January is a little slower for wine deliveries to the Australian Wine Review PO Box, as most local vignerons are either on holidays, preparing for vintage, or picking grapes.
That means I spend January catching up on the pile of samples that builds up pre-Christmas, and let me say, there is nothing more satisfying than chipping away at Mt OpenMore.
Here then are the 20 Best Shiraz of January 2021.
Baileys of Glenrowan 1920s Block Shiraz 2006
Baileys was due to have a big 150th anniversary this year, tying in nicely with news the whole estate is now certified organic, But thanks to COVID the celebration didn’t happen, so Paul Dahlenburg sent out two vintages of Baileys of Glenrowan 1920s Block Shiraz with a handwritten note (a nice touch. My handwriting is shocking which is why I stick to digitial words).
This 2006 Shiraz is fascinating too. It’s thick – look at the alcohol – in a very northern Vic. fashion. You’d almost pick this as having some appassimento, such is the endless pool of dense, licoricey, thickened black fruit, the years of bottle ageing adding in leaf litter.
It’s too much, but glorious because of it, and while the threat of alcoholic excess threatens to drag you in, but never succeeds. This shouldn’t be so well balanced. Thick, powerful, yet not hard work. Wow. In the full plateau of life too.
Best drinking: nowish. No hurry. 18.7/20, 95/100. 15%. $? Baileys of Glenrowan website. Would I buy it? I don’t think you can. But I would.
Clyde Park Single Block G-19 Shiraz 2019
Ahh lovely. Sophisticated modern Geelong Shiraz. Wild fermented, spends 10 months in 40% new oak. Glossy, purple maroon coloured. Actually glossy is the best descriptor here – glossy oak, glossy fruit, mid weight, hints of undergrowth. Not confected, but round and juicy. Lots of fruit, moderately held. Just enough tannins. Almost too glossy. Seduction plus plus plus. Best drinking: good now, even better in 2-3 when oak and fruit settles. Class. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $75. Clyde Park website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Juxtaposed Old Vine Sherry Block Shiraz 2019
This is the companion piece to the other excellent Juxtaposed Old Vine Shiraz. Sourced from the ‘Old Block’ on the Sherry Vineyard in Blewitt Springs that has since been sold (so the fruit is no longer available). Another purple fruited, wonderfully moderate wine it is too – more, please. Blackberry fruit, no obvious oak, the palate round and enveloping, mid-weight, the tannins very fine, with just a little breathiness to finish. It’s not quite as perfect or detailed as the Wait block, but the suppleness and bright fruit make it another very enjoyable drink at a compelling price. I’m a fan. Best drinking: now to ten years plus. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.5%, $37. Juxtaposed website. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Longview Macclesfield Syrah 2019
Longview’s wines have had a sexy new rebrand and repackaging, with this new Macclesfield tier entering the breach. So far, every wine in this line has been excellent – real highlights – and this Syrah is a wonder. My only gripe is that all the labels look the same from the front. Anyway, Adelaide Hills Syrah, includes 20% whole bunches, spends 9 months in oak. Viognier is not listed on the label but I wouldn’t be surprised about a little co-fermented inclusion as this is seriously bright and fragrant. Mid weight, quintessential Adelaide Hills Syrah/Shiraz with perfectly ripe and even purple fruit and then a finessed, pretty palate before lovely taut tannins. While quite fruit-forward – which helps – this is the most graceful Longview Shiraz/Syrah I’ve ever had. Bravo. Best drinking: now to ten years plus. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $45. Longview website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Sunshine Creek Shiraz 2018
It’s a pleasure watching the Sunshine Creek wines get better every vintage. Like watching your mate’s kid turn from weird baby into cute toddler. The packaging is still mega old school though. This is Yarra Valley Shiraz rather than Heathcote and looks a delight. Vibrant, purple berry fruit pushes through the middle and tail, carefully modulated and gently earthen, with a good balance between bright fruit and this long, mid-palate that threatens to be too ripe but never falls over. Really nice wine this – I almost caught myself drinking it on a tasting day. Best drinking: to ten years or more. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%. $?. Sunshine Creek website. Would I buy it? If it’s line priced with the Pinot and $45, then well worth a bottle.
