Sometimes, you get what you pay for.
In the wine industry it doesn’t happen as often as you’d like, but occasionally you pay for great wine and really get it.
With these new single vineyard Shaw + Smith releases you are indeed laying down a few dollars – $85 a bottle – but in return you’re getting absolute quality wines. Wines that are as intellectually well made as they taste good, with a precision and detail that is just exceptional.
Indeed, while I’ve never set foot in the Shaw + Smith winery but I can imagine it is a spotless place. One where everything has its right place, the wines made with thought and care.
Actually, the only problem with this trio is volume. Single vineyard wines, made in small quantities, and expected to be shared with wine markets around the world. In other words, if you’re a fan, you’ll need to be quick…
Shaw + Smith Lenswood Vineyard Chardonnay 2016
I took this out to dinner on Saturday and drank most of the bottle myself. Sourced from Shaw + Smith’s Lenswood Vineyard, planted in 1999, it spends 10 months in new and used French oak. Immediately, this is such a precise wine. Finely toned, classy modern Chardonnay with delicate whisps of creamed apple juice that is just perfectly pitched, the palate has spice from the oak then gentle apple and grapefruit, the fine embrace of oak in the background and then poised, fresh but (not too fresh) acidity. It’s just a little shy, but this is the very model of a modern Aussie Chardonnay. Best drinking: Now, but probably even better in 12 months, and drink for at least 8 years. 18.7/20, 95/100. 13%, $85. Would I buy it? Yes.
Shaw + Smith Balhannah Vineyard Shiraz 2015
The outlier here as it’s 2015 – a very good vintage for the Hills. From close planted vines (5,500 vines/ha) planted in 2005 near the winery in Balhannah. Includes 70% whole bunches! Purple red, there’s a plushness that is immediately inviting, dollops of blueberry, some nutty oak and a perfectly poised mid weight palate. Aside from the powdery tannins, you’d never have picked this as packing in so much whole bunches – it’s beautifully ripe and plump yet with background pepper and bark. That texture is wonderful. Maybe a little warm to finish? Can’t hold back a lovely, textured (and with actual tannins!) modern Australian Shiraz. Delicious. Drink now (but even better in 2-3yrs) and then for 15+. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14%, $85. Would I buy it? Yes.
Shaw + Smith Lenswood Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016
This was a step behind for mine, purely because it is too serious (and stern). From the Lenswood Vineyard, the blend includes 30% whole bunches, a long ferment and 10 months in barrel before bottling unfined and unfiltered. Strawberry meets sappy whole bunch spice with a dash of bark, the style faithfully Pinot but it’s just a bit too sappy and chunky to be elegant, the tannins carrying a faint raspy edge. That said, this has multiple layers of minty, perfectly weighted fruit. It’s just a little bit drying, but otherwise so carefully made. Very serious! Best drinking: I think it would benefit from another year in bottle, then ten years plus. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $85. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
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