From the almosts to the always.
These are twenty of the most impressive Shiraz and Syrah to pass the desk during November 2021.
What I like most when I scan down this list is the diversity – from the spice flecked and sleek to the verbose and bold, there’s something for everyone (everyone who likes Shiraz/Syrah that is) in this collection.
Oakridge 864 Syrah 2019
Wow. Forget Pinot, Shiraz is the future for the Yarra (the Valley Floor at least), and here is evidence from the bearded master Dave Bicknell. Svelte. Sexy. I hate doing the ‘let’s compare this to the Rhone’ game, but hey, this is Cote-Rotie esque (sans Viognier). Sourced from the Oakridge Close Planted Vineyard, with 30% whole bunches in the mix, all delivering something delicious. Polished, with red fruit meeting dark, white pepper and rosemary bunch notes. A real Syrah nose. Just lovely. Push-pull balance and finesse, threatening to be bolder, more purple, yet with tannins that are filigreed and fine. Maybe too fine? A passing thought. Just excellent wine here.
Best drinking: now and for the next fifteen years for a start. 18.7/20, 95/100. 13.7%, $90. Would I buy it? Yes.
Juxtaposed Old Vine Shiraz 2020
Wes Pearson’s Grenache is the king, but the last two vintages of this Shiraz, in particular, have been excellent. More nuances. More going on. Faster, stronger, better. A bit about the label – the artwork is ‘Gone To Sea’ by Adam Harriden. The juice inside comes from the Sandy Corner Block of the Wait Vineyard in Blewitt Springs. All old (Hungarian) oak, and no whole bunches, which is a surprise as there is an underlying mushroom spice edge that I’d pick as bunches. At first glance, I’d pick this as Adelaide Hills going by the nose, with bright fruit aplenty. Gee Blewitt Springs is a great spot for red wine! Lots to unpack with this Shiraz – seaweed, tilled earth, mushroom broth, but plums as well. Unquestionably complex wine – dark, brooding, yet with this red fruit seam too. Really involving.
Best drinking: now and for fifteen years too. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $37. Would I buy it? Yes.
Yalumba Paradox Shiraz 2017
This was the corked controversy wine from the ‘distinguished sites’ masterclass earlier in the year, which was kindly resent (thanks Brian). Classy, moderate, real modern Barossan red too. Plush purple fruit, yet not excessive, bright and then fans out into something more chunky and throaty. Has unquestioned depth, but it feels more moderated and less overt. I like this Barossan Shiraz mode so much. Highly drinkable.
Best drinking: over the next fifteen years for a start. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $50. Would I buy it? Yes.
Eldorado Road Beechworth Syrah 2019
Syrah is the right call for this red from the excellent Eldorado Road winery. Mid-weight, high-toned and even a bit shy with this cranberry and smoked hock nose. Sourced from the Battely vineyard, the blend includes some whole bunches, and they make quite an imprint. Cool climate indeed. There’s a faint bitter edge, but that’s just a reinforcement of the perfumed, cranberry form that is rather sophisticated.
Best drinking: for the next decade at least. 18/20, 93/100. 13.9%, $37. Would I buy it? Let’s share a bottle.
Yangarra Shiraz 2019
Another strong release. The blend includes some whole bunches and 50% whole berries, it is then wild fermented and matured in 20% new oak for 12 months. What a wine. A darker, yet still juicy, richly textured, mid-palate-driven Vale red. It’s just a little bit raw on the finish, so give it a little more time. There’s this honesty here that is so admirable. It feels correct, unfucked-with. An archetype of what $35 Vale Shiraz should taste like. Intriguing that it’s probably a better drink than the larger Kings Wood (for now) too.
Best drinking: good for fifteen years no probs. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? Yes.
Balgownie Estate Shiraz 2008
Tony Winspear included this cellar release in my recent sample box, which is a nice contrast. Some leaf litter and brick dust to signal its age, but it’s still so young. Thick, fruit cake and plum pie, the alcohol threatening to take over, lots of flavour and unresolved tannins, a concentrated meal of a wine. A bit drying and thick for me – but I can appreciate the width and concentration.
Best drinking: good now and will live for so many years yet. It’s probably only just at its peak. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $85. Would I buy it? I’d prefer the 2017 to be honest.
Boat O’Craigo First Duke Reserve Shiraz 2018
Top dog Shiraz from the Kangaroo Ground vineyard on the edge of the Yarra. This includes 3% Viognier. Meaty, with undergrowth and leaf litter spice but a rather blocky, fudgey palate that seems warmer than 13.6%. That nose has no shortage of things going on, but the palate ends up a caramel oak tipped block. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still quality. but a smidgen more definition would make this a gold medal wine.
Best drinking: will be alive in fifteen years no problem. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.6%, $85. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gundog Estate The Lived Experience Shiraz 2019
Matt Burton can’t sit still. Legend! 100% of profits from this Hunter Shiraz go to Path 2 Change, which supports disadvantaged and homeless youth. Bright purple fruit, the flavours just a little jubey, bright and chocolatey, the mode an easy and open, substantial Hunter red. Good.
Best drinking: now and for well over a decade as a start. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Longview Macclesfield Syrah 2020
Svelte and really classy Adelaide Hills Shiraz. It’s a little lighter, a little more purple fruited this year to the point where I half expected a little Viognier (but no mention in the winemaking notes). Violet, dandelion, blueberry fruit, the mode moderate, though the mid palate is riper than you’d think and quite succulent. It’s just a bit primary and besides some vague bitterness not especially tannic. A pretty, purple fruited wine though that feels just a bit formative.
