Category Archives: Australian Shiraz Viognier

Jan 01 2013

Shiraz Viognier: Not just a cool climate blend!

Posted on January 01, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Due in no small part to the critical acclaim of Clonakilla’s Shiraz Viognier, the shiraz viognier blend has become synonymous with the cooler climate regions of Australia like the Canberra District and Victoria’s Heathcote, Bendigo and Yarra Valley appellations.

Consequently, you may be surprised to learn that the first stellar Australian example of the blend in fact hailed from the ‘warm’ climate of Barossa Valley. Dave Powell of Torbeck added around 5% viognier to his first -the 1995- vintage of the RunRig. In doing so, he married the elegance of the Côte Rôtie style with the richness and power of Hermitage – another great red wine from the Rhône region – to create one of Australia’s most renowned wines.

This year another Barossa shiraz viognier, Head’s The Blonde Single Vineyard Stonewell Shiraz Viognier 2010, topped James Halliday’s list of the best shiraz viognier blends in his 2013 edition of the Australian Wine Companion.

Like Powell and Clonakilla’s Tim Kirk, proprietor and winemaker Alex Head of the  eponymously named Head Winery is fascinated with Rhône region wines and in particular the steeply terraced Côte Rôtie.

In Côte Rôtie the terroir of the southern slope imparts an elegant, feminine quality to the shiraz that is quite distinct from the intense, less accessible character of its northern slope neighbour.

When Head was in search for two Barossa vineyard sites, he deliberately chose sites where the soils were likely to produce contrasting styles of shiraz. The Blonde comes from a vineyard in Stonewell, which consists of sandy loam mixed with quartz on a limestone base – a terroir which gives the wine accentuated perfume and complexity.

In contrast, his other flagship shiraz, The Brunette, comes from a high elevation vineyard in Moppa, which consists of heavy soils of deep … Read the rest

Jun 06 2011

Aussie Wine Icons: Torbreck RunRig

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

My teenage daughters are big fans of Australia’s Master Chef. They came home giddy with excitement after Neil Perry made a surprise visit to their school – autographed photographs in hand!

I think the adults of this world would equally enjoy (and learn a lot) from an Australia’s Master Winemaker series. Top of my list of real “Master Winemakers” to invite on the show would undoubtedly be Dave Powell of Torbreck. The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown hit the nail on the head with her description of what makes his Torbreck wines so unique:

…what makes these wines stand amongst some of the world’s most special wines is not their supreme plots of land, or their inclusion of fruit of 100 year+ vines or their minimal intervention winemaking.  These factors are all a minimum standard for Torbreck.  The exemplary features of the wines stem from Dave’s relentless efforts, uncompromising winemaking vision and pig-headed stubbornness not to conform. (Torbreck’s David Powell, eRobertParker.com, December 2008)

Hailed by Robert Parker as “Australia’s answer to Marcel Guigal’s Côte Rôtie La Mouline,” the inaugural 1995 vintage of the RunRig Shiraz was a revelation on many fronts. (Wine Advocate #117 June 1998)

It was one of the first of a new generation of  wines to demonstrate the sensational fruit depth and concentration that could be extracted from Australia’s dry-grown old vines. Like its top Côte Rôtie counterparts, the RunRig included some viognier (around 5%) – the fabulously aromatic white wine grape that subtly lifts and extends the aroma and flavour profile of the wine when blended with shiraz.

But Powell married the elegance of the Côte Rôtie style with the richness and power of Hermitage – another great red wine from the Rhône region. The result is a superbly structured, deeply hued, full … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Castagna: True Wines of Place and Passion

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

One of the really fun aspects of writing the Cellarit Wine blog is the opportunity to learn about various wine personalities. The wine industry tends to attract people with very interesting backgrounds and skill-sets. This is particularly true of winemakers. I’m often in awe of the best, as they seem to possess a myriad of skills and talents: farmer, artist-winemaker, visionary, marketer, advocate, environmentalist – the list goes on!

Julian Castagna of Castagna Vineyard is certainly one Australian winemaker who is all of these things and more. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that he’s destined to join the ranks of the legendary Australian winemakers who over the years have changed the face of the industry.

Castagna is a passionate advocate for biodynamic wines and was instrumental in organising the recent Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne, which brought together 61 of the best wineries in the world. A very special event that I hope will be repeated soon. (see The Return to the Terroir Tasting, Cellarit Wine Blog, 21 March 2011)

He is also a passionate about his view that the future and reputation of Australian wine rests primarily with the small and medium producers, and is not afraid to take on the governing Australian wine bodies for what he regards as their “big-company, South Australian-centric view of our industry producers,” especially when it comes to promoting Australian wine in international markets.

Most importantly, from a consumer point of view at least, Castagna is an exceptional winemaker. His Genesis Syrah recently won a place in the “Distinguished” category in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. Langton’s Andrew Caillard MW described this highly aromatic syrah, co-fermented with a small percentage of viognier, as “very much a wine of place.”

Castagna would appreciate Caillard’s description of the wine as … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Wine of the Week: Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In my previous post, Langton’s Updates its Classification of Australian Wine 30 September 2010, I mentioned that five wines had been elevated to the ‘exceptional’ category. Langton’s describes ‘exceptional’ wines, of which there are now 17, as “the most highly sought after and prized first-growth type Australian wine on the market.” Langtons: Our Classification Explained.

One of the standouts of this newly elevated group is Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. According to Langton’s Fine Wine principal Andrew Caillard MW, “Tim Kirk’s ethereal Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is perhaps one of the most important advances in the development of Australian shiraz since the release of 1952 Penfolds Grange.” (Langton’s: View Classification V)

Clonakilla’s Shiraz Viognier is a product of a very fortuitous visit to the Côte Rôtie in Northern Rhone that winemaker Tim Kirk made in 1991.

Côte Rôtie produces fine wine from the Syrah (shiraz) grape, sometimes with a small percentage of the white wine grape viognier blended in to add an extra dimension to the wine.

Tim recalled his reaction to single vineyard barrel tastings of Marcel Guigal’s Côte Rôtie with the eRobertParker.com’s Neil Martin: “Up until then, I was familiar with Australian mainstream models of Syrah, with blackberry, with warmer fruit, sometimes with a cola character, even chocolate. But here the wines had an ethereal dimension, a lightness of touch, the flavour profile more in line with red fruits with a complex spice element spun through the aromas and palate. The palate structure was different: finer, silkier and more succulent. It captivated me, it was a revelatory moment and I was completely smitten. Here was a wine of purity, finesse and elegance.”

Tim borrowed other winemaking approaches from Rhone valley and Burgundian winemakers to highlight the inherent flavours of the fruit: inclusion of whole bunches in the … Read the rest