Following on from my Cabernet compilation on Monday, let me introduce you to the Shiraz/Syrah selection.
Twenty of the better Shiraz to pass the desk in April, all in one handy place.
I particularly like the diversity in this lineup – Hawke’s Bay to Crozes-Hermitage and more. It’s not truly representative (there’s an awful lot of Syrah and Shiraz out there) but a few shades covered here.
Vidal Legacy Syrah 2013
This is Vidal’s top Syrah and a lovely wine. Historically, I’m more of a fan of Gimblett Gravels Cabernet/Merlot than Syrah (controversy), but no doubting the charm and complexity of wines like this. Spends 20 months in French oak and, for mine, benefits from the extra bottle ageing. Really deep maroon – no shortage of colour! It’s a warm year Syrah in the quite opulent mode, but not unbalanced. Oh no, it’s ripe, but wonderfully spicy and measured too. Power, contained, in a silky flow of flavour. The oak gives this a flashiness, a real swagger through the chunky, meaty mid palate, to the point where I thought it would be more alcoholic than 13.5%. This is the sort of wine that wins trophies and would convince anyone that NZ can deliver Shiraz/Syrah with power. Quality wine. Best drinking: Good now and for at least ten years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $70. Would I buy it? Not cheap but certainly would impress. I’d buy a bottle.
Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz 2015
This is one of the best RSW releases in some time. It’s a huge wine, but it plays up to that beautifully. A real hedonists delight. Dark, inky purple red, that luscious black fruit is the the show here, with a tarry mid palate and a coal black thickness. Black flavours aplenty. The balance isn’t wrong though, concentrated black fruit with a warming finish that feels right – a spreading inky richness that just can’t be denied. It’s a fraction warm but the sheer slick and rich density makes this a winner. Best drinking: I’d wait 2-3 years and then it will go for a decade easy. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.5%, $70. Would I buy it? I don’t know if I’d buy a bottle but I’d like one in the cellar.
Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz 2012
It’s become slightly fashionable to get stuck into the old school Aussie Shiraz of late (and I know I’ve been guilty of it on occasion), but the better wines definitely have a place. This vintage of Meshach still packs in that traditional decadence, that enveloping richness that leaps out from the the first whiff, heavy with the scent of medium+ toast American and French oak barrels, lining a palate driven by an ever cosseting flow of dark fruit, in a very classic style. You can’t deny the intimate flow of chocolate alcohol soaked berries, even if the alcohol hits late and warm and the acid is a little sour. It’s what people want – and expect – in ‘icon’ level Barossa Shiraz, and this delivers. It feels like the classic Barossa red, and you get what you pay for. Best drinking: It’s six years old but now under screwcap I’d have no doubts it will live for ages. It reminds me of the 1994 Meshach, which is still in rude health. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $174.95. Would I buy it? Not personally, but I know plenty will (and love it).
d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2013
d’Arenberg’s Dead Arm is a proven performer in the scheme of things, and this vintage doesn’t let you down, even if I find it a bit warm. There’s no shortage of fruit, as ever, but what I like is the tannins. They’re grippy and real and stout, in a wine that is otherwise driven by powerful, dark berry fruits in a warm and deliberately generous mode. A tannin counterbalance for a notably ripe wine (with the boozy alcohol warmth to prove it). Ultimately this is good stuff from d’Arenberg, and still a way off its best years. Best drinking: Good now, probably better in 2-3yrs and will be alive in 20. 18/20, 93/100+. 14.6%, $80. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Sunshine Creek Heathcote Shiraz 2015
I’ve been critical of the oak handling with the Sunshine Creek wines previously but in ’15 everything looks much more balanced. It’s a surprisingly composed, somewhat moderate style for a 14.5% alcohol Heathcote red, with lavish purple berries and licoricey black fruit aplenty. Powerful, but understated power and it doesn’t fall into the trap of overripeness, with a welcome savoury back palate. By day 3 on the bench this hadn’t fallen apart at all, still molten berries aplenty too. Nice. A wine that presents much of what is good about Heathcote Shiraz. Best drinking: Good for at least a decade, probably more. I’d start drinking in 2-3. 18/20, 93/100+. 14.5%, $45. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle easy.