Best drinking: worth a year for it to settle. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $45. Would I buy it? Let’s share a bottle.
Soumah Syrah 2020
Bright, juicy and mid weight Yarra red. Lovey red cranberry and mulberried purple plum style, with deliberate understatement despite the exuberant fruit. Appreciably cool climate with the clovey edge, and indeed you don’t see the alcohol, just the exuberant fruit. It’s maybe a little light on the impact but undoubtedly berried and attractive. Curious to see it looks so light given the alcohol, but hey, it’s 2020 in the Yarra.
Best drinking: I’d go sub ten years for this to be at its best. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Steels Gate Shiraz 2018
Another smart Yarra Shiraz. Comes off the Melba Block, with 10% whole bunches and matured in 20% new oak. Leafy. Sinewy, yet ripe, the whole bunches more obvious than expected, but adding layers of tannin and meaty extras. It’s not a generous wine, too raw and bloody for that, but there is persistent, and quite sophisticated flavours, save for the finish which is a smidgen caramelised. Interest here though.
Best drinking: over the next decade. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Vinden Wines Somerset Vineyard Fountainhead Shiraz 2021
So much freshness and light in Angus Vinden’s new release reds. This is a modern Hunter Shiraz in an appreciably fresh mode too, that was wild fermented, with 10% whole bunches and a stint in older oak. It’s a lovely buzzy wine too, a fresh and crunchy, early picked (but not anaemic) purple red with blueberry boysenberry plum fragrance. The acidity is great here – makes it a real table wine. And the boysenberry fruit is plenty enough. It’s not short either. Good drink.
Best drinking: now and for a good few years yet. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $60. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Woodstock Shiraz 2019
You know exactly what you’re going to get with the Woodstock reds, and that’s maximum rich flavour. This is thick dark, and lacquered with vanilla milkshake oak, the palate a ripe flow of plum paste fruit, then warmth to finish. It’s a bit fudgey but that flow of smooth, dense choc bullet fruit is definitely appealing. Very Australian, if you get me, and going to win friends – especially at this excellent price.
Best drinking: now and for ten, fifteen or more years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $26. Would I buy it? Not quite my bag, but damn this is a lot of wine for $26. Very big recommendation from me.
Blue Pyrenees Section One Shiraz 2018
Always an expansive wine and nothing different here. I prefer the Cabernets from Blue Pyrenees, but plenty to like in the Shiraz line too. This Section One is dense, a little bit stewed but seriously concentrated, with an ocean of purple fruit, thick oak, the palate warm and a bit tart, slickly fruited and drying. It’s a bit overly dense – a force of slick purple fruit and oak – but that’s kinda the schtick too. It’s a little OTT, but I can recognise the appeal. Can be had with a decent discount if you look around too.
Best drinking: will benefit having a laydown then drink over many years. Decades, easy. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%,$44. Would I buy it? A glass.
Paisley Boombox Shiraz 2019
Barossa Shiraz from ‘DJ Deadly’ Fitzgerald. As I’ve said previously, such easy, old school appeal with the Paisley reds.
Dark purple coloured, this has molassses and deep plum fruit. Thick cut, open grained, old school Barossan generosity here, topped off with vanilla ice cream oak. The oak is a bit heavy handed, but the style is is what $25 Barossa red wine is all about.
Best drinking: good now, probably even better next year or the year after and will see out a decade. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass or so.
Vinden Wines Somerset Vineyard Fountainhead Shiraz 2019
Interesting to note the style evolution in just two vintages. This is much more traditional Hunter style. Matured in 25% new oak for 16 months. Still unfurling, proudly regional too with some tilled earth and leather, a little volatile, the palate pitches at prettiness but it’s rather tannic and angular to finish. There’s quality here, but arms and legs right now.
Best drinking: later. Maybe four years? It’s going to live. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 13.9%, $60. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2019
Filsell trying too hard to not be Filsell. It’s still an oak-smoothed Barossa red but if seems softer this year, the milky vanilla palate underpinned by more red fruit and less obviousness. I get the intention – to make this a bit more medium bodied – but it comes across as a bit innocuous, a little tart and just oaky. Missing some fruit weight too. It’s ok.
Best drinking: good now and will live, but it’s not a twenty year wine like it used to be. 17/20. 90/100. 14.5%, $45. Would I buy it? Probably not.
Lambert Estate First Chapter Shiraz 2019
I like this much more than the Commitment Shiraz which is much more expensive. An Oaky, coffeed, old school chunky Barossan red with forward plummy liqueured red fruit, oak tannins and then warming alcohol. Sophisticated it’s not. Hearty and regional? Definitely.
Best drinking: good now and for a decade I guess. 17/20. 90/100. 14.5%, $?. Would I buy it? Probably not.
Miles From Nowhere Best Blocks Shiraz 2019
Wilyabrup Shiraz from this value champion. Spends 14-18 months in barrel. Vanilla paste oak is the main flavour here, the mod weight red fruit palate sitting underneath. It’s moderate, svelte and ultimately oaky, but pleasant and lots of flavour for $25.
Best drinking: good now. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $24.99. Would I buy it? A glass.
Balgownie Estate Shiraz 2018
A bit of a miss for me. That said, I’m a Balownie Cab man by choice. Dark, drying, and black fruited edition that lacks a bit of energy this year. Oceans of dark fruit, but the tannins and back end look dessicated. Power, lacks a little grace. It’s still on this list as it’s still a silver medal quality wine. But a producer who makes gold medal quality wines typically.
Best drinking; it’s going to look better in time. Come back in five and then drink over fifteen. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $48. Would I buy it? Probably not.
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