After last week’s feedback I’m going to be sticking to just one roundup a month on site going forward (thanks everyone for the feedback).
This roundup features a kaleidoscope of Australian Shiraz to have passed the desk recently. A smorgasbord, focused squarely on delights from South Australia, but interspersed with goodies from the Hunter Valley, Hilltops and other H places (like the Kiwi interloper from Hawke’s Bay).
Personally, I’d prefer to be drinking that Shaw + Smith or the Head of any of the wines below, but that’s just personal preference than anything else.
What would you buy?
d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2014
A saturation of a wine. That’s the best way to describe this McLaren Vale Shiraz, which is classic d’Arenberg. Formidable tannins, massive fruit concentration and that faint d’Arenberg tilled earth. Definitely has a colossus factor in the concentration, but it’s still not an ugly wine. Just big and mouthfilling, the finish long, the power knob switched up high. Perhaps a little sweet and sour, but otherwise instant appeal. You feel like you get what you’re paying for here. Best drinking: 2017-2033. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.4%, $65. Would I buy it? I’d like to have a bottle in the cellar, but wouldn’t buy more than a glass right now.
Head Wines The Brunette Syrah 2010
Sourced from the Moppa parish of the Barossa. Lovely savoury Barossan red in a good place. Delicous, ferrous nose with a little brick dust in amongst the drying bacony cooked plum. Lovely savoury edges here with hints of sausage meatiness. Composed acidity and underplayed alcohol. Bacon fat. Dark firm black tannins. Quality wine! Still retains the firm tannins. In the zone but will hold for years yet. Yum. Best drinking: 2017-2025. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.8%. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2015
A superb Shaw + Smith red. Predominantly Balhannah fruit + Macclesfield fruit in the Adelaide Hills, it was matured in 30% new French oak for 14 months with some whole bunches. Detail is the joy here. Red with purple edges (any Viognier in there? A sighting). Clever. There’s a balancing act going on here, the lightly spicy, dark cherry nose suggests something ripe and powerful, but it’s actually much more contained, with devon, drying tannins and then more spice, the warmth cleverly enveloped into the finish. For a warm vintage this is so well contained. Masterful. Best drinking: 2017-2032. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.5%, $46. Would I buy it? Yes.
The Vinden Headcase Single Barrel Hunter Valley Shiraz 2016
One of Angus Vinden’s favourite barrels that he called ‘smooth operator’. From the Somerset Vineyard, cold soaked, fermented wild, basket pressed, 3 months in new oak and then 6 months in old oak, 1 month in new American oak. Light red ruby purple colour, silky raspberry fruit with creamy edges, that oak is the fore, but it’s sexy, the smooth palate all boysenberry fruit, a dash of bitter edges and a little anise. Classy modern Hunter Valley red. Such a smooth, svelte flow. Feels unforced. A little too juicy, maybe but such silky appeal. Will only get better in bottle too. Yes! Best drinking: 2019-2032. 18.5/20, 94/100+. 14%, $50. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Andevine Reserve Hilltops Shiraz 2016
Sourced from the Mokhinui Vineyard near Young. Matured for 12 months in older oak. Great nose here – has some of the mint/plum Hilltops flavours. Really silly smooth plum fruit that cascades through in a deliciously smith flow of blue and red berry fruits. It’s just a little tart to finish, but otherwise wonderfully gentle and round, with great fruit volume. Quality wine. Best drinking: 2017-2030. 18/20, 93/100. 14.2%, $45. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Coriole Lloyd Reserve Shiraz 2013
Based on fruit from Coriole’s 1919 vineyard in McLaren Vale. Rich and richly oaked, there is a dark chocolate expanse here of lush, almost fudgey fruit. Thick and expansive with just a little dried fruit on the finish. The acid is just a bit biting here, but the impact is great. It’s not subtle, but the expanse of rich chocolatey old school Shiraz flavour is v. appealing. Best drinking: 2017-2028. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $100. Would I buy it? Too expensive for mine, though I’d have a glass.
