I’m still working out what to drink on Christmas day.
I’ve got most of the usual boxes ticked – Primo Joseph sparkling red, ’12 Giaconda Chardonnay maybe and a stray bottle of Pra Monte Grande that needs drinking.
But there’s holes in the drinking lineup in the red department in particular. And I figure that you’re probably in the same boat as me – that drinks lineup isn’t locked in at all, and at this time of year you want something memorable.
That’s why today I’m going straight for the big guns. And big gun Shiraz for a start. From now until after Christmas it will be wines $30 and above, because we’re worth it.
Here then, to kick things off, are sixteen Shiraz all priced over $30 that have passed muster of late. No bullshit, just Australian Shiraz in all it’s flavours and forms.
Schwarz Wine Co. Meta Shiraz 2017
I really look forward to these Schwarz Meta wines. Sometimes they don’t work, but the ’17s (like the Grenache) in particular have all been wins. Hand picked, wild yeast fermented with 25% whole bunches, then bottled unfined and unfiltered… the modern face of Barossa Shiraz winemaking and it delivers. Deep purple coloured, it’s deep and plum soaked but not extroverted, the balance between fine tannins, plump fruit and background suggestions of spice all perfect. I kept looking and looking and looking but I couldn’t see a hair out of place. Just medium bodied Barossan Shiraz goodness. Best drinking: Good now, good for an easy decade. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? Yes.
Gundog Estate Rare Game Shiraz 2017
Gundog’s premium Shiraz and in fine form. In my Hunter Shiraz heirarchy Gundog are right up there with Tyrrell’s, McWilliams, Thomas Wines and Brokenwood in top spot. This red is sourced from the 1970 plantings on the Somerset Vineyard and from Tinkler’s 48 Block – ie absolute A-grade fruit. What I like here is the plushness, the curranty round fruit, the joyous fruit. But it’s not light, there’s density too, complete with veins of black olive fruit underneath. There’s much to be said about the ripe, mouthfilling and substantial Hunter Shiraz like this, and history suggests it will live for decades too. Gundog done good. Best drinking: Now to whenever. There’s probably a sweet spot in a decade too. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $60. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2016
The most opulent S & S Shiraz in some time and such a success. Coffee mocha raspberry, the hearty palate un-Hills like but not overwrought. You could almost pick it as western Victorian even. Black jubes, black texta. It’s so plush. Less spice, more plush. It’s a genuinely high quality Shiraz, if somewhat atypical. Another winner from Shaw & Smith. Best drinking: Good now, and likely 15+ years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.5%, $39. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
The Vinden Headcase Single Barrel Shiraz 2017
Also from the Somerset Vineyard and also a success. Angus Vinden’s wines get better and better every year, and he’s willing to push the boundaries on style. This red is amongst the best Vinden wines under the label yet too. Wild fermented, it spends 10 months in oak, and as the name suggests it is just a single barrel. There’s this lovely bright pulpy purple fruit too – a mouthful of wine that is generous and full. All boysenberry fruit, fine tannins and then a whisper is spice. Interestingly, it’s quite ripe but not heavy at all. Just full of fruit. A different shape to the Gundog too – a fraction riper but with more weight to match. Very good. Best drinking: Enjoyable now and will live for many years yet. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.3%, $60. Would I buy it? Yes.
Taylors St Andrews Shiraz 2015
Ultra ambitious Shiraz from Taylors. I admire it, even though it’s not my style at all (and not sure I could drink much). Deep purple, lavish vanilla bean oak dominates the nose and palate, generous and very smooth purple berry palate is a silken flow of juicy berries. The oak is way too dominant, but that flow of red fruit can’t be denied. Very full bodied, very luscious but in its mode this molten, chunky wine is still very appealing (if oaky). Best drinking: I’d wait five years before attacking again. Then it will go for twenty years. 18/20, 93/100+. 14.5%, $70. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Vinden Estate Fountainhead Shiraz 2017
By contrast this red comes from the Somerset Vineyard and the Vinden Estate Vineyard. More new oak and spends longer in barrel too, making for a chunkier style. There’s still that plumpness, the real generosity of flavour and an openness. There’s perhaps less black olive spice in this version, but the plum fruit ticks up a bit more too. Really open and attractive in a riper mode, without falling too far into excess. Good stuff. Best drinking: I’d wait longer here. Maybe an extra year in bottle and then will also live for decades. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $60. Would I buy it? I’d drink a bottle but prefer the Single Barrel.
