I have always liked the name of the Barossa Valley Estate E & E Black Pepper Shiraz. As you are no doubt aware, most wines are usually named after the region or vineyard from which they originate or perhaps an illustrious individual or a dear relative. The BVE E & E Black Pepper Shiraz is one of the few wines I can think of with a name that actually evokes its aroma/flavour. Although I should note that E & E stands for Elmore and Elaine, the original old-vine shiraz blocks that were the core of the early vintages and are still part of the blend.

Black pepper, of course, is a very attractive aromatic or flavour characteristic of shiraz. It is usually associated with cool-climate shiraz, but many distinguished shiraz wines from the warmer regions of Barossa and McLaren Vale also have a peppery note.

Fruit for the E & E Black Pepper Shiraz is a blend from vineyards in northeast Barossa where the vines are at least 60 years old. The vineyards are owned by Barossa Valley Estate – originally a grower’s cooperative set up in 1984 by 80 third and fourth generation Barossa growers. In the face of declining demand for their shiraz grapes at the time, the growers decided to join forces to produce their own wines. Last year, the growers repurchased Constelllation Wines 50% equity state in the business and once again the Estate is 100% grower-owned.

Harvey Steiman of the Wine Spectator has long been an admirer of BVE’s flagship wine.

...E&E has a distinctive personality. The flavors run toward dark fruits, often cherry and plum, with noticeable floral and spice notes, including licorice and, yes, black pepper. The texture in the best vintages is plush, but it seldom gets overwhelmingly alcoholic or veers off into the dry-fruit range. A classic E&E is seamless.  (Care for Some Pepper on That? by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator 29 May 2007)

The wine has earned a coveted spot on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list twice; the 1996 vintage at No. 7 in 1999 and the 2002 at No. 21 in 2005. Steiman hasn’t rated a single vintage below 90 points since 1994.

Winemaker Tash Mooney, now proprietor/winemaker at Fox Gordon, was responsible for the lauded 1996 vintage. She was succeeded by Stuart Bourne, who moved across to  Château Tanunda last year after completing 10 successful vintages with BVE. During his tenure he saw the E&E Black Pepper Shiraz elevated from Excellent to Outstanding in the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine and  named as one of the Top 25 Benchmark Wines from Australia by Wine Spectator magazine in 2007.

Merrill Witt, Editor