So, I’m happy to announce that the official Australian Wine Review sample pile is now nearing a manageable level! That’s a very welcome improvement from the point it was at a few months ago when it wasn’t so much a pile as a scary wine carton mountain.
Obviously whinging about too much wine is the ultimate first world problem, but its poor form to not be able to keep up with the sample flow. My apologies all around.
Anyway, for today’s lineup I went deep, pulling out all the straight Shiraz I can find. There’s a Pinot and a Cab/blends roundup to come, but this is the largest lineup of the lot.
What is heartening was the balance and drinkability of this range. Aussie Shiraz is getting lighter, less oaky and absolutely more approachable. Great to see. The only challenge is an age-old one – many of these are just too young.
I’ve sorted this from highlights to lowlights, and then in alphabetical order (following on from the format of the Chardonnay roundup). Let me know if you think this is confusing.
Plantagenet Great Southern Shiraz 2013
Probably the most interesting Plantagenet Shiraz I’ve had in a while. Sourced from (now 40 year old) vines, this spent 24 months in oak – but doesn’t look it. Indeed it seems, spicier, deeper, longer this vintage. A keeper. Bright maroon red, this has just a little volatility on the nose, before opening into a lifted, red cherry fruit nose that took some coaxing to really unfurl. After a few hours it looked better, but still not terrible aromatic. The palate is perfectly poised, with meaty, dark berry fruit in a quite complex and very savoury form that sits somewhere between a cool and spicy cool climate style and something riper and more robust, all while maintaining balance and fair tannins. I like. Best drinking: 2018-2028+. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $45. Would I buy it? I wouldn’t mind this in the cellar at all. Price is also v. reasonable.
Bimbadgen Signature Hunter Valley Shiraz 2014
A blend of the Palmers Lane & McDonalds road vineyards, both of which looked good as individual parcels tasted last year. This is looking very good too. Handpicked, this had a two day cold soak, complemented by a week post ferment maceration. Bright boysenberry purple coloured, the nose is a conglomerate of purple, red and black fruits, the palate gentle and juicy, long, pure and concentrated, toasty oak giving sweetness and the squishy, compact, generous finish offering much joy. Classic Hunter Shiraz, if just a bit juicy for now – waiting a few years for this to settle methinks. Good stuff though. Best drinking: 2017-2028. 18/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $50. Would I buy it? I’d have a few glasses.
Willow Bridge Estate Gravel Pit Geographe Shiraz 2014
Will be interesting what happens with Willow Bridge now that Simon Burnell has sadly passed. He drove the quality of this label so very far – indeed this is easily the best Gravel Pit yet. Purple red, the nose is a feast of purple berry, integrated oak and then a little brackish black pepper. I’ve been critical of the balance of this in some years, but the dark chocolate and berries with a hammy, cool WA edge makes this really quite appealing. Acid and alcohol balance through the finish is perfect, needing just a little more fruit concentration to be A1. Enjoyed drinking this. Best drinking: 2017-2027. 18/20, 93/100. 13.8%, $30. Would I buy it? Two glasses.
Zema Estate Coonawarra Shiraz 2012
This is the best Zema Estate Shiraz in some time. Crucially, the alcohol seems more integrated this vintage, which has been missing in recent years. Dark red, the nose is rich with plum and dark chocolate, everything polished up by slightly obvious vanilla cream oak. It’s the palate where everything comes together and this is such a mouthful of a wine – really something to chew on, with quite serious, thick tannins to match. Obviously it is still a puppy and the oak is a little heavy handed but the mouthfeel and weight is more than admirable. Best drinking: 2017-2028+. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $24.95. Would I buy it? I’d go a few glasses.
GunDog Estate Indomitus Rutilus Canberra Shiraz 2014
I only realised yesterday that I was not capitalising the ‘d’ in GunDog. On some parts of the website it’s capitalised, others not. Let’s go capitals for this wine. Anyway, this is part of GunDog (or Gundog)’s Indomitus range of super-premiums, with this Shiraz effectively the top of the tree. Sourced from the Dahlberg vineyard in Murrumbateman, this includes 4% co-fermented Viognier, with whole bunches included in the wild ferment, minimal new oak and no finings. A lively, bold wine it is too, perhaps a little warm and ripe, but blessed with a wonderful array of spice to complement the purple fruit. There’s excellent tannin too, helped along by the stalks, giving this a welcome structural thump. If it was just a little less warm it could be even better. High quality wine, with great packaging, all the same. Best drinking: 2019-2029. 18/20, 93/100. 14.1%, $45. Would I buy it? I’d drink a few glasses, but really it needs time.
