Roman Bratasiuk had long intuited. McLaren Vale was an incredibly ancient land with an unusually diverse range of soils and underlying rock formations that are capable of imbuing the wines with very individualistic characters.

 

McLaren ValeThe map identified nineteen distinct soil and rock districts within six geological and mesa-climate subregions: Blewitt Springs, McLaren Flat, Seaview, McLaren Vale, Willunga and Sellicks. According to Wine Australia’s regional director Aaron Brasher, no other Geographical Indication (GI) in Australia has been so extensively mapped!

Scarce Earth Project promotes terroir-focused wines

To prove that these subtle and not-so-subtle differences in soil type, climate and elevation can find expression in the wines, a group of the region’s most prominent wineries formed the Scarce Earth project in 2010.

Participating wineries were asked to isolate single blocks of land planted to shiraz (the vines must be at least 10 years old) and produce wines representing a true reflection of their terroir or sense of place. Now in its fifth year, wines are submitted for blind-tasting to an … Read the rest

Feb 02 2012

Mollydooker Carnival of Love Shiraz 2005: ‘Surprisingly’ good drinking Seven Years On!

Posted on February 02, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The reasons for America’s fading love affair with Australian wines in recent years have been much discussed. At the bottom end, the predominance of the so-called ‘critter’ brands unfairly created an image of Australian wine as cheap and cheerful. And at the high end, influential wine critic’s Robert Parker’s trumpeting of a big, rich, full bodied style of South Australian shiraz possibly inflated expectations to a point that it was hard for the wines to live up the glowing praise. As American wine critic and blogger Alder Yarrow observed, “after several years of hype over huge, extracted, high-alcohol wines from the Barossa (Mollydooker was named as a poster child for this excess), collectors were tasting these wines with five or eight years on them and realising that they were falling apart.” (Some Thoughts on Australian Wine by Alder Yarrow, Vinography, 21 May 2010)

I remembered Yarrow’s comments when I was at a dinner party on Saturday night and our friend opened a bottle of Mollydooker Carnival of Love Shiraz 2005.  I should note that our friend is a very astute collector with catholic tastes, so we worked our way through a bottle of Herzog Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006, an Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir 2005 from the Santa Maria Valley in California and a Pintia Tinto de Toro (Tempranillo) 2005, before we approached the 2005 Mollyooker Carnival of Love Shiraz.  I guess you could say my palate was warmed up, but as the designated driver, I was very careful to have no more than a couple of mouthfuls of any of the wines. So for the record, no, I wasn’t drunk when we eventually imbibed the Mollydooker!

And the Carnival of Love wasn’t just good, it was great! More than a worthy competitor in a very strong field of … Read the rest

Jul 07 2011

Aussie Wine Icons: Clarendon Hills Astralis Syrah

Posted on July 07, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

You don’t usually hear “big” and “graceful” in the same sentence when reading a review of a McLaren Vale shiraz, but here’s the Wine Spectator’s opinion of the 2006 Clarendon Hills Astralis Syrah:

A big wine, but amazingly supple, graceful and pure, offering cascades of wild blueberry, black cherry and plum fruit that play against spices such as cardamom, clove and black pepper. It’s all seamlessly integrated with fine tannins and enough creamy oak to complete the picture. Syrah. Drink now through 2020. (Harvey Steiman, The Wine Spectator, 15 October 2008)

The Astralis is the flagship wine of Roman Bratasiuk’s Clarendon Hills. When the influential wine critic Robert Parker first tasted the Clarendon Hills wines in 1994, he became an immediate devotee, and his enthusiasm for the wines has only continued to grow.  After a vertical tasting in 2001, Parker remarked: “If Penfolds Grange has been the most legendary wine in Australia, my instincts suggest that in the future, if any wine surpasses Grange, it will be made by Roman Bratasiuk of Clarendon Hills in McLaren Vale.” (Vertical Tasting of Clarendon Hills, Wine Advocate, June 2001)

A number of Australia’s best winemakers benchmark their wines against the great ‘Old World’ examples. Bratasiuk’s style of wines has always been informed by his profound appreciation of the very best French wines.* He was one of the first winemakers to use only French oak – the Astralis spends 18 months in 50% new and 50% seasoned, tightly grained French oak barrels.

Planted in 1920, the Astralis vineyard is on a 45 degree ascending slope. It faces due-east and has a top soil layer of pebble-ridden clay and subsoil layer of pure ironstone. The vineyards are no longer trellised and the wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Astralis, like all … Read the rest