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.”
About 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 for irrigation. The hand-picked grapes are fermented in open top concrete fermenters and the wine is matured in a French oak foudre. Only 290 dozen bottles were produced for the 2014 vintage.
Stock could not have been more enthusiastic in his praise for the wine, calling it “a once in a century wine” that “has the proven capacity to age extremely well for many decades, possibly a century’s time.” The Wine Front’s Gary Walsh says that he suspects the 2014 vintage of the Old Patch is “a legend in the making.” Here’s his glowing review:
Smell the depth of seductive dark fruit and a shake of pepper, dark chocolate and liquorice, the sweet damp earth of this distinctive site. Musky perfume too. Medium to full bodied, succulent, dark fruit, firm pliant tannin, soars on the finish with fresh acidity and tannin, yet ample fruit buoys it up. Boysenberry pip acidity. Balance. Vivacity. Depth. Superb. Suspect this is a legend in the making. The Wine Front, 29 May 2015
Tyrrell’s Old Patch Shiraz 2014 was pre-sold at $60 a bottle on allocation only. A good advertisement, if one was needed, of the advantages of signing up to a winery’s mailing list!
by Merrill Witt, Editor
Back vintages of other Tyrrell’s wines are available on the Cellarit Wine Market
Photo Credit: Stevens Old Patch Vineyard, Tyrrell’s Wines