Tulloch Pokolbin Dry Red Private Bin Hunter Valley Shiraz 2013
While the ’14 Hunter reds are getting the lionshare of the attention, important to remember that ’13 was a very good Hunter red year too. This wine, built in the model of the classic Private Bin wines, is ruby red in colour, the red fruit flavours elegant, earthen and graceful, the high acid, bright fruit palate rather effortless in its easy red fruit joy, if just a little acid edged. There’s beauty here though, with an effortlessness that suggests it will be another 50 year wine, if not quite up to the standard of the ’14 (it’s a bit light on for that). Will live forever. Best drinking: 2018-2035. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 12.5%, $50. Would I buy it? Maybe. I’d like some in the cellar.
Bremerton Selkirk Langhorne Creek Shiraz 2013
You just can’t knock the joy of a thick and rich Langhorne Creek red. No subtlety, but flavour aplenty. This deep, purple red coloured Selkirk fits that bill, all blackberry concentrate on the nose with an vanilla ice cream oak sweetened palate that is very generous and sweet, packing a real riot of blackberry then extractive, if soft, tannins before the sweetness of alcohol to finish. $22 well spent, it’s a very good presentation of big fruit and plenty of power. Simple; easy recommendation and has some charm. Best drinking: 2016-2026. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $22. Would I buy it? Probably not, but I’d recommend it.
Old Plains Power of One Adelaide Plains Shiraz 2013
Dom Torzi’s Adelaide Plains Shiraz is always a pleasure, even when it looks just a weency bit warm like this ’13. Off 50 year old vines this is matured for 22 months in French oak, this is deep, inky red with an oak and fruit character that tastes much like a Mars Bar. I love Mars Bars. Gee there is some ripe fruit in there too, softly spoken, but building with chunky chocolatey richness. Lots of oak, lots of fruit, it’s just a bit forward for a new release, but gosh it packs flavour and punch. Best drinking: 2016-2023. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $30 from the winery website. Would I buy it? Not quite, but definitely recommend.
Pooles Rock Post Office Hunter Valley Shiraz 2014
Sourced from the 100yo old Post Office vineyard. I think the biggest challenge with this wine is its youth. Red purple, the nose has plum, juicy red fruit and a softness of fruit that is really rather gentle and unassuming. There’s some meaty juiciness in there but otherwise its every bit the Hunter Burgundy style, with fine, sneaky tannins. I found myself looking for more from this, but the style is certainly good and the length is first rate. Hold. Best drinking: 2020-2030. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $50. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Redman Coonawarra Shiraz 2012
What a different beast to the Zema! Instead of ripe and plump this is savoury and dusty. New vs old school. Dark ruby red, there is something quite timeless about the aromatics here, with smells of leather couches, red earth and then a little chocolate and mint. It tastes suitably dusty, laid back and savoury, with building tannins, a distinct absence of obvious sweetness and decent length. Grows on you this, with a timelessness that is admirable, even though the best is probably 5-10yrs away. Best drinking: 2022-2033. 17.5+/20, 91/100. 14%, $23. Would I buy it? I’d like a bottle in the cellar, but only to drink as an older wine.
Tower Estate Hunter Valley Reserve Shiraz 2007
From Fordwich in the Hunter. Still remarkably red with the barest hint of bricking, the soft, red earth coated berries nose showing chocolate bounty and plums. Softly open and gentle with toffee chew oak on the palate, it’s an earthy, oaky red with nice mid palate fruit before a slightly tart finish. There’s something just a little lumpy about this, the oak, fruit and acid not quite cohesive, even though this has plenty of flavour and softness. Almost great. Best drinking: 2016-2022. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? I’d enjoy a glass.
Bremerton Selkirk Langhorne Creek Shiraz 2012
While ’12 is arguably a better vintage than ’13 in Langhorne, this isn’t as obviously attractive as the softer, richer 2013. Dark maroon. There’s a silky polish to this that is quite attractive, indeed the flow of rich, purple fruit and background vanillan oak is quite masterful. The outsized alcohol and raw finish is a letdown (without the sweetness of the ’13), oak tannins a punctuation to what is otherwise a quality wine. Has length and smooth, purple berry weight though, and impact is good. Can you forgive the rough edges? Certainly plenty here beyond that. Best drinking: 2016-2025. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $23. Would I buy it? I’d take the ’13 instead.