Yalumba Paradox Shiraz 2015
From a special patch of family-owned vineyard in the northern Barossa. A paradox of a Barossa Shiraz, it’s all soy, licorice and even a little mint, with layers of dark fruit flavour echoing off cocoa powder oak, the palate more dark and meaty rather than fleshy. I love the ‘other’ nature of this savoury red. Maybe a fraction warm to finish? Really quite well contained and tasty, in a mode that I want to drink. Best drinking: Now but I feel this has an ageless to it as well. I’d like to pull out a bottle as a fifteen year old too. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $47. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Yangarra Small Pot Whole Bunch Shiraz 2016
Yangarra – aka the winery that can do no wrong. This blend includes 25% whole bunches and 50% whole berries, spending 15 months in 35% new oak. Despite being something of a different style for Yangarra, it’s a pretty classical Vale Shiraz, with lovely plush red berries and the barest hint of chocolate, the tannins ultra fine (but real) the mode very juicy and fruit forward. Maybe a little plumper and more red fruit than the excellent standard Shiraz, but so very well formed. Immediately attractive with the almost boysenberry purple berry fruit. Just a lovely generous McLaren Vale red. Best drinking: I like it now, and it will be better next year, and then still be tasty in a decade. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $50. Would I buy it? Also worth a bottle.
d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2015
There’s been a palpable style change for d’Arenberg in recent years. More fruit vibrancy and less tannic heartiness. Still, the winemaking is deliberately hands-off with minimal racking, foot treading and no fining or filtration. An instantly ripe and chunky style, this feels dense and packs in many layers of fruit. For all the push towards boldness, however, the slightly tart style and general absence of new oak is a surprise. There’s no doubting the fruit concentration, but it feels just a little bit lighter and less expansive than previous vintages. More polish, less grunt. That said, a genuinely nice drink and I love the hints of bacon fat and smoke, still complete with that d’Arenberg tannin grip. Good. Best drinking: Definitely better in 2-3 years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.4%, $70. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Gundog Estate Hunter’s Shiraz 2017
From fruit taken off the Tinkler’s, Somerset and Hillside Vineyards, it perhaps lacks a little of the definition of the Rare Game, but still lots to like. A plush, plump and smooth modern Hunter Shiraz with red fruited flavours in a generous mode. It’s maybe a little too jubey and plump but so attractive. Important to note how polished this is – the right sort of medium-bodied wine to introduce people to Hunter reds. Affable and drinkable. Best drinking: Nice now, and will be in a good mode for up to ten years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $40. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Vinden Estate Basket Press Shiraz 2017
Back to Vinden Estate and a more traditional Hunter style, if anything. Matured in 15% new oak for 15 months. Classic Hunter nose, a quite reserved palate too. It’s a little sweet and sour but there is an agelessness here, complete with oak tannins. Long termer, even if the slightly backwards style is going to need time. Best drinking: I’d wait for 3 years minimum. Then it will go long term. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.9%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Hastwell + Lightfoot ‘Sands of Time’ Shiraz 2016
From one of the few vineyards in McLaren Vale (apparently) grown on American rootstocks, and a vineyard grafted over in 2008. Authentic McLaren Vale Shiraz it is too, with a hint of blood and bone over a well judged, savoury, grainy chocolate palate. The flavours are at the riper end but it’s plush enough to carry it off, if a little tart. I like the savoury edges – hints of tobacco too. Good, solid wine. Best drinking: Good now, better in 2 years, will drink well for at least fifteen years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Old Plains Power of One Shiraz 2016
Dom Torzi’s old vine Adelaide Plains Shiraz is always chunky, and here, density is an understatement. Hand picked, open fermented and spends a whopping 26 months in French oak. You can guess the style too – a dense and syrupy, black/red coloured wine with a super smooth flow of luscious, licoricey, choc-berry fruit. Intensely rich and bathing in sweet oak and rich fruit, with low acid and maximum generosity. Perhaps too singular, but so much flavour. Best drinking: Better in 2-3 years when the oak integrates. Then over the next decade plus. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass.
Schwarz Wine Co. Shiraz 2017
Only bottled on the 9th September so early doors. Still, it nails the brief. Plump red fruit, some mushroom savoury notes, then a mid palate jammed full of plum fruit and capped off with light tannins. It’s a lovely juicy plummy Barossa Shiraz, with minimal oak influence and maximum fruit flavour without alcohol excess. Lots to like, if just a little soft to finish. Best drinking: Over the next eight years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.9%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Audrey Wilkinson The Lake Shiraz 2017
The top dog for Audrey Wilkinson. Handpicked from 50 year old vines with 25% whole bunches and a barrel selection. Bright purple colours. Layers of dark berry fruit with a line of anise through the middle. Really clean and pure purple fruit, but my gripe is the finish, with acidity that just zings and alcohol heat to match. Too much (added) acid and warmth for mine, which slightly hobbles what is otherwise a classy Hunter Shiraz. Still quality though. Best drinking: Will go long term. But I’m just not sure of when it will be right. 17/20, 90/100. 14.9%, $120. Would I buy it? No.
Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz 2015
Growing up, this was one of my favourite wines, but more recently it feels like it lacks an identity, just part of the Hardy’s range. From the Provis vineyard, it’s an old school Clare Valley red, laden with mint, sweet oak and capped off with drying, life-sucking tannins and plenty of (added) acidity. It’s going to live, but this mode feels dated and ultimately harder to drink than it should. But I keep coming back to the length – it lingers with a licoricey, cocoa powder density that makes for a ‘real’ red. I’m torn – I want this to be better, but I also can’t doubt the intended style. Best drinking: I’d wait 5 years minimum. It will live for decades. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $69.99. Would I buy it? No.