Thursday, 13 May 2010

Barossa Shiraz - The Icons and Wannabes Tasting

Barossa Shiraz - The Icons and Wannabes Tasting

"The Cream, the Whole Cream, and Nothing but the Cream"
Johannes Menges, Mineralogist and one of the Barossa's first settlers, 1836

I stole that line from the official 'Barossa' website ( as it fits in very nicely with the theme of this tasting (and it sounds great too - it just rolls off the tongue).

The premise of this tasting, held by Sydney' Oak Barrel, was simple - gather 10 Shiraz based (more Shiraz!) Barossan reds and pit them against each other in a proper, old school, sit down blind tasting.

Now that's hardly a unique proposition (just 10 wines?) but the format in this instance had a twist: The ten wines on offer were from 5 different wineries, with each winery contributing one absolute shit hot, ultra mega super premium ducks nuts icon Shiraz, as well as an entry level, value packed, fighting label, QPR heavy Shiraz.

In that fashion, you had fun quasi quaffers and mega buck Parker fan moisteners all mixed in together, and then presented to a group of grateful wine lovers (myself and Rod, from Red to Brown, included)

The results?

Fun. Heaps of it. I dig blind tasting, particularly with quality wines, and particularly with quality wines that I would actually buy and drink myself. So triple ticks.

Unsurprisingly, two of my favourite wines came from just a pair of individual vineyards - that sit right next to each other - in the shit hot Flaxmans Valley (situated in the shit hot Barossa Ranges).

Conversely, the wines I liked the least either had suspected Viognier in them (weed) or were just too hot for real drinking pleasure.

So I've listed all of my notes from this tasting below, along with the groups preferences. Group preferences are an important figure, as it just shows how much diversity of opinion there was regarding the favoured wines. In other words, there was something for everyone in amongst this lot.

Oh and apologies in advance for the lack of flow in these notes. I'm just posting them in raw form, as they were written. The prices quoted are RRP.

All wines decanted for 6 hours before tasting.
Wine 1: Chris Ringland Barossa Shiraz 2008
Sourced from the valley floor, 16.5% alcohol, $23.95
Strawberry red pink rim. Very dense caramel and fig nose. Lots of raw American oak. Nice fragrance if just a bit cherry ripe-ish in its density and oak. Very ripe, luscious, but attenuated by alcohol through the finish. Raw oak. Could be an icon, but didn't totally move me, more mid level. 17.3/91 (My 5th, Group 9th)

Wine 2: First Drop Mothers Milk Shiraz 2008
Sourced from three vineyards, one near Rosedale in the SW Barossa, another near Greenock in the NW Barossa and a third near Wilton in the Eden Valley. 15 months in 3-4yr old French hogsheads. 14.5% alc, $29.95
Denser and darker than wine 1. Much more purple in colour. Volatile nose. Deeper, more red fruit, hot red fruit and cherry liqueur. Tastes Northern Barossan, choc Ebenezer-ish (somewhat wrong there). Oak is well integrated - very classy. Alcohol heat through the finish. More in the Torbreck style. Less raw than wine 1, yet still ultimately hot. Really solid through the middle though. (Drinkable and good value stuff) 17.5/92 (My 4th, Group 3rd)

Wine 3: Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz 2006
Sourced from the 1893 home block, planted just near the winery near Nurioopta. 19 months in Burgundian oak. Bottled without fining or filtration. 15.5% alc, $190
Quite purple and very densely coloured. Smells oaky, oak driven, raw oak nose. Strained fruit, but without losing vibrancy. Still a skinny nose. Very raw and oaky, astringent oak, with oak shadowing the fruit. Oak tannins. Do you like expensive French oak? (this got better with more time in the glass, hence the score went up, still rather OTT). 17/90 (My 6th, Group 7th)

Wine 4: Chris Ringland (Formerly Three Rivers) Shiraz 2003
Sourced from the estate vineyard in the Flaxmans Valley, planted in 1910. 42 months in new French oak!. 15.6% alc, $850
Lighter edges. Looks older. Boot polish and leather. Classy nose. More iconic. Big and luscious, classy oak. Much more fruit here. Kirsch. Savoury and very deep fruited. Eden? (got one right). Blacker fruit. Leather, both new and old. Classy. No heat. (God I enjoyed this. So deep. Very drinkable too. Yum) 18.5/95 (My 2nd, Group 10th!)

Wine 5: Torbreck Woodcutters Shiraz 2008
Sourced mainly from the Northern Barossa - Marananga, Greenock, Ebenezer, Gomersal, Moppa & Kalimna. 12 months in well seasoned French hogsheads and foudres. Unfined and unfiltered. 14.5% $32.95
Mid red, purple edges. Spicy plum liqueur and pepper. Lifted by alcohol but ultimately quite pretty. Sweet fruit and candied lolly nose. Candied. Palate is hot and sweet, lots of sweet fruit. Obviously raisined and pruney, but curiously not oppressive. Very youthful, with an unusual skinsy overtone. Intriguing (After a while I decided this was too sweet and ordinary and the score went down dramatically) 16/87 (My 10th, Group 6th)

