Firstly, the good news – for anyone who has loved the epic concentration and other-worldly power of Rick Burge’s Burge Family Winemakers reds previously, you’ll be happy to know that the wines are all available locally. That comes after a period of uncertainty when the new owners (a group of Chinese investors) were slated to take much of the stock overseas.
The bad news? Some of the 2018 and 2019 vintage wines go too far (and there seems to be more obvious new oak too). Rick’s wines were always ripe, especially the Draycott Shiraz, which famously wooed Robert Parker back in the early noughties, and occasionally they just masqueraded as dry port. There’s a lot of that in the 19s in particular, which is likely a nod to the season and a mix of ownerships.
Speaking of owners, you need to read this interview from Milton Wordley for a great context about Rick Burge. I only met him a handful of times, but he was always forthright and entertaining (although he did rub some people the wrong way), making wines that were luscious, honest and quintessentially Barossan (not to mention great value).
Rick sold the family property in 2018 after a cancer relapse forced him to take a check on his health. The new owners have thoughtfully brought on Derek Fitzgerald, who is now managing the vineyard and making the wines at Burge Family Winemakers, splitting his time between BFW and his own Paisley Wines label. I don’t know whether it’s this new stewardship or what, but there is vitality in the 2020 Tinto that just isn’t there for the 18s and 19s.
Most of the Burge Family Winemakers products below are drawn from the original, circa century-old vines on the Burge Vineyard at Lyndoch. This ancient plot is still dry-grown, and the low yields translate directly into the concentration.
Buy from the winery here.
Burge Family Winemakers Homestead Tinta Cao Souzao 2020
Tinta Cao & Souzao, aka port grapes. The Barossa is ideally suited to Tinta Cao et al and I’d so be planting a smorgasbord of Touriga, Tinta et al if I had a chance. For the moment, you don’t see much of these Dao blends here in Aus. There’s a lovely sense of hidden intrigue here – a promise of wonders to come. A little sawdust oak, but it blows off with time in the glass. Then, blue fruits. menthol, mint, and quite some palate weight. It’s just a little spirity on the drying black olive and vanilla finish, but it has length and presence. Plenty of interest and charisma. Could it be better with a little less oak? Perhaps. Has some x-factor though.
Best drinking: worth waiting for it to settle, or just decant. The drink over ten years plus. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Worth a glass or two.
Burge Family Winemakers Draycott Shiraz 2018
Drawn from the Draycott block and it’s always a head-turner. Dense red and still purple, the huge nose is just as lifted, alcohol wafting out in amongst jellybean, lavish coconut oak, super sweet and lavish palate flows with vanilla plum fruit in a seamless flow. You don’t see the alcohol in this as much as the other Burge Family reds, the concentration playing centre stage. I expected it to be a bit longer though – it’s driven by that lavish mid-palate really. Significant impact, regardless, and admirable in its mode, even if it doesn’t quite feel special like previous vintages
Best drinking: ready now. Drink over ten years or more. 17.7/20, 92/100. 15%, $85. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Burge Family Winemakers Garnacha 2019
Dial-up the hedonism. This is old vine Grenache in a ripe and luscious model. It’s already a smidgen advanced, with a whisper of brick colour at the edges. Syrupy raspberry number it is too – all glycerol red fruit, cinnamon and raspberry jam. It’s warm and spirity to finish, but long and that fruit sweetness fills every crevice. Long and powerful, if very open-knit and driven by ripeness as a structural element. Not without appeal, I can admire that ultra concentrated red fruit even if I couldn’t drink it. I didn’t see any obvious oak here FWIW.
Best drinking: ready now. I wouldn’t leave it too long – it’s too open and the alcohol is only going to be more obvious with time. 17.7/20, 92/100. 15%, $45? Would I buy it? Not for me.
Burge Family Winemakers Homestead G.S.M 2019
Plums, prunes and liqueur cherries – another ripe beast under this label. The sweetly viscous palate is plenty energetic, even if it just tastes like port. Layers of red berry fruit kick in before the alcohol, and give this plenty of appeal. Good, ultra-ripe Barossan red, even if it’s more like an unfortified port than anything else.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 15%, $30. Would I buy it? Maybe a glass.
Burge Family Winemakers Draycott Cabernet Shiraz 2018
Such dense colours. Sweet oak and very sweet fruit pop from the nose too – although more cedar over the straight Shiraz. Thick, fudgey and dense palate with very sweet oak, oak tannins and then coffeed molten flavour to finish. It’s raw, very ripe, and pulls up a bit short, ultimately, the softer edges of the straight Shiraz now looking rawer without extra length. Still a big impact and presence, which gets it a squeak into a silver medal.
Best drinking: within the next ten years before the alcohol takes over. 17/20, 90/100. 15%, $85. Would I buy it? No.
Burge Family Winemakers Homestead Mataro 2019
Dark ruby red. Alcohol is the first note – coffeed, forward and punctuated by brick dust development. Scorched plum and cooked blackberries. Alcohol dominates the palate, despite the density of the glycerol and molasses black-fruited palate. It’s very long and compact, admirable in its withering black length. Alcohol is the last flavour again though. It’s just a little too much spirit, despite the length and obvious fruit quality. Unbalanced, for mine.
Best drinking: now. 16.3/20, 87/100. 15.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
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