Fun fact: Shiraz makes up over 25% of all winegrapes crushed in Australia, and South Australia has the largest vineyard area with 76,292ha (Wine Australia figures 19/20).
But what I want to know is, are you drinking much Shiraz? And is it South Australian?
While a lot of Shiraz is opened here at Graham HQ, the bottles emptied tend to not be the stereotypical ‘big’ Shiraz. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for big reds, just that they can be hard drinks on a warm night (and I’m likely drinking an ice cold can of IPA anyway).
Regardless, if I am in the mood for Shiraz, this assortment of the Top 20 best Shiraz of November 2020 is a great place to start…
Hardys Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2016
The apostrophe in Hardy’s/Hardys feels forgotten. It’s in the winery logo, yet nowhere else. Punctuation. Is. Complicated. Meanwhile, Eileen. All the recent vintages of this McLaren Vale Shiraz top dog have been so polished, but particularly so this vintage. Maybe too polished though? Hmmm. Sourced from the Upper Tintara Vineyard, which remains in the Hardy family. It produces ‘lovely rich plum fruit but with an ironstone character’ according to Hardys winemaker Nic Bowen. the Hardys Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2016 is very classic McLaren Vale red too – generous and full through the middle, with a plushness and an open flow of flavour. It’s just a teensy bit spirity, but certainly charming and such a good presentation of style. If you like Vale Shiraz, you’re going to like this. Best drinking: now to many years. Fifteen plus. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.5%, $130. Would I buy it? I’d drink it, but I can’t justify the price to buy.
Meerea Park Alexander Munro Shiraz 2018
In amongst an array of new Meerea Park releases, this is my pick. Difficult to see in the photo, but there is this subtle raised lettering on the front and back label that is clever (and probably expensive). Sourced from the Homestead Vineyard, and feels the most classic Hunter style of the range too – more ‘medium’, with a core of ripe plum and purple fruit plus a little leather, soy sauce and tilled soil. Has proper Hunter agelessness to the subtly tannic finish, albeit with just a little warmth. Good now, good in many years, proper Hunter Valley style all the way. Best drinking: now to twenty years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $110. Would I buy it? I’d drink it, but out of my price range.
Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2018
A half bottle care package of S & S releases turned up earlier in the year in a little box that I promptly forgot about. That’s rookie as I bloody love half bottles too. You know what else I love? That Shaw & Smith prices haven’t really gone up, despite the quality, high scores and acclaim. This new Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2018 is spice-driven, and firmly Hills-ian highlight too. Has understated purple fruit, sage and then a quietly bitter and substantial palate. There’s a fight here between the riper boysenberry, cranberry and fig fruit and the brooding whole bunch spicier dark and bitterness, but it makes for such an interesting package. Very good drinking. Best drinking: now to fifteen years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $49. Would I buy it? Yes.
Clyde Park Estate Shiraz 2019
I’m fascinated by how all of the Clyde Park wines go off to different winemakers – this Shiraz was made by Robin Brockett at Scotchmans Hill. Other Clyde Park wines are made by Ray Nadeson (Lethbridge), Matt Holmes (Bannockburn Vineyards) and Sam Vogel/Scott Ireland (Provenance Wines). This is estate Shiraz, the blend featuring 20% whole bunches, fermented wild and matured for 9 months in 20% new oak. Nice. Colour belies the moderate alcohol, the nose saturated with plump, strawberry and cream lollies, the silken palate has more push than expected. Lovely moderate wine it is too; boysenberry fruit, oak in the background, and silken flavours. Polished. Lightish. Delicious. Best drinking: I’d go sooner rather than later, and for up to ten years. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $45. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Meerea Park Black Shiraz 2018
This is the flagship Meerea Park red and every bit the reserve wine. More. Everything. Likely too much. This is thick, drying and somewhat un-Hunter style aiming to win over non-Hunter drinkers. Or at least that’s my take. This red spends 18 months in new and one-year-old oak. Tastes it too. The price is an aberration, sure, but the quality fruit is not. It’s bold and powerful. Plum, soil, a hint of meat, the oak folded in, the palate mid-weight and yet muscular. It’s just a little bit tart, but the finish is true. Ultimately, there’s a top-tier Hunter red here, even if less would be more. Best drinking: now to twenty years. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $300. Would I buy it? Drink it, yes, but not buy it.
Meerea Park Hell Hole Shiraz 2019
From the Lochleven Vineyard. What sets this apart from the more expensive Terracotta below? More whole bunches perhaps? Stylistically it’s a bolder wine – deep and concentrated, all chocolate malt and thick dark berries then alcohol warmth and thickish tannins. Brutish for Hunter Shiraz but not hard going – it’s like a more approachable version of the Black Shiraz. The oak and alcohol give this a dusty, almost curranty dried fruit edge. power and chunkiness. Good, hearty Hunter Shiraz. Best drinking: now to ten years plus. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $60. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Tim Smith Wines Shiraz 2018
A blend of Barossa & Eden Valley fruit that spends 20 months in French with a small amount of American oak. The first thing you notice it the colour – really saturated purple red. A plum-drenched mouthful of wine it is too, with trademark plush fruit and cosseting oak. The alcohol is a noticeable element through the finish, but such a generous and ultimately satisfying Barossa red. Best drinking: over the next fifteen years. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $42. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Gartelmann Wilhelm Shiraz 2017
Easily the best balanced Gartelmann red I’ve had in ages. Jubey, purple fruited and full of life, this lively Hunter red ticks all the approachable boxes. Mid weight, slightly warm, saturated with mulberry fruit. Easy going charm but with substance and Hunter character. Long too, although just a smidgen warm to finish. Best drinking: now to fifteen years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.1%, $28. Would I buy it? Two glasses easy.