Wine 6: Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2005
Sourced from the Gnadenfrei vineyard, located on the ridge between Seppeltsfield and Marananga in the Northern Barossa. Matured for 36 months in Dominique Laurent's 'magic casks'. Bottled without fining or filtration. 15.58% alc, $825
More age here. Very raisined. Overripe. Lots of oak. Caricature of a nose. Overripe and porty on the palate. Dry and very much red port like on the palate. Do you like Aussie port? As a table wine it's ridiculous, as a port it might be alright. Varnished floorboards. Saddles. Ridiculous. (Just not my style of wine I'm afraid) 16.5/88 (My 8th, Group 2nd)

Wine 7: First Drop 'The Cream' Shiraz 2006
41% Greenock, 35% Ebenezer, 24% Seppeltsfield. Best barrels blend. 24 months in 40% new French hogsheads, 30% new American barriques. 15% alc, $125
Intrigue. Closed nose. Brooding and deep. Toast and lots of depth. More old school. Very dark. Rockford-ish. Meat and real chunk. Dark and deep. Quite tannic too. Subtle. Swallowable. (Beautiful wine this one. Delicious. Very backwards too. My sort of wine) 18.7/95 (My 1st, Group 5th)

Wine 8: Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz 200812 months in 3 year old plus oak.
Pruney, sweet nose again. Shiraz Viognier (bingo! Though its only got a smidgen apparently). Pretty colour too. Sweet and light wine that's attractive but stunted. (Lots of commercial appeal, but not for me) 16.4/88 (My 9th, Group 4th)

Wine 9: Hobbs Shiraz 2007
Hand picked from vines planted circa 1905 located next door to the Three Rivers vineyard. 24 months in new French hogsheads. 16% alc, $155
Lighter, redder. Very volatile. Chocolate prunes. Sweetly oak and sweet fruit, but backed by savoury fruit. Savoury and complex. Nuanced even. Not quite a superstar, but very savoury, honest and delicious. 18.2/93 (My 3rd, Group 1st)

Wine 10: Hobbs 'Gregor' Shiraz 2007
Produced off a parcel of Shiraz planted in 1988, located in the Flaxmans Valley. Fruit is handpicked and then semi dried in an Amarone style. Aged in new French oak for 24 months. 16% alc, $155
Choc bullet oak. Very chocolatey nose. All chocolate oak. Fleshy, rich but simple palate. Falls away towards the tail, which is caramelised and hot. Hard. (I'll take the standard Shiraz). 16.6/88 (My 7th, Group 8th)


  1. Just reading your notes makes me realize why I hardly touch Barossa Shiraz these days. Ridiculous prices for some of these monstrosities too. Some seem like they've mixed sawdust, prunes and ethanol together and put the result in a wine bottle.

    Yout top two certainly seem the best though - at least from your notes. The rest sound pretty forgettable.


  2. The prices are certainly outlandish, but that's probably reflecting (past?) demand.

    I think most of the wines that I liked in this tasting followed a trend towards more subtlety and savoury richness, as opposed to plain impact and fruit sweetness.

    Most interestingly however, there didn't seem to be a direct correlation between 'heat' and alcohol level, just to disprove the rule.

  3. Great tasting notes - they capture the evening well. I think the blind scores from a diverse group revealed some predictable but also interesting preferences (which is a great aspect of both wine appreciation and blind tastings). As it happens, I like my port/fortifieds! (and powerful old school Barossa Shiraz), so probably not suprising that I liked the Laird. I found it interesting to compare the Ringland with the Torbreck - aiming for a similar style, though with their differences. I would be keen to taste the Laird in a few more years time to see if it intergrates and evolves, though a small lottery win would be the only way of affording that...
    As for the RRP for some of the wines - definitely influenced the Parker 100pt Oz Shiraz era (and subsequent reputation built off that), though if they are selling well O/S, may as well dare to dream :-)
    As you say, there was something for everyone in this lot (even port/vintage port fans :-) )



  4. Andrew, you seem to belong to the 'Victorian' or European palate as far as Shiraz is concerned. Isn't this a bit same same? I believe that Barossa or McLaren Vale Shiraz can be a wine that is truely unique in the world. The trouble is, many producers take it too far in terms of ripeness or alcohol. But wines by Spinifex (for the timid ones) or Kalleske are unique propositions, don't you think?

  5. I would hardly characterise Spinifex as making wines for the timid.

  6. The key to the Barossa is diversity. There really is a broad range of styles that the Barossa can offer (within the constraints of it's climate of course) and thus there is something for everyone, from mega rich and sweet like those from Torbreck to the savoury blends of Spinifex.

    Something for everybody.

  7. I had the 2008 Woodcutters Shiraz and thought it a beautiful wine to drink, the price was great and loved the aroma and colour. So why would I buy a $850 bottle of wine when I can get immense drinking pleasure from a $20.00 bottle ? Shiraz is Shiraz and putting a multi dollar value on a bottle does not equate to drinking pleasure. However Barossa Shiraz is the best in the world, ( bar Wendouree ) !

  8. i agree, anon, $ value doesnot always equate to drinking pleasure

  9. most wines over 14% are in fact undrinkable and alcohol dominates the taste.Why bother with them at any price?

  10. Anon- "most wines over 14% are in fact undrinkable and alcohol dominates the taste.Why bother with them at any price?"

    Actually, the number of the counting shall be 13.1415926%. 14% is right out.



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