As the name suggests, these are the Top 20 Shiraz of August 2020. There was more Shiraz this month, there always is. But these are the wines I want to talk about.
Yangarra Ironheart Shiraz 2017
This is magnificent McLaren Vale Shiraz and a glorious Jackson Family contrast to the Hickinbotham Cabernet. Quality-wise they’re on a similar plane, but very different personalities. This is more translucent, less muscular, less oak-driven voluptuousness and some welcome spice. Both wines are McLaren Vale megalords, just different. The Ironheart still fits the definition of Vale Shiraz and, most importantly, it’s absolutely delicious. Winemaking-wise it 25% whole bunches and included in the wild ferment, the wine spending 15 months in 35% new French oak. ‘We select individual barrels which showcase the characters of the ironstone’ says the little quote. There’s this textural width here, with a certain silkiness too, the tannins grainy, the oak a lightly toasty companion piece. Nothing out of place, just pulsating McLaren Vale Shiraz with a surprising balance. Possibly the most drinkable Shiraz I’ve had in a long time. Really. I can’t fault much here, it just flows and feels lively, yet satisfyingly generous at every point. Superb. Best drinking: now to twenty plus years. 19/20, 96/100. 14.5%, $110. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Balgownie Estate Centre Block Shiraz 2017
Another landmark wine from a celebrated estate. More than that, this is the latest in a line of Balgownie evolutions (take a bow Tony Winspear). From the oldest plantings on the now 50-year-old Bendigo estate, with 1.5% Viognier in the mix. Spends 24 days on skins with 20% whole bunches, then matured in 20% new oak for 12 months. Pure class. There’s a cascade of flavours here that mark it as the top tier in Vic Shiraz. Pencil shavings. Dark fruit. A passing nod to bacon fat and sage, then a modulated palate with fine-grain tannins and no alcohol excess. This is what mod Australian Shiraz is about – ripeness, unmistakable generosity of flavour, but also delivered with a sense of shape and purpose. Delicious wine. Best drinking: now to twenty years. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14%, $65. Would I buy it Yes.
Balgownie Estate Railway Block Shiraz 2017
Easily the juiciest and most approachable of the super premium Balgownie Shiraz. Bright purple fruit and hints of black pepper, it initially presents as a flood of fruit, threatening to overwhelm with power and extract. But it’s not. Instead, this is neat, composed and quite regal, instantly approachable yet lobbing up enough tannins and dark fruit to be compelling beyond today. Very nice. Best drinking: now to fifteen plus years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.5%, $65. Would I buy it? Yes.
Hickinbotham Brooks Road Shiraz 2018
A more conventional expression of McLaren Vale Shiraz in context – a wine that lovers of traditional McLaren Vale Shiraz are going to adore. Includes 3% Malbec, intriguingly. Dark dense and chunky – it’s a wine of fudgey ripe flavour and shows it’s alcohol and ripeness more than any other wine in the range, the overall effect a wine of unquestioned impact but a bit simple and warm compared to the others. I’m comparing everything to a high mark, a higher expectation for McLaren Vale reds – when this is ultimately a superb, impactful, highly polished full bodied wine. Best drinking: now to twenty years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.5%, $75. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Levantine Hill Melissa’s Paddock Syrah 2016
I so look forward to the Levantine Hill wines. Such detail. Paul Bridgeman knows how to deliver finesse and charm, both of which this wine has. Ferns and some sort of smoky spice on the nose – cool clime Shiraz ahoy! There is a whole bunch spice on the nose which is a direct contrast to the mid palate fruit and fine vanilla oak seam. Lots of layers here, cherry fruit, riper coffee oak, even slightly riper edges before a dark bitter finish. Too bitter, maybe. Masterful style though. Layers layers layers. Very good modern Yarra red. Best drinking: now to at least fifteen years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $200. Would I buy it? I can’t afford those bikkies, but I’ll happily drink it.