Sweetwater Shiraz 2014
Not to be confused with Andrew Thomas’ Sweetwater Shiraz. This Hunter Valley Shiraz comes off the same vineyard and is also made by Thommo, though it’s a different wine – now a part of the Hungerford stable somehow. Dark ruby coloured, there is a definitive Hunter stamp to this that is quite appealing. Vintage ripeness laid large, with that licoricey blackness of ‘14, and delivered in a very moderate form. Even has some Hunter leather fomenting. A classic Hunter red from a very good vintage, and I liked the slow burn charm. Is it better than Thommo’s own (cheaper) ’14 wines? That I’m not sure about. Best drinking: These ’14 reds will live for eons. Drink now or in twenty years. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $90. Would I buy it? Not for $90.
Terre à Terre Crayères Vineyard Shiraz 2015
The Merlot and Cab Franc wines get all the attention for Terre à Terre but this Shiraz can often be the highlight (just like further south in Coonawarra). From the Crayères Vineyard in Wrattonbully, it was handpicked and open fermented with 5% whole bunches. Spends 26 day on skins, then aged for 8 months in 50% new French oak and then 14 months in older large foudre. Numbers: pH 3.63, TA 5.1g/L (no acid touch ups given those figures). At the moment the oak is very prominent, the faintly hammy medium bodied style marked by a choc malt oak edge. Underneath it’s classy, though, with fine tannins and natural acidity, the warmth less obvious than the Cab Franc and with this deeply ingrained choc mint character that is from oak and the region. When this settles it is going to be such a winner, hence the score. Best drinking: Will look great in five years. I’d wait for sure. 18/20, 93/100+. 14.5%, 40. Would I buy it? It’s worth a punt on a few bottles for the cellar at this price.
Vinden Estate Back Block Shiraz 2013
The big dog Shiraz from Vinden Estate, built in a large, oaky form. Sees both French and American oak for 18 months. Deep red coloured, though it’s not as monolithic as the colour suggests. Indeed this is not a heavy wine. It’s still dense and licoricey with a core of black fruit. But it’s not savoury and the depth of fruit tends to absorb the oak nicely, the finish ripe but not hot. I really quite enjoyed this – again for a sense of the hedonistic end of Hunter Valley Shiraz can taste like when done well. Best drinking: Good now and will live for years. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $60. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Bailey Wine Co. Grampians Shiraz 2016
Tim Bailey, of Leconfield/Richard Hamilton fame, makes this using fruit from the Hyde Park Vineyard in the Grampians. Lots of appeal with these Bailey Wine Co. wines. Bright packaging and a bright wine. Luscious purple fruit in that Grampians plum essence mode, the middle juicy and with fine tannins to finish. There’s just a slight desiccation on the finish, but such a juicy, full flavoured wine. Exactly what you’d want in a Grampians Shiraz really. Best drinking: Now to ten years easy. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Mount Avoca Estate Shiraz 2015
Here’s an organic Pyrenees producer you don’t hear much about. Mount Avoca’s reds can be really tasty too. This Shiraz has a form that wavers between a fuller, modern Pyrenees style and that timeless mid weight elegant mode of wines of yore. Here, milk chocolate oak on the nose meets mulberry and a little mint. Honest and open, it’s a little milky oaky and old school, but the evenness of the fruit is really nice, the acid and tannins well composed under the oak. The longer I looked, the better this tasted too. Good one. Best drinking: I’d wait 2 years and drink over 15+. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $32.50 at cellar door. Would I buy it? Yes I would.
Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2012
On the whole I always prefer Gimblett Gravels reds younger than older as they can dry out a bit as they get on. Or maybe that’s just me. This is still deep mulberry purple. There’s a whole spice rack going on aromatically with a pepperberry explosion over roast beef. There’s just a slightly astringent vein that disrupts the purple berry fruit, but this still has a generosity to match. Love the spice too. It’s not a Rhone spice, more about Gimblett Gravels mid palate roundness. Good stuff. Best drinking: I like it now or over the next five years. 17.7/20, 92/100. $60NZ. Would I buy it? I’d go two glasses.
Calabria Three Bridges Barossa Valley Shiraz 2015
The Calabria family excel at making good honest red wines (at great prices) and this is another in the series. Dark, deep purple red it’s rolling in rich oak sweetness that goes from nose to palate and through the finish. There’s plenty of blackberry fruit to carry the vanilla oak, even if the finish goes a bit rum ‘n’ raisin warm. Not a subtle wine, but the smooth chocolate flavours are very easy to like. Real commercial appeal here and likeable, even with the heavy handed oak and alcohol spirit to finish. Best drinking: Honestly it will be a better wine next year and it will live for a good eight years no probs. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Not personally but I know lots of Barossa red lovers who’d enjoy it.
