‘I want to make the vineyards the story, and not the winemaker’.
That’s not your usual Barossan winemaker line. Not in a region where the mantra is about blending, and often across both the Eden & Barossa Valleys. Eisenstone’s Stephen Cook is clearly a man after my own heart.
What’s more, his wines are excellent, with this trio of Barossan reds so good that I was on the phone hunting for more info after just a few minutes. What are these wines? Why haven’t I tried them before?
They’re even reflective of their vineyards (or, at least of their parishes/unofficial sub-regions), just like Stephen states, so it’s not all empty lines and marketing speak. Doubly impressed. In fact, the only thing wrong here is all the wines appear to be sold out (check out the Eisenstone website here). I don’t think it’s my slow turnaround either, as these three Barossan reds only arrived a week before Christmas.
Regardless, let’s press on into some early highlights for 2021.
Eisenstone (combining the German word for iron and English ‘stone’) is the baby of NZ-born winemaker turned energy executive Cook and his wife Rosalie, who together launched the label in 2018.
I know very little about the Stephen, save for some digging which revealed Stephen’s winemaking life at Pernod Ricard. Nor about Rosalie’s impact (her initials are on the label, yet I don’t know her context either. Is is Henschke-esque where it’s a family operation? There is zero information on the website). But what I can unequivocally say is that Eisenstone Wines style is anything but big company Barossa. It’s more Burgundian (isn’t everything these days?), with these three 2018 releases come from different parishes of the Barossa, and all largely made the same way.
In other words, they’re terroir pieces, with high-quality packaging, small volumes (2-3 barrels of each release) and unquestioned ambition. Quality-wise they’re impossible to separate as a result, with the favourite wines more about personal preference. Wearing my marketing hat, I’d be making mixed six-packs in a heartbeat.
Meanwhile, this trio were all matured in 50% new French oak for up to 2 years. All have an RRP of $75.
When these three Shiraz were open on the bench I kept thinking of how John Duval’s wines (which I very much admire). Duval manages to nail down the savoury power thing that marks the best modern Barossan reds, and these tap into the same mantra. I can’t confirm any connection, but there’s a stylistic analogue.
If I just one final quibble is that I’d like to see a vineyard named. Ebenezer is good, but a connection to an actual site is even better for a real terroir expression.
Now, the wines:
Eisenstone Ebenezer SR802 Shiraz 2018
Just 800 bottles produced. This is high quality from the getgo and my pick of the three. Bacon fat, subtle smoky oak influences, the dark-fruited palate resonates with this deep, dark savouriness. It’s full-flavoured, not fruit sweet, molten, long and weighty without being warm, the withering finish dark and slightly bitter. Long term. Such latent power without feeling over the top. It’s almost Eden Valley-esque too. Timeless Barossan Shiraz sitting in the moderate, yet powerful mode. Best drinking: now to twenty years. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14.5%, $75. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Eisenstone Stockwell SR805 Shiraz 2018
From a block on ironstone soils near the Stockwell township. Another deep, purple heading to red coloured Shiraz. By contrast to the Ebenezer, this feels more open, more lavish, less dark and brooding. There’s this charm and softness to the fruit, oak a supporting role, the palate an inviting expression of dark Barossa flavour. I like the balance and weight through the finish here – nothing hard or jarring at all, just pure, silken dark fruit flavours. Delicious. Best drinking: also twenty years on this one, but I would drink sooner. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14.5%, $75. Would I buy it? I’d have the Ebenezer first, this third.
Eisenstone Greenock SR801 Shiraz 2018
From grapes grown at the western end of Roenfeldt Rd. This is the wine that will undoubtedly be the most popular because it’s so expressive. There’s this purple fruit character that is pure Greenock, the palate dipping more into plum and this enveloping richness. The Ebenezer release is the most interesting wine, but this is the seducer. You can’t deny the velvet glove palate profile and unquestioned power; it’s a picture-perfect western Barossan Shiraz. Superb. Best drinking: as above. Twenty years if you want, but good now. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14.5%, $75. Would I buy it? Second place. But I suspect I’ll be in the minority.
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Sounds a little Dan Standishesque too.