Grant Burge Filsell Old Vine Barossa Shiraz 2015
Old school and proudly so. This has everything you’d want in a Filsell too. From the Filsell Vineyard (though I don’t believe its just from Filsell). Matured in 30% new French and American oak for 21 months. pH 3.52, TA 6.5g/L. Luscious plum fruit aplenty. It’s chocolatey and plump, as is the style, but none of the overt American oak like it once had. Indeed this is quite well made, the oak folded into the fruit perfectly. Maybe a little tart. Otherwise plump and full with pomp and expression. Old school Barossa done anew. Best drinking: 2017-2035. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $42.99. Would I buy it? I’d go a glass.
Juxtaposed McLaren Vale Shiraz 2016
88% McLaren Vale Shiraz, 12% McLaren Vale Mataro. Shiraz from 3 vineyards – Dry Creek Vineyard and Whites Valley Vineyard in the Sellicks Foothills sub region, and the Sherry vineyard (planted 1955) in the Kangarilla sub region. Really purple fruit. Has an opulence to it which is very nice. A lovely plush, slightly glycerol sweet purple fruit flow, no excess (save for a little alcohol warmth) and a sense of both vibrant fruit and savoury, licorice edges. Very smart, modern and delicious Shiraz. Best drinking: 2017-2030. 18/20, 93/100. 14.2%, $29. Would I buy it? Yes. A bargain.
Mitchell Harris Shiraz 2015
From the Peerick Vineyard at Moonambel in the Pyrenees. 2% Viognier. 25% whole bunch. 15 months in 1-7yr old hogsheads. It’s a shy wine, understated, and reticent with oak holding things back, otherwise flush with blue and black berries, and a little spearmint. Dry palate is a slow burner; a wine that is going to need time to come together, the tannins notably firm and life giving. The balance is notably good here; a wine genuinely built for the cellar and has quality tannins. It’s a framework now, but you’d be happy having this in the cellar as there is more than a little old Taltarni about it. Keeper. Best drinking: 2020-2035+. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 13.5%, $35 cellar door. Would I buy it? For the cellar, yes. Don’t drink it now.
Mornington Estate Shiraz 2015
2015 was a good year for Mornington Peninsula Shiraz. Light and yet perfectly ripe plum fruit. Lovely. Palate is rather Pinot like, all sour black cherry fruit and a lovely flow of red fruit. Delightful! It’s smooth, only light, but perfectly ripe, a glide of red fruit that is really rather appealing. Best drinking: 2017-2023. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Yes. It’s very drinkable.
Tim Adams Shiraz 2014
Spends a solid 24 months in American oak. You don’t see that much anymore, even in robust Clare Valley Shiraz. Jubey blackberry fruit here, though it’s rather deepest and savoury too. Clever. Feels unforced and even. Long too. This is a stellar wine for $25. Best drinking: 2017-2028. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? Yes.
Mitchell The McNicol Shiraz 2007
Released as a ten-year-old. A homage to Peter McNichol who came to the Clare Valley in 1949 to grow grapes. The warm 2007 Clare Valley vintage doesn’t quite help this, but there’s some charm. Plum red coloured, with no bricking. Menthol, earth and mint on the nose, the flavours vaguely stewed but still singing a better harmony thanks to bottle age. There’s a nice generosity of flavour through the middle that makes this wine, even if the alcohol warmth and drying tannins make it just slightly hard. Great length though, and the hints of menthol and bark through the finish help drive this more than expected. Best drinking: 2017-2024. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $45. Would I buy it? Not for me, but the aged character will appeal.
Schwarz Wine Co. The Schiller Barossa Valley Shiraz 2015
From a single vineyard planted in 1881. Just 400 vines. This vintage it is so chocolatey and sweet, the fruit super ripe, the oak adding a layer of milk chocolate sweetness, the alcohol another layer of sweetness. The net effect is just a bit too much. Lots of impact, but there’s a fraction too much glycerol and vanilla here. It would be better with less, though the vintage doesn’t help that. Time will be very kind, but for now? Somewhat OTT. Best drinking: 2019-2033. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 14.5%, $75. Would I buy it? Not for me.