Angove Warboys Vineyard Shiraz 2018
The premium Angove wines have come so far, from clumsily oaked big company wines to this, nuanced mod McLaren Vale red. From the organic Warboys Vineyard, this is wild fermented, with 25% whole bunches. 14 months in larger oak. It’s a grown-up McLaren Vale red. The oak sticks out a bit, and it feels just a little aggressive at the edges, but you get the feeling that will sort out in time. It’s chunky, red-fruited, chequered with whole bunch spice. All that is missing is a little seduction, but gee it’s powerful and quite sophisticated. Best drinking: the plus sign is important. Good now, but in two years time? Likely even better again. 18/20, 93/100+. 14% (on the label, 14.2% in the notes), $46. Angove website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Baileys of Glenrowan 1920s Block Shiraz 2019
The companion bottle to the 2006 and no hiding the DNA – dark fruit, plums, figs, dark jubey fruit. This is actually medium-bodied, less dark fruits. More purple fruit rather than black, it’s a more open and less heavy wine, yet with a subtle intensity. Nice wine. Maybe a little confected, but that intensity of fruit saves it. Ultimately it’s too young, and the context of that 2006 suggest the best is years away. Best drinking: Seriously wait for five years. Then drink over twenty. 18/20, 93/100+. 14.5%, $35. Baileys of Glenrowan website. Would I buy it? Well worth a bottle at that price.
Blue Pyrenees The Richardson Shiraz 2018
No disguising this – it’s a big, nee massive Pyrenees red. Deep maroon-purple, with a saturated purple palate, oak filling in the crannies, thick tannins to finish. Mint, oak, fruit, tannins, alcohol. Boom! It’s not elegant or fine but gee it’s a powerhouse purple berried red. Very long and so powerful. I can instantly see that classic Pyrenees appeal and it will live for decades. A certain style, maybe, but great because of it. Best drinking: open now and decant for a few hours. Or wait, and drink it over the next 20 years. 18/20, 93/100+. 14.5%, $72. Blue Pyrenees website. Would I buy it? Maybe a bottle for the cellar.
Carillion Origins Fenestella Shiraz 2018
From the Davis family’s Tallavera Grove Vineyard at Mount View. Handpicked, cold-soaked and wild fermented. I’m still not sure how Carillion fits in with the broader Davis family Pepper Tree/Briar Ridge portfolio, but most of what I’ve tried so far is appealing. This is plush, warm year Hunter Shiraz with easy appeal. There’s plush plum fruit, a boysenberry Hunter fruit note and then fine tannins. The alcohol sticks out a bit, but the polished, mouth-filling palate covers that up nicely. I started thinking about some of Mike de Iuliis’ recent releases as this shares stylistic clues. Enjoyable mod Hunter Shiraz all round. Best drinking: good now, good later in true Hunter form. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $60. Carillion website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Gundog Estate Rare Game Shiraz 2019
A rather pretty take on Hunter Shiraz. Hunter Burgundy ahoy! Fruit comes off Tinklers ‘48 Block’ and the Somerset 1970 plantings. It’s light, cherry fruited, with minimal oak and has a certain fruity timelessness to it. Still very primary and coming together, but no doubting the charm. Score is conservative for now as it feels a work in progress. A regal wine in the making, but fruit-sweet all the same. Best drinking: wait. It will live for decades, so put it in the cellar and forget about it. 18/20, 93/100+. 13%, $70. Gundog Estate website. Would I buy it? Grab a bottle for the cellar.
Meerea Park The Aunts Shiraz 2019
It’s fascinating to have all these three top Hunter Shiraz in context. Such different wines. The Carillion – bright, bold, modern. The Gundog – mid weight, polished, nuanced. This Meerea Park sits in between. From the Lochleven Vineyard, and one of my favourite wines of the ’19 Meerea Park reds because of its moderation. Bright purple, mid weight, there is outright juiciness, before the finish becomes a bit tougher. The picture of contemporary Hunter reds, with a gippy finish to have you coming back. Well priced too. Best drinking: good now but no hurry. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $35. Meerea Park website. Would I buy it? Very much worth it at this price.
Tellurian Block TLR Shiraz 2016
Tellurian have release two single block Shiraz from 2016, sourced from different parts of the vineyards. TLR is the Top of the Long Rows. This is such a different wine to the SR. A purple fruited, ripe and powerful Heathcote red that carries both chunky purple fruit but also a peppery fragrance. It’s full-throttle, sure, but it could almost be Pyrenees or Grampians with the palate profile. All of the Tellurian wines have taken a step up of late, this is another strong release. Best drinking: now to ten p;us years. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $42. Tellurian website. Would i buy it? Worth a bottle.
