Elderton’s Barossan coup
(This is a rewritten version of a recent print article. As you can see by the picture this is a rather pretty place…).
There are some vineyards that simply feel special. Often the reason behind such ‘specialness’ can be the simple things – a perfect aspect, an ideal slope and lovely dirt. Yet other times the specialness seems to cut deeper than that – almost as if that patch of dirt was always destined to be a vineyard.
You can sense such specialness in a few iconic vineyards in Australia actually. The Steingarten vineyard, backbone of Jacob’s Creek’s Steingarten Eden Valley Riesling, is such a spot, its magical view, amazing rocky soils and close planted, spindly little vines carrying an unquestionable air of majesty.
On a very different front, the perfect natural amphitheatre of Tasmania’s Freycinet vineyard also feels utterly unique and near perfect, its ideal variations of slope and orientation making for the ultimate vineyard location.
In Elderton’s new Greenock vineyard, too, you can sense a little specialness – a hint of ‘something extra’ that suggests that this might be more than just your average slice of the Barossa Valley. Where it comes from, again, seems hard to define. Perhaps it is the gentle rounded slopes and rich red clay over limestone soil. Perhaps it is the century old vines, gnarled and twisted yet still utterly alive. Or maybe it is the natural health of this spot, even in what is a very dry part of Australia.
Regardless of where this specialness comes from, there is no question that the site can produce great wines. Renowned Barossa winery Rockford has, in the past, made great single vineyard wines from this vineyard. The early vintages of Chris Ringland’s iconic 3 Rivers Shiraz were made from here. Even the failed ‘icon winery’ Colonial Estate used this vineyard as a primary fruit source.
Speaking of Colonial Estate, Cameron and Allister Ashmead of Elderton Wines can thank said failed icon for helping making this new Greenock property even more equitable. The boys were outbid by Colonial on this vineyard when it last came on the market back in 2008, with Colonial then going under shortly after, leading to Cam and Al being offered the property again in 2010 at a considerable discount from their original bid price.
The vineyard has now had several years under Ashmead rule and the first releases – from the superb 2012 vintage – have just hit the market. Fittingly, they are some absolutely beautiful red wines, built in a stylish, modern mould. The branding and packaging used are considerably different to the rest of the Elderton range too, an acknowledgement by the Ashmead’s that this is a special site that really needs its own livery.
The wines found in the new range include a vibrant and generous Shiraz (2012 Greenock One, $26 at cellar door), a rather pretty purple Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre (2012 Greenock Two, also $26) and a truly fantastic, very limited Grenache Carignan blend produced off the original 1915 plantings (2012 Western Ridge, $45 while it lasts at cellar door).
Given the quality of all three of these wines (with a new botrytis Semillon and a super Shiraz still in the wings), I’ve got no doubt that the specialness of the vineyard should continue to be reflected in the wines.
Elderton Greenock One Shiraz 2012 (Barossa Valley, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $26 at cellar door
Produced from some of the younger vines on the property (20-35yrs old). Matured in second fill hogsheads and puncheons both American and french.
Very purple lovely rich fruit and voluptuous. Lovely gentle texture. A really quite slinky, inky and purple sort of a wine in the modern form. It needs more time to settle, but gee its already seductive. Well priced too. 18/20, 93/100
Elderton Greenock Two GSM 2012 (Barossa Valley, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $26 at cellar door
A blend of Grenache (46%) Shiraz (35%) Mataro (19%) with the Grenache from vines planted in 1969. Older French puncheons.
Purple and quite fragrant the Shiraz dominating the nose – all purple berries. This looked a little lighter next to the straight Shiraz and just a little candied. Pretty, but a little light and squishy compared to the wines around it. 17.7/20, 92/100
Elderton Western Ridge Grenache Carignan 2012 (Barossa Valley, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $45 at cellar door
Just 1100 litres produced. Produced off the oldest vines (with the Carignan dating back to 1915). All slightly older French oak puncheons used.
The Carignan is just 8% but it really makes a difference here – there’s an extra meatiness to this wine to go with the pretty Grenache fruit. Mid-weight, finally tannic and carries a red dirt twang through the finish. Charismatic Barossan red of serious style that I really like. 3 cheers for Carignan. 18.5/20, 94/100