Wine of the Week: Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz
In his post, Tasting Australian History: Six decades with Peter Lehmann (Wine Spectator 12 October 2010), wine critic Harvey Steiman talks about a recent tasting of the 1996 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz. As Steiman notes, 1996 was the best vintage of the 1990s for Barossa Shiraz and this wine certainly didn’t disappoint:
…astonishing suppleness, depth and power. Gorgeous stuff, it showed spicy cherry and blackberry flavors that glowed through polished tannins. Has power without excess weight, and it feels like it can go on for decades. Easily 95 points, non-blind.
I always enjoy reading recent reviews of older wines. The best red wines are designed to age, and typically shiraz can take 10 of more years before it starts to fully evolve. Terrific reviews of older bottles are also a testament to the talent and skills of the winemaker and, of course, the quality of the initial raw materials, which is all about insuring the best outcomes in the vineyard.
In the case of Peter Lehmann, the extraordinary talent of the winemaker is already the stuff of legends. Peter Lehmann had already notched up more than 30 years as a winemaker, first at Yalumba and then at Saltram, before starting his eponymous winery in 1979. Steiman comments that “some of the Shiraz wines he made at Saltram in the 1960s are regarded as among the finest Barossa wines every produced. They are still perfectly sound and continue to be used by Barossa winemakers to demonstrate the longevity of Barossa Shiraz at its best.”
Chief Winemaker Andrew Wigan, who has been with Peter Lehmann since its founding, is also one of Australia’s top winemakers; as recently as 2009 he won the coveted Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine ‘Winemaker of the Year’ award.
The Stonewell Shiraz is regarded as the winery’s ultimate expression of Barossa Shiraz. The winery selects only the best grapes from its legacy of growers’ Barossa vineyards. Usually no more than a dozen small, low yielding vineyards are selected each year, the oldest planted in 1885.
Unusually Peter Lehmann has built its reputation by cultivating strong relationships with a large network of local independent growers. Many of these growers have been with the winery since its early days, initially seeing Lehmann’s offer to buy their grapes as a lifeline to ward off financial ruin from Australia’s first wine glut in the late 70s and early 80s. Over the years the grower – winery partnership has flourished. Today 185 independent growers supply grapes to Peter Lehmann.