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 vintage:

Maintaining a very youthful deep garnet-purple color, the 2013 Shiraz Clos Otto is a little coy and mute to begin, opening out to crushed blackberry, cassis and licorice notes with dark chocolate, violets and underbrush in the background plus a peppery waft. Full-bodied but in no way over-ripe, it is densely packed and complex, with firm, grainy tannins and enough acid to lend freshness through the very long, multi-layered finish. Forget about it for 3-5 years and drink it over the next 15-20. (The Wine Advocate, 30 June 2016)

by Merrill Witt, Editor