Sweetwater Shiraz 2018
Another win for Bryan Currie. The only question is whether it’s a better wine than the Dalwood Shiraz. Drink that wine now and this wine later? Sweetwater sits awkwardly in the Hungerford Hill portfolio – I almost feel like it would be better as Hungerford Hill Sweetwater, though Sweetwater is a very different estate (with a grand house on the property too) I digress. It’s a rather dark and ripe Hunter red this, pitching more into dark berry fruit rather than something bright and berried (like, say, the Tyrrell’s Old Patch). There is a withering blackness here though that marks a wine of real depth, the layers of fruit a nod to a long future ahead. I warmed to this high quality dark red and can see it only getting better. Best drinking: I’d wait five years and drink over twenty plus. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $65. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Rusty Mutt Original Shiraz 2016
Lavishly oaked (some American oak?) McLaren Vale Shiraz from Scott Heidrich done well. That plush oak integrates into ripe fruit, the palate smooth, ripe and knit before a round and warm finish. This is going to win friends so easily, the style positively Penfoldian with that richness and amalgam of fruit and oak. Not my normally drink, but I admire the style greatly. Best drinking: now to at least fifteen years. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Worth a glass or two.
Balgownie Estate Shiraz 2017
The Balgownie standard-bearer. Of note, it is matured in 30% new oak for 15 months, although it feels much oakier than that. Classically oaky. Why? Tony, what’s different here?. Some nice rosemary chocolate oaked Shiraz character but it feels just a little brash compared to the single block wines. A wine that rusted on Balgownie fans will love perhaps? Not bad wine in any circumstance, however, just a step behind the other glorious ’17 Balgownie reds. I’m likely just being harsh but context is a bitch. Best drinking: it will get better, and history says this is a twenty-year wine. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $45. Would I buy it? Worth a glass or two.
Hungerford Hill Shiraz 2018
Hunter Valley Shiraz that very much showcases the vintage. It’s plump, purple and juicy, all red glossy berries, deft oak and then mid palate pomp. There’s this concentration of fruit through the middle which is spot on. I can’t fault the generosity and conviction. And Hunter-ness. Maybe a little warm is my only quibble. Solid, regardless. Best drinking: now and twenty years easy. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? Share a bottle.
Maverick Trial Hill Eden Valley Shiraz 2016
Bottle 1362/2500. Nothing left behind with the Maverick wines, with this red sourced from a block that was part of the original Pewsey Vale vineyard (read the story here). Hallowed earth. This is a dense, slightly blanched red of big impact but the finer details have been cooked off, oak rounding out the palate and alcohol to finish. Long and intense – which lifts the score – but remains somewhat hobbled by the pursuit of ripeness and oak. Good, long and mouthfilling, but not quite gold medal balance. Best drinking: now to fifteen years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.7%, $180. Would I buy it? No.
Small Gully Wines Black Magic Shiraz 2016
Small Gully Wines revolves around a vineyard at Marananga in the western Barossa. Fascinating wine. Reminds me of a cross between a Seppelt port and one of Chris Ringland’s Three Rivers reds. Black Magic is a fitting title too – it’s like liquid molasses. Dark, inky and ultra ripe. Port! Port without the spirit. Ultra-dense sweet fruit, the alcohol spreading through the finish. It’s super smooth and polished, oak filling in every bump. It’s ott, sure, but not stewed. I admire the way it still tastes lively in spite of the crazy ripeness, but actually drinking it? I just couldn’t finish more than a glass. The score is a nod to the length, the silk, the surprising palate. Interesting, for sure. Best drinking: hard to say. It could fall over within ten years, or it could live for decades. I’d go sooner rather than later. 17.7/20, 92/100. 16.3%, $130. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Old Vine Estate Shiraz 2018
Wow. This has changed remarkably. A new Taltarni era alongside this wine. It’s a finessed and quite medium-bodied modern Taltarni red. Much less extraction, much more fragrance, the alcohol not noticeable either with a hint of whole bunch spice for good measure. Actually, this tastes like cool climate Shiraz, albeit with Pyrenees mint. Good. Not quite great – it’s a little jubey to be sublime and the tannins do stick out. But such a step up. Best drinking: now to fifteen years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Worth a glass or two.