Tinpot Hut Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013
Perfectly ripe for 13% alc, which is impressive. Pepper and black cherry, it’s mid weight and takes its cues from the Rhone Valley. A light to medium bodied, elegant and understated style. Lacks something to really make it distinctive, but good length and pleasurable. Best drinking: 2017-2025. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $37.95. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Wirra Wirra Woodhenge Shiraz 2015
Wirra Wirra’s mid-tier McLaren Vale Shiraz in good form. Great colour here – a deep red. Ripe and luscious; drenched in blackberry and red plum. It’s just a fraction too round and lacking in tannin this year, all very ripe, generous fruit. Many are going to love that silky, vanilla edged plum fruit though and good concentration and all round approachability. Best drinking: 2019-2029. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Yelland & Papps Second Take Shiraz 2016
One of Yelland & Papps more (proudly) unconventional Barossa wines. 65% whole bunches, it spent 9 months in 29% new oak. Unfined and unfiltered. Bright purple. 13.7% on the label but tastes warmer than that, with licoricey purple fruit that wavers between bright and juicy and then warm and spirity, before its lighter through the tail. Good intensity, and good tannins, but the balance isn’t quite perfect – it feels a little warm and lumpy. Still has unquestionable appeal. 17.5/20, 91/100. $40, 13.7%. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gundog Estate Canberra Shiraz 2016
From the Dahlberg Family Vineyard at Murrumbateman. Matured in 30% new oak puncheons. Really plump red fruit. Has a great purple fruit opulence but with a distinctly sour edge. Sticky red fruit, but just a little pointy and yet dry reddish. This feels like a barrel sample, and it’s just all components at present – ripe fruit on side, alcohol and acidity the other. Best drinking: 2020-2030. 17/20, 90/100+. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Jeaneret Rank & File Shiraz 2015
From vineyards in Sevenhill, Stanley Flat and Armagh in the Clare Valley. Oak forward and choc caramel cast. it’s a huge red with some of that classic Clare opulence. The oak and fruit are way over the top, and the sweetness of oak is only just holding the warm, acidified palate together. Reminds me of some of the ripe year Jim Barry Shiraz wines. Drink now, it will just become a caricature. That said, there is some hedonistic appeal here. Best drinking: 2017-2024. 17/20, 90/100. 15.5%, $27.50. Would I buy it? No.
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2015
Always good value is the Lodge Hill. Very purple colour here – lots of juicy purple Clare Valley fruit here. Black mulberries ahoy. Interestingly, this is only mid-weight style and it almost feels a little light on and simple. Easy drinking, but will need to put on some weight to be great. Best drinking: 2018-2025. 17/20, 90/100+. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Murray Street Vineyard Gomersal Shiraz 2006
A biggun’. Huge Barossa Shiraz. Sweet and black leaning towards porty. Tarry and a huge impact. It’s a relic of the Parker era, the alcohol attenuating the finish and sweetness of black fruit is huge. A caricature, but with very solid impact. I couldn’t drink much. Best drinking: 2017-2023. 17/20, 90/100. 15%. Would I buy it? No.
Sidewood Mappinga Shiraz 2013
Sidewood’s super premium Adelaide Hills Shiraz, built in an ambitious style. Here, it’s just hobbled a little by the vintage (and newer vintages are superb). Claimed a trophy or two already though, so others might enjoy more. Some whole bunches in the blend, matured in 80% new oak. Deep maroon colour. It’s a hefty wine that at first glance could be McLaren Vale fruit. The oak is a big influence here, milk chocolate sweetness everywhere. The warm, lightly dessicated palate has big impact but it’s too oaky and a bit too dried out to be great. Makes a big statement and great intensity, but any sense of delicacy is missing. Best drinking: 2018-2026. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $65. Would I buy it? I’d buy the ’15 instead.
