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20 September 2012

Australia: Shiraz

Australia already has a strong following for its Shiraz/Syrah, and Aus winemakers are now gearing up for the challenge of promoting all their different regional styles better. While there's something endlessly thrilling about those classic rich meaty Shirazes from say the Barossa Valley (e.g. see St. Hallett, Two Hands Wines, Yalumba, Peter Lehmann below) or McLaren Vale (Chateau Reynella, d'Arenberg, Mitolo, Wirra Wirra), there are also plenty of the more restrained 'peppery' styles around from Australia's 'cooler' climate regions. These are sometimes blended with a splash of the aromatic white variety Viognier, following a rather trendy fashion (and it's good when it works) to mimic certain traditional Northern Rhone reds. Areas and wineries to look out for include Yarra Valley (Innocent Bystander, De Bortoli) and Heathcote (Greenstone) in Victoria, Adelaide Hills (Shaw & Smith), and Mount Barker (Plantagenet) and Frankland River (Ferngrove) in Western Australia.
At a monster Aus tasting in Dublin a few months ago, I was quite taken by a relatively new winery called Two Hands Wines - to me at least, they've been around since 1999 founded by Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz in Barossa Valley and are mad on "small-batch" Shiraz based reds sourced from a few different regions (distributed in Ireland by the Celtic Whiskey Shop & Wines on the Green, Dublin). Other names, besides the ones already mentioned above and better-known brands (nothing wrong with that, as you'll see from my notes) that stood out include Turkey Flat, also in Barossa, with their SGM wines (Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvèdre)... And going back to those famous names, this show was a great opportunity to taste some top Aus reds with a bit of aged character behind them, including a couple of ten year-old Lehmann Shirazes which were sitting well pretty.
All the wines mulled over below are 100% Shiraz (so I haven't bothered saying so) or, where stated, majority Shiraz with e.g. Viognier (so I did bother...). Shiraz - Grenache - Mourvèdre type reds, and other 'Med red' varietals or cocktails, are featured in another post above... Retail prices are for Ireland in euros; many of them will be available in the UK, North America, the Far East etc.

South Australia

Yalumba 2010 Organic - herbal black cherry notes, quite grippy and punchy vs nice youthful fruit, more 'European' in style. €12-€15
Thorn Clarke 2010 Milton Park - lively youthful peppery black cherry fruit, firm vs rounded backdrop; tasty drink-now style. €12-€15

Grant Burge 2010 GB - minty cassis and dark blackberry fruit with spicy undertones, turning soft and savoury vs still grippy and dry underneath; nice easier style. €10-€12

McLaren Vale
Hardys 2008 Omoo - quite rich and ripe with meaty 'tar' notes vs peppery black fruits, firm and extracted palate layered with lush dark fruit and almost toasty flavours. €15-€18
Hardys Château Reynella 2006 - again has seductive minty vs lush 'tar' and black cherry with meaty edges, tasty concentrated mouth-feel with attractive spicy vs firm texture, long 'sweet' vs savoury finish; still structured vs mature, lovely wine. +€20
Two Hands Wines 2010 Angel's Share - peppery nose with rich dark plum fruit and leather tones, solid grippy and concentrated mouth-feel with tasty dark fruit underneath, lovely style. €25
d'Arenberg 2008 Footbolt - smoky leather and spice aromas, savoury meaty palate vs rich dark berry fruit, power and grip vs maturing 'sweet/savoury' finish; good stuff. €18-€20
d'Arenberg 2008 Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier - smoky intense nose with dark cherry and 'tar' vs more aromatic side, big mouthful again showing lovely mix of dark fruit and savoury maturing flavours; yum. €20+
d'Arenberg 2007 Dead Arm - meaty mature tones vs structured and punchy mouth-feel, quite extracted with gripping texture vs nice savoury fruit; perhaps lacks a bit of depth vs extraction and its reputation. €20+

Willunga 100 2009 Shiraz Viognier - perfumed vibrant nose with blackberry/cherry and cassis, still tight and firm mouth-feel with quite elegant long finish. €12-€15
Mitolo 2009 Jester - vibrant black cherry/berry fruit, punchy palate with nice minty vs savoury profile, firm finish vs 'sweet' and maturing. €20+
Mitolo 2007 Savitar - meatier and more developed, concentrated and extracted with solid structured framework vs dried fruits and 'tar', peppery vs meaty finish; wow. €20+
Mitolo 2007 GAM - less forward, firm and chunky with 'sweet/savoury' fruit, spicy and gutsy with rich maturing flavours; still surprisingly young though for five years old. €20+
Wirra Wirra 2007 Woodhenge - spicy herby nose with black cherry and cassis, a touch of coconut oak on the palate vs lush dark and savoury fruit, tasty long and classy wine. €20+