Taylors Jaraman Shiraz 2018
Easily the best wine in the Jaraman range. A blend of Clare Valley & McLaren Vale Shiraz fruit. Deep, oaky, licoricey. Exactly as you’d expected. Lavish too. American oak? Plush. A bit of mint (that the Clare component?). Coffeed. Big impact. Old school plush. Will win trophies, though not my style. I can admire the impact and length here for sure. Best drinking: I’d wait 2-3 years and then drink over at least fifteen. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Alte Shiraz 2017
Orange Shiraz from the Cumulus Vineyard in Orange. Snappy packaging too. Matured for 12 months in 25% new oak. Plays the Orange Shiraz vibe well, with slick raspberry fruit in very much a medium bodied, silken, maybe too lean mode. Still well pitched. I find the finish a bit thin, ultimately. But stylish enough and plenty attractive. Best drinking: now to eight years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $22.99. Would I buy it? A glass.
d’Arenberg The Old Bloke & The Three Young Blondes 2015
McLaren Vale Shiraz but with Viognier Roussanne Marsanne. Fun! It’s an odd, expensive wine though – I can’t get my head around where it’s meant to sit. Cote Rotie take? Elegance Vale Shiraz? Indeed there is plenty of old school flavour here and it’s quite developed, the flavours heading towards brick dust and Old Gold. It’s hearty, meaty, forward and recognisable largely as Shiraz rather than something more complex. Has great tannins(d’Arenberg tannins are excellent. Thanks foot treading?) but it’s not a convincing package just yet. Plenty to give in the future and the texture is attractive enough too. Best drinking: now to fifteen more years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $200. Would I buy it? No.
Blue Pyrenees Estate Shiraz 2017
Plenty to chew on with the ‘Estate’ Blue Pyrenees reds ad this is the best of the lot. A big blast of minty purple fruit, the palate dense, chocolatey and very hearty, the finish warm and substantial even if it’s more medium bodied than full. Good tannins to finish, if minty. Did I mention the chocolate and mint? Firm and rather substantial wine, ultimately and will be popular for its heartiness. Best drinking: now to many years. Easy fifteen. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass.
Bugalugs By Tim Smith Shiraz 2019
A plump, just-bottled, sweet oak and sweet-fruited style of Barrosan red with instant appeal. It’s so round and easy and smooth, medium bodied, lightly tannic and easy-going, the oak is like caramel sauce, filling in the cracks. Slightly too oaky and punchy for big scores but pleasure here for sure. Best drinking: wait until the end of the year and then for the next seven years for a start. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass.
Patrick Joanna Shiraz 2013
Wrattonbully Shiraz from the family vineyard near Joanna. Spends 28 months in French and American oak and it shows – bourbon, chocolate bullets and then drying alcohol warmth. It tastes riper than it should, oakier than it should too. There’s length, however, and that fruit seems high quality. It’s not a bad wine – it’s still appealing, but less would be more, and the closer you look the more the oaky permeates everything. Still, with that structure underneath, time will be kind. Best drinking: I’d wait a few more years for the oak to settle in and then drink over twenty. 17/20, 90/100+. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? No.
Small Gully Mr Blacks Little Book Shiraz 2017
Idiosyncratic Barossan Shiraz. Deep, porty and black-fruited, the sweet vanilla oak a constant companion and just amping you the palate even more. I don’t notice the alcohol until the last flavour, the palate oak smoothed and very ripe. What stops you in your tracks is the price – for $17 this is so much wine, even if it’s not my bag. Will be popular. Best drinking: over the next ten years. 17/20, 90/100. 15%, $17. Would I buy it? No, but others will.
Small Gully Mr Black’s Concoction 2014
The step up from the Little Book and a big Barossa Shiraz. Maturing fast but not without charm. Crammed with dark berries and sweet American oak, the vanilla bean palate lifted by sweet alcohol too. It’s like stepping back in time to 1998! Not unattractive either, the soft, warm, white chocolate oaky palate is certainly inviting. But how do you drink more than a few glasses? Best drinking: now to seven years. 17/20, 90/100. 15.9%, $30. Would I buy it? No.