St Hallett – the master blenders
I’ve always had a soft spot for St Hallett, with a 98′ Faith Shiraz one of the first ever wines I purchased with a cellaring intention (which didn’t last long).
So when St Hallett winemakers Stuart Blackwell (who now spends most of his time on the road spreading the word about St Hallett) and Toby Barlow were in town recently to launch the 07 Old Block I jumped at the opportunity to try the latest releases.
As part of the launch, the duo showed a selection of Shiraz barrel samples from separate blocks across the Barossa, all from the promising 09 vintage and all impressively high quality. The four batches shown come from come from a sample of some 111 different lots that St Hallett use every year.
That’s a significant number for any winery, let alone one producing strictly Barossan wines. What it also means is that judicious blending is the key to St Hallett’s success, which tied in nicely with the four vineyard samples on show. We even did our own little bench blends and produced something fittingly high quality…
The wines (all of which were treated the same way in the winery):
Dawkins Vineyard Shiraz 2009 (Barrel Sample)
Planted by ex-politician John Dawkins, this 15 year old vineyard has 3 acres each of Shiraz and Chardonnay on shallow loams. Given the quality of this, it will likely be released as a single vineyard wine….
Very purple in colour, it’s quite floral and lifted with licorice, sinew and spice and just a hint of eucalypt. Medium bodied, rich, dark chocolate palate that is long and spicy with all sorts of spicy, deep black fruit flavours. Delicious stuff. Yum. (18.2-18.6/93-94)
Matchoss Vineyard Shiraz 2009 (Barrel Sample)
Located just near Menglers Hill with a super view (apparently). 60 year old vineyard with ‘bony quartz’ soils. Another possible single vineyard release. According to Toby, 2009 in the Eden Valley is going to be a ’10/10 vintage’. This could be called exhibit B….
Again looking very purple. Dark, deep and ripe with prunes, dark chocolate and pepper. Effortless depth. Such a ‘purple’ wine. Chocolaty and sweet fruited but quite savoury in flavour. Did I mention depth? Classic Eden. Excellent stuff. (18.5-18.8/94-95)
Scholz Vineyard Shiraz 2009 (Barrel Sample)
Located in Ebenezer (vineyard website here). 5-11 year old vines with loams over red clay. Toby and Stuart both talked warmly about the fruit from this vineyard.
Pretty nose that is grapey and quite sweet, with choc-mocha oak and red fruit. Palate is notably viscous but not heavy, with a real light, savoury touch. Bright and very appealing, if just a little light. (17.6-18/92-93)
Henschke Vineyard Shiraz 2009 (Barrel Sample)
From another member of the Henschke family, this is located at Seppeltsfield and is about 13 years old.
Deep and quite robust, with very black-purple fruit, firm tannins and richness right through the finish. Grist and spice. Deep milk chocolate flavours. Classic Barossa floor Shiraz. Very tasty. (18/93)
On to the bottled wines now, and back we go to Rieslings:
St Hallett Eden Valley Riesling 2005
10.9% alcohol! Apparently this is groaning with bling, including quite a bag full of gold medals and trophies. Simply put, this is a world class Riesling in the dry, firm and slatey Eden Valley style. Europeans may poo-poo but this is such beautiful wine. Sadly sold out….
Still very green in the glass. Lemon toast, citrus rind, sherbet and slate, with a hint of Sprite. Perfectly delineated and expressive. Picture perfect nose. Lemon and toast lingers on the palate with bright citrus and lovely linear fruit, on the back it’s so precise and firm, with taut acidity and more lemonade through the finish. Long and powerful. Stunning wine. 19/96
St Hallett Eden Valley Riesling 2009
The only question here is – will this mature into something as special as the 05 in 4 years time? I think it will, but time will tell.
Very green and backwards with the tiniest hint of toast. Lovely natural acid on the palate, unforced and clear. Still very much an infant of a wine. Tight and beautiful. Hold. 18.3/93+
St Hallett Gardens of Eden Shiraz 2008
Just a sly stink on the nose. Pepper and black fruit with some menthol and beefiness. Palate too is quite meaty but with sinewy black fruit and some brackish characters through the finish, which falls away just a smidgen. Attractive sweetness makes this quite drinkable but definitely felt just a smidgen awkward. 17/90
St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2004
I’m an Old Block man myself, but you can’t deny the commercial appeal of this style. Classic rich and plush Barossan red with trademark chocolate American oak richness. It’s just not my style of Barossan red.
Big American oak. Enormous overt chocolate nose with crushed ants and cocoa. Big, malty old school palate that’s rich and heady. Plump, long and chocolatey finish makes this attractively drinkable, but the oak plays a big part in this wine. Too big for me. 16.8/89
St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2008
See notes above. Amazing consistency between the two however. Blackwell fans buy with confidence.
Oak better integrated than the 04′ and this is actually quite a bit more complex on the nose. Truffley and chocolate drenched with pretty ripe red red fruit. Palate is a wall of grainy oak with sweet and sour fruit. Lots of sweet fruit and oak richness though not strictly a sweet wine. Lots of guts here. Impressive result for the vintage. 17.5/91
St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2002
Looking quite developed and secondary, though in a favourable way. Herbal, malted choc berry liqueured wine with savoury stewed red fruit. Lots of layers on the palate which finishes notably warm, spicy and curranty. Dried fruit edges. It’s an unusual, idiosyncratic wine but certainly an impressive drink. Would like to revisit this. 17.9/92
St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2007
Toby unashamedly called this (07) a tough vintage. Interestingly it contains one of the highest ever proportion (30%) of Eden Valley fruit in an Old Block. This is the first ever Old Block bottled in screwcap too, though bottling trials have been happening with screwcaps on Blackwell and Old Block since 2000.
Looking very Eden on the nose, with sweet musk, violets and choc bullets. Palate shows plummy liqueured fruit with coffee oak. It’s layered, dry and savoury with dry tannins and sweet plummy fruit. The only challenge is the sweet and sour characters on the back end. Lots to get a hold of here and no questioning the quality, just not as obviously fine as previous vintages. 17.8/92+
Some other quick St Hallett snippets:
– The winery, in production terms, is virtually split into two. Gamekeepers Reserve is a 50,000 case brand, done in big tanks and large batches that makes up half the wineries focus. The rest of the wines are small makes, with Old Block just 900-1500 cases produced each year.
– Gamekeepers is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Touriga, with St Hallett now snapping up as much of the Barossan Touriga as they can, including grafting over Chardonnay vines (as you would).
– I mentioned in the review of the 09 Smallfry Grenache (here) how I found the character of good Grenache quite Pinot like. Turns out Toby Barlow agrees, with tiny amounts of an 09 old vine Grenache about to be released at cellar door that he thinks has some serious Pinot like similarities. I’m looking forward to a sample when it’s released…