Torzi Matthews Schist Rock Single Vineyard Barossa Shiraz 2016
A perennial bargain. I’ve seen it for sub $20 and at that price it’s a steal. From the Mt McKenzie Vineyard, this is flush with dark plum fruit. Medium bodied plum fruit, medium concentration and no obvious oak – it’s a simply juicy wine of instant appeal. Maybe a little light and shortish, but unforced and varietal. Good $20 Barossa Shiraz. Best drinking: 2017-2023. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $22. Would I buy it? I probably wouldn’t but others will.
The Vinden Headcase Hunter Valley Shiraz Nouveau 2016
Sourced from the Somerset Vineyard. Cold soaked, wild fermented and aged for 10 months in 20% new oak. Light purple red; a really vital and bright style with light red raspberry fruit, the light to medium bodied palate packing more fruit intensity than expected with minimal tannins. Nice fun juicy style even though it feels stuck between a simple drink and something more substantial. Best drinking: 2017-2025. 17/20, 90/100. 13.8%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d go a glass.
Andevine Reserve Canberra Syrah 2016
From the Caruluma Vineyard at Murrumbateman. Light red ruby red it’s only medium bodied, a slick of vanilla oak the first hit before a very tight and raw palate. Very fresh but this feels like it’s missing a beat through the palate, all arms and legs. I’d like to see this with more time as I struggled a bit with this now. Best drinking: 2020-2030+. 16.8/20, 89/100+. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Gundog Estate Hilltops Shiraz No.1 2016
Sourced exclusively from the Freeman Vineyard at Prunevale. Great colour. Really maroon and bright. Has some of that cooked too plum Hilltops character, it’s really juicy and ripe, easy hedonism. But it’s otherwise short, warm and slightly tart; as if you’re missing the finish where it stops being simple and gets a bit more serous. Easy fruit juice, but you keep waiting for the wine to fill out. It should, but for the moment it feels like a rather simple cherry ripe fruit bomb. Best drinking: 2019-2030. 16.8/20, 89/100+. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Not yet either.
Tim Adams Aberfeldy Shiraz 2013
Tim Adam’s 24 months in American oak hogsheads and by the taste of this they’re largely new. Wow. Sour and bathed in oak. Oak at every corner. It’s syrupy, the alcohol sticks in through the finish and it makes an unbalanced and overt wine. Gee the sweetness of oak is ridiculous. Curious about how much lesser this looks compared to its (less oaky) 2014 younger brother. It’s going to get better, but an unfun and unbalanced wine for now. What’s really frustrating is that I think there is high quality fruit underneath the chocolate oak tide (which is reflected in my score). Ugh. Best drinking: I don’t know. It will get better though. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 14.5%, $65. Would I buy it? No.
Topper’s Mountain Wild Ferment New England Shiraz 2013
All old oak for 15 months. Red. Black and blue berries aplenty. Meaty and beefy style with drying tannins and a real blood and bone streak. There’s some real substance through the mid palate, though a little tough at the edges. Needs more generosity. Best drinking: 2019-2028. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
d’Arenberg Footbolt McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014
Proudly foot trodden, as is the d’Arenberg way. Has the trademark tilled earth too. Round, mouthfilling, a little sweet and sour but has some nice earthy complexity to it. That palate is slightly lumpy though, the acid twangy. Probably not the greatest Footbolt, though fair drinking for sub $20. Best drinking: 2017-2025. 16.5/20, 90/100. 14.6%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Peter Lehmann Portrait Barossa Shiraz 2015
Chocolatey and quite extractive. The palate isn’t quite balanced either. Sweet and sour, the fruit feels confected and the acidity somewhat intrusive. Thin and awkward finish. No. Best drinking: 2017-2023. 15.8/20, 85/100. 14.5%, $18.99. Would I buy it? No.
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I did buy that 2010 head brunette, so nice to see some notes on it. Those were total freak show wines; so intense in flavour yet relatively low in alcohol. Very much looking forward to busting them out at some stage. From memory, the 2012 was also similarly stunning.