Dodgy Bros. Shiraz 2019
Meat and three veg McLaren Vale Shiraz at a great price. Trades the moderate style of the Juxtaposed wines for something a bit more classic southern McLaren Vale. Expansive mid-palate thickness, subtle oak broadening the palate further. It’s a fruit-forward red of quite classic Vale mode. Maybe a bit warm and jubey to finish but gee it’s honest stuff. Best drinking: now to ten years (or more). 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $25. Dodgy Bros. website. Would I buy it? Probably not my bag (too chunky, I’d spend the extra dollars on the Juxtaposed above) but I know so many people who would love this. It’s a bargain.
Mandala Shiraz 2018
This is ripe wine for Yarra Shiraz. Cinnamon, coffee, slightly jammy red fruit, a warm and thick palate that tastes so much more voluminous. Maybe too chunky – it could be Bendigo or Heathcote with that palate profile, save for the late charcuterie board characters. Quite some impact for the dollars regardless. Good. Best drinking: now to ten plus years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $30. Mandala website. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Torzi Matthews Francesco Grillo Collina Calcaire Syrah 2020
There’s a great story here. Named for Dom Torzi’s mother, and raised in a style that pays homage to a style she grew up with – a vino di tavola, made with zero sulphur for immediate drinking. Showcasing handpicked fruit from a young block planted in Angaston. fermented in milk vats and pressed to old barrels. Bottled unfiltered by hand. Energetic. Just bottled and just juice. A real mouthful of purple juiciness here – an essence of Eden Valley Shiraz. Unadorned, great tannins, and excellent flow of flavour. It’s a little bit jubey, skinsy and fizzy, but that energy is great, and it’s no light wine – more like a mid-weight Eden Shiraz. Grown-up vin de soif indeed. Perhaps the only gripe is that this juice is too serious for an early drinker and feels barrel sample-esque – you could put it back into oak for 9 months and bottle it with a $50 pricetag. Best drinking: nowish. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $38. Torzi Matthews website. Would I buy it? I’d empty a bottle.
Geoff Merrill Reserve Shiraz 2013
McLaren Vale Shiraz in its most old school form. This spends a ginormous 31 months in 90% new French and American oak. Jeebus. Oak is the story here – sweet oak and sweet fruit. That drives commercial appeal sky high, bottle age softening the edges too. Gee whizz its a singular wine. Ageless though – 8 years old but could be 3. And ultimately the core is quality too, with concentration to back it up. There’s a place for wine like this, even if it’s not my thing. Best drinking: now to whenever. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $50. Geoff Merrill website. Would I buy it? Not me personally.
Gundog Estate Shiraz 2019
Canberra Shiraz. The opening salvo for Gundog Shiraz and an easy wine to like. Bright purple fruit, a little background oak, lots of cherry choc fruit. Moderate alcohol, some pepper, plenty of acidity. A wine also in progress, but attractive in its bright fruit expression. Good. Best drinking: from now until ten years no probs. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $40. Gundog Estate website. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Sans Pareil Estate Monumental Family Reserve Shiraz 2018
No shortage of ambition with this big Shiraz. My first experience with Sans Pareil, with most apparently exported. This Shiraz would fit nicely for the Chinese market (or US for that matter). A ripe, lush, sweet-fruited and generously ripe Barossa red that floods your mouth with sweet fruit, then alcohol, a tingle of tartaric acidity but not much else. That generosity and the silken nature of the palate is certainly appealing – lots will love this. It’s a caricature of a wine, maybe, but pleasant enough. Best drinking: from now and ten plus years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 15.5%, $29. Sans Pareil website. Would I buy it? Nah.
Tellurian Block 3 SR Shiraz 2016
Such a different wine to the TLR. Concentrated, vanilla bean oak richness and has quite an oak polish. The palate feels more warm than truly intense, with some fire to finish. Confected fruit derails the flavour here, oak sweet too. Ok, but it feels warmer, more vanillan, less full and lesser compared to its brother. Fascinating to see these two side by side over a few hours – this could have come from a different vineyard altogether. Or be a second wine. Still quality, but lesser. Best drinking: to fifteen years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $42. Tellurian website. Would I buy it? I’d have the TLR instead.
Hutton Vale Farm Shiraz 2016
From the renowned Angas family vineyard in the Eden Valley, the fruit from which also goes into Standish Lamella and to John Duval. This particular red is made by Kym Teusner. A monolithic wine it is too, decadent, thick through the middle and fudgey thick, the fruit pushed to the edge of overripeness in a mode that was popular a decade ago. No hiding the outright source material quality here, the heady dark red fruit and coffeed savoury oak giving this a thumping presence. But ultimately it’s overly warm and a bit too thick cut and drying to be anything but overwrought. Best drinking: nowish. 17/20, 90/100. 15%, $75. Hutton Vale Farm website. Would I buy it? No.