Meerea Park Terracotta Syrah 2019
This is a celebration of the red dirt soils of the Hunter Valley, and sourced from the highest blocks on the Lochleven Vineyard. Plush and purple berried, it’s a cavalcade of ripe blackberry fruit, the palate soft and ripe but all mid-palate, as it gets a bit diffuse to finish. Pleasant. Soft. Juicy. Inviting. Just lacks some carry through the finish. Best drinking: now to ten years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $70. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Paisley Wines Silk Shiraz 2018
I was genuinely surprised that these Paisley Wines releases were old-school oaky and ripe. From the packaging, I was expecting low intervention funk. More than meets the eye! This is Barossa Valley Shiraz in a chunky, sweetly oaked and plush style, with chocolate plum and a little rum and raisin. Has a distinctly Barossan Shiraz mode through the middle, even if it’s tarter and less silken to finish. Feels substantial though. Good, solid, real Barossa Shiraz here. Best drinking: now to ten plus years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass or so with something meaty.
Seville Estate Shiraz 2018
This is the ‘standard’ estate wine in Seville Estate’s multi-tiered Yarra Shiraz lineup, and there’s real charisma here. Soy sauce and leaf litter on the nose, the palate meaty, contained and lifted up by its gentle leafy personality and slightly chewy tail. Proper cool clime Shiraz this. Just a bit lean, but svelte too. Grows on you this does. Best drinking: now to well over a decade. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $45. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
St Hallett Higher Earth Syrah 2018
It’s hard to keep up with the different St Hallett labels now, but this is all Eden Valley stylin’. Dark berry fruit, squishy, polished boysenberry plum flavours, the palate silken but slightly tart, generous and polished and round but just a bit short. Bluntly fruity though. I dunno. I expected something a bit more ethereal. Still style and a sense of elegance. But not profundity? Still quality. Best drinking: now to ten years plus. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $60. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Wirra Wirra Woodhenge Shiraz 2018
Always a substantial wine is Woodhenge, again in 2018. Chunky, fudgey rich McLaren Vale Shiraz in an unquestionably attractive style. Toasty milk chocolate/mocha oak plays a big part on the thick palate, oak tannins through the finish too. Meat-and-three-veg McLaren red, but convincing in its manner too. Easy to like this. Best drinking: now to 15 years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses with a steak at a gastropub.
Castle Rock Estate Shiraz 2018
The last few vintages of this have wavered in style quite a bit. This, in turn, is thicker than expected – you’d almost call it South Australian with its saturated plum nose, the palate follows with more plums, vanilla and just a cursory waft of mint. Unquestionably bold Shiraz, but also a bit mono-dimensional too. Best drinking: I’d wait a bit and then for 10 years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.8%, $31. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gundog Estate Hunters Shiraz 2019
Hunter Shiraz from Gundog pitching at Hunter Burgundy. Soft, round and gentle, the palate is lightly jubey, fleshy, substantial and easy in a modern mode; a flash of pure fruit if a bit singular (and simple). Pleasant drinking, no earth moving under your feet. Best drinking: now to whenever. This style is ageless might even get better. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $40. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Gundog Estate Marksman’s Shiraz 2013
Aged release from Gundog, but you wouldn’t know it as the packaging is unchanged. Missed opportunity for sure. Even a sticker across the front label to say ‘aged release’. Slightly surprised at the development here too – it’s already bricking at the edges, the fruit descending into plum coated in leaf litter, the palate faintly bitter, eucalypt and menthol-edged. Definitely has power though – it’s a mouthful of a wine, and there is complexity aplenty here. It’s just not quite congruent at this point in time. Best drinking: now, but it may indeed be a better wine after another stint in the cellar. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $120. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gundog Estate Smoking Barrel Red 2019
A blend of Hunter & Canberra Shiraz fruit. Plump and forward, you can see both the purple Hunter fruit and that boysenberry almond ripple of Canberra. It’s ripe and polished if leaning a little too far into warmth and inelegance, with a waft of caramel on the finish. Polished, sturdy and opulent, all at once. Best drinking: I’d wait a few years before diving in. Then over a decade. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 14.3%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Zema Estate Family Selection Shiraz 2015
Oak. Heavy toast oak is the first flavour with this Coonawarra Shiraz, in the mode of an early noughties Wynns Michael (complete with telltale American oak Bounty flavours). Underneath the wood lies a silken palate, with hints of mint and a real sense of mediumness before some late tart acidity. That oak will seduce, but it’s a singular flavour and underneath this tastes like a missed opportunity. Score is a nod to the palate. Best drinking: wait a few more years and drink over twenty. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $49.99. Would I buy it? A few glasses when it settles down. Not quite now.
Meerea Park XYZ Shiraz 2019
Generous and uncomplicated Hunter Shiraz. Leads with bright red fruit, silken, ripe flavours but in a medium Hunter mode, capped off with slightly bitter tannins to finish and a little Hunter leather for good measure. Easily enjoyable and distinctly regional. Spot on for price and style. Best drinking: now to eight years as a start. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass
Soumah Single Vineyad Syrah 2019
Soumah’s Pinot & Chardonnay are first-rate, but the Syrah is inconsistent. I had this Yarra red warm and thought it looked a bit diffuse. Back in the fridge and after an hour the retry just confirmed that it’s a diffuse wine but an attractive one. Despite the alcohol, it’s a quite light Yarra red with jubey fruit, the palate fun and flirty if a little simple. Still a reasonable drink. Best drinking: nowish. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.