Tulloch JYT Selection NSW Shiraz 2014
Produced from a combination of Young and Orange fruit. It’s certainly spicy and a different shape to the Hunter wines from Tulloch, the plum and dark cherry fruit lifted up by a lick of vanilla oak and with a real plummy brightness to it that is quite attractive. Tightly bound and taut palate is just a little heavy on the acidity though, not giving much away for now and just a little gruff to finish. I’d wait a few years before diving in and it will likely impress after that. Lots of acidity makes this quite fine boned. Best drinking: 2019-2030. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? I’d prefer the straight Hunter red.
Pooles Rock Hunter Valley Shiraz 2011
Handpicked from the Post Office Vineyard, though I’m not sure how it fits with the other wine from the Pooles Rock Post Office vineyard wine. Dark purple red, this has great colour for its age. Indeed the nose is still closed, fudgey and bound up in red earth characters. A real work in progress wine as it appears quite ripe and forward, yet also tart to finish. Not quite coherent yet. Best drinking: 2019-2030. 16.8/20, 89/100+. 13.4%, $60. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Willow Bridge Dragonfly Geographe Shiraz 2014
The entry level wine in the Willow Bridge Shiraz range, this seems quite a step behind the Gravel Pit. Maroon purple, definitely a dollop of Viognier in there. Sweet berry fruit nose with lots of sweet berry fruit and some late vanilla oak. Seems a fraction sweet this year, but the blackberry fruit is still pretty attractive and the finish indicates quality. More savouriness would go a long way. Best drinking: 2016-2022. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $20. Would I buy it? I’d pay the extra $10 for the Gravel Pit.
Longhop Mt Lofty Ranges Shiraz 2014
A cheapie, but no slouch. Sourced from a smorgasbord of spots around Adelaide itself including Angle Vale, Hillier, Penfield Gardens, Uleybury and One Tree Hill. This is a juicy, juby and glacé rich wine, the fruit chunky and full, the alcohol a noticeable warmth through the finish. While it packs plenty of flavour, it doesn’t quite pack enough tannin or length and relies more on jelly bean fruit. Good value, but not outstanding this year. Best drinking: 2016-2020. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Taylor’s Clare Valley Shiraz 2014
This has won a whole swag of medals and trophies lately and I can see why – it’s immediately easy going, ripe and full. Red berries, slick red fruit, and did I mention gummy red berries? topped with just a lick of chocolate. Much more of a simple and juicy wine than previous iterations, with minimal tannins and light on the oak. Good, easy drinking, but not much else. Best drinking: 2016-2020. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No. But many will love this.
Tulloch Pokolbin Dry Red Hunter Valley Shiraz 2014
I first tasted this mid last year and didn’t quite love it, the acid intrusive. No changes there. Bright purple red, this is a gentle and pure fruit style with light, berry flavours. Good length but just too much (added) acid to love it. Will live though. Best drinking: 2016-2028. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Wyndham Estate George Wyndham Founder’s Reserve Langhorne Creek Shiraz 2012
From Langhorne Creek, which is hardly where the founder(s) were sourcing fruit from. In fact the Wyndham Estate cellar door and winery (in the Hunter) is now shuttered. RIP Hunter icon. Oak and spearmint, this looks a step behind the Selkirk wines, though it certainly has plenty of oak and dry tannins, backed by very firm acidity. Good length, it’s a bit tart and minty but with good commercial appeal, if rough edged. Should live a while without hitting any high notes. Drink: 2016-2025. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.9%, $22.99. Would I buy it? No.
Alkoomi White Label Frankland River Shiraz 2013
Still all estate grown Frankland River grapes, which is admirable at this price. Open knit red plum jam fruit before a faintly bitter, light red fruit palate that dances with a little herbs before a dry finish. Pleasant, but just a bit angular and lean for big marks. Best drinking: 2016-2020. 16/20, 87/100. 14.1%, $15. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Jacobs Creek Reserve Limestone Coast Shiraz
A new addition to the JC Reserve range, replacing the Barossa Shiraz. A blend of Padthaway, Coonawarra and Bordertown fruit. Dark ruby purple, it’s a soft and squishy style, the eucalypt a big feature point on a juicy, round palate that mainly relies on oak and added tannins for structure. It’s not a bad wine, but the Longhop is a better wine for the dollars. $12.99 is a fair price here though. Best drinking:2016-2021. 16/20, 87/100. 14.7%, $17.99. Would I buy it? No.
Artwine The Kelly Surrender Clare Valley Shiraz 2014
Curiously ordinary this. Dark purple plum red, it has a lean, red berry and cola nose, backed by a light and surprisingly thin, dull palate punctuated only by sweet oak. Rather reductive, There’s some flavour here, but ultimately this underwhelms greatly for the ambitions. Best drinking; 2016-2022. 15.5/20, 85/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.