Barossa Valley
Hardys 2008 Barossa Estate E Minor - seductive savoury vs spicy herby and minty dried black cherry, maturing and quite soft vs still has some dry grip and punch to it, nice tasty 'sweet' vs savoury finish. €15-€18
Yalumba 2008 Patchwork - fairly restrained with a touch of oak grain, firm extracted palate vs lush dark cherry/berry fruit, tight peppery and firm finish; lovely Shiraz. €18-€20
Two Hands Wines 2010 Gnarly Dudes - similar to the Angel's Share with more berry fruit perhaps and attractive savoury notes, tight grippy palate layered with delcious dark fruit, punchy closed up finish. €25
Two Hands Wines 2010 Bella's Garden - quite oaky with grainy coconut tones vs pretty concentrated and extracted, rich vs solid palate with spicy vs savoury fruit, tight structured finish; needs a few years to open up. €49
Turkey Flat 2007 - savoury meaty leather aromas, subtle concentration of lush 'sweet'/savoury fruit vs firm and dry finish; again very attractive maturing style from these guys (see my Grenache et al report coming out soon). +€20
Peter Lehmann 2008 - maturing soft and savoury vs lively peppery black fruits and tasty 'sweet'/savoury flavours, drinking well now. €12-€15
Peter Lehmann 2006 Futures - more structured with coconut grain vs rich black fruits and meaty edges, again has tasty mature flavours vs firmer and bigger finish. €18-€20
Peter Lehmann 2002 Eight Songs - leathery and minty with 'tar' tones, mature soft palate with delicious meaty flavours, sweet and peppery too; still quite grippy on the finish with lingering mature fruit. Lovely. +€20
Peter Lehmann 2002 Stonewell - has similarities to above yet with more herbal berry and cherry fruit style, still alive and firm on the palate vs tasty savoury flavours; delicious and classy. +€20
Thorn Clarke 2010 Shotfire - restrained on the nose, subtle spicy berry notes, tight and concentrated in the mouth, not very expressive at the moment. €20+

St. Hallett 2008 Gamekeepers Reserve - peppery black cherry/berry with gamey edges, maturing oily palate with tasty 'sweet/savoury' finish. €12-€15
St. Hallett 2008 Faith - maturing softening style with leather and spice notes vs lush 'tar' and prune fruit, drinking deliciously now. €15-€18
St. Hallett 2008 Blackwell - similar maturing meaty style yet more textured and structured still, tasty mix of savoury vs dark vs minty flavours on its long finish.
Jacob's Creek 2008 Centenary Hill - attractive 'sweet' fruit with gamey edges and hints of coconut oak, falls a little short perhaps (for the money) but it's a nice style. €20+

Clare Valley
Leasingham 2006 Bin 61 - mature savoury meaty aromas with peppery edges, tasty developed fruit vs still firm and dry, a touch of elegance too even despite that oomph on the finish. €15-€18
Two Hands Wines 2009 Samantha's Garden - more savoury than Bella's vs perfumed and herby tones, spicy and dark vs firm and dry texture, again has a tight long finish; quite fine. €49
Wakefield 2008 80 Acres Shiraz Viognier - savoury edges vs mint and violet, mature leather tinged undertones vs 'sweet' dried fruits vs firm tannins; tasty now.
Wakefield 2009 Estate - peppery with shades of coconut oak and a little savoury development, quite soft and delicate vs lush and meaty vs dry grainy texture. €12-€15
Wakefield 2009 Jaraman - also showing some coconut notes vs subtle depth of peppery black fruits, firm and tight palate with savoury maturing flavours, quite elegant with attractive lingering dry vs 'sweet' profile. €20+

Tim Adams 2008 - quite punchy with savoury maturing fruit vs 'sweet' dried blackberry, nice wine even if beginning to fade a little. €12-€15

Adelaide Hills
Shaw & Smith 2009 - peppery aromas layered with dark fruit, rich and ripe vs meaty and firm, shows fair class with a tight structured and understated finish. €20+

Western Australia

Ferngrove 2008 Frankland River - minty spicy blackberry nose and palate, tighter cooler climate style with peppery firm mouth-feel, quite fine and subtle despite being gutsy too. €12-€15
Plantagenet 2008 Mount Barker - subtle tight and classy wine, hints of pepper and lively berries with meaty/leather edges, still closed up on the finish with fine tannins. €20+


Yarra Valley
De Bortoli 2007 Shiraz Viognier - smoky rustic notes tinged with herby berries and peppery edges, dark fruited lush palate vs firm and chunky with ripe 'sweet/savoury' flavours and notes of 'tar' vs herbal floral berry fruit, attractive maturing fruit on the finish. €20+
Innocent Bystander 2009 Syrah - smoky meaty nose with leather tones, quite firm and extracted although it still tastes young, subtle attractive Euro-leaning style. €15-€18
Innocent Bystander 2010 Mea Culpa - youthful black cherry fruit with firm underbelly, peppery and meaty notes on the finish; again nice 'cooler' climate wine.

Brown Brothers 2009 Limited Release - attractive maturing savoury style vs minty dark cherry fruit, soft vs punchy finish. €15-€18

Riverina (New South Wales)

Deen de Bortoli 2008 Vat 8 - juicy berry fruity style with a smokier side too, ripe 'sweet' fruit vs solid and punchy mouth-feel; simpler but appealing. €12-€15

Canberra District

Clonakilla 2008 O'Riada - minty spicy black cherry aromas and flavours vs dry and firm palate, quite elegant and restrained once again. €20+

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