Longview Yakka Shiraz 2016
The Longview wines always surprise me with their ripeness given the location. A warm site by the taste of it (I’ve never been to Longview). Rich and jammy, this is a wine that belies it’s Adelaide Hills base to be really rather ripe and slippery. Smooth and creamy oak etched, it’s a plump and cosseting wine, complete with late alcohol heat. Perhaps a slightly ‘made’ wine but with lots of easy appeal. Best drinking: to twelve years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Maison Juliette Crozes-Hermitage ‘Les Belles Terrasses’ 2014
A light and elegant style of Crozes with white pepper and lightly sour peppered fruit. It’s a wine shaped by the black, stalky fruit. More generosity would be welcome here as it’s just a little sour. Pleasant though and has a really nice bony savouriness to it. A proper Rhone red. Best drinking: Wait two years for it to fill out more and then drink within eight years (as the light fruit may well start falling away). 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $48. Would I buy it? Maybe just a glass.
Vinden Estate Basket Press Shiraz 2016
The little brother to the Back Block but shares much. Aged in French and American oak (20% new). This suffers in comparison as it is way too young, with purple berry fruit flavours competing with the oak sweetness. It’s a big wine for a Hunter red. A lavish choc coconut wine with red plum fruit and just a little sour cranberry. Too much oak maybe? It’s forward and broadly appealing though if not quite the concentration. Best drinking: Wait a year or two and then drink over 10+ years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $40. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Wirra Wirra Woodhenge Shiraz 2016
Plump, viscous, full-bodied McLaren Vale Shiraz driven by the penetration of its warm, coffee oak enriched, thick mid palate. Light tannins, a slightly warm finish, and a whole lot of richness. Satisfying in its mode, this showcases the joy of that trademark McLaren Vale mid palate, even if its a somewhat obvious wine. Best drinking: Good now and will be going strong in a decade. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass.
Grigori Family Reserve McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014
I can’t find much detail here, but I’ll call it as I see it. An oak fortified red, the nose carries a whiff of mint amidst a lsea of molten, coffeed red fruit. Firmly oaky and generous palate is awash in oak with a plummy wash. A somewhat old school and ambitious flagship red with oak filling every corner, it’s certainly got some appeal with a flow of lavish flavours. Less would be more, but you can see the appeal. Best drinking: I’d wait a year or so for the oak to integrate. But not too long as it might never get there. 17/20, 90/100. 14% $?. Would I buy it? I can’t work out how, so no.
Jacobs Creek Double Barrel Barossa Shiraz 2016
This is an interesting concept but gimmick or glory? This is actually a pretty handy wine in the scheme of things – a Barossan red finished in aged Scotch whisky barrels. It’s syrupy in many ways with a dry and fudgey personality, the oak tannins shaping the flavours along with the alcohol. But for all that heft it’s actually not a bad wine and the richness at every turn is genuinely inviting – commercial appeal in droves. That much grunt and heft, complete with grip too will satisfy many methinks. Best drinking: Tricky to guess. Conservatively I’d drink in seven or eight. But it is a big wine… 17/20, 90/100. 14.7%, $24.99. Would I buy it? Not personally, but again I know many who will love this style.
Taltarni Pyrenees Shiraz 2015
Another Taltarni red where less would be more. There’s a wash of Viognier fragrance in this but it’s curiously reductive too. Odd. Otherwise, no shortage of dark berries, a wallop of vanilla and then mint. Mint meets raspberry bitumen with drying tannins and intrusive acidity. It’s going to live, but this is a rather harsh and warm wine for now. The points get a lift purely due to the intensity of the flavours (I was much less initially) and the tannins and drive. Please Taltarni, pick your grapes earlier and go back to those classic wines of yore and this will be an even better wine. Best drinking: Wait five years and then dive in. It will live for yonks. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
The Vinden Headcase Shiraz Nouveau 2017
An intriguing modern Shiraz style from Angus Vinden. Cold soaked, wild fermented and includes 10% whole bunches, it’s hand plunged and aged in seasoned French oak. For all that, this is still a light red, all cherry fruit with some ham sweatiness, the mid palate light-ish (but not delicate)with some slightly raw tannins and raised acidity. The edges are just a little sharp, but it’s an interesting combo – a lighter style that pushes its Hunter-ness forward. Has a certain refreshment to it too. Best drinking: Next year and then finish over the next five years. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d go a glass or two easy.