David Hawkins on Barossa Shiraz - Wine & Spirits Magazine

David Hawkins on Barossa Shiraz

illustration by Gavin Reece

“Shiraz is what I grew up with,” says David Hawkins, an Australian who developed an extensive collection of Barossa shiraz while working on a trading desk at J.P. Morgan. His interest started early: Hawkins’s father was a big Rockford fan. “That was a benchmark,” he says. “The Black Shiraz was always our go-to for Christmas pudding.” He got on the mailing list at Rockford before heading to Tokyo in 1998, and started buying wine in Australia to store. “I thought when I went back I would have a good stock. The 1996s were just coming out and I bought a lot of Penfolds, E&E Black Pepper, Command and Rockford.”

David Hawkins David Hawkins
He kept buying for the next few years until he realized he wasn’t leaving Tokyo anytime soon. Now living in New York, he has a stock of well-aged shiraz on hand whenever he goes home. “My dad and my mother’s brother like a good old red on Boxing Day,” he says. “We start with turkey soup, then roast turkey, pork and ham and twenty-seven types of vegetables. Champagne, riesling, semillon with the soup, followed by shiraz. We’ll finish with the Black Shiraz from Rockford.”

While Hawkins says there’s a project underway to map the terroirs of Barossa, so far, the focus has been more on style than climate and soil differences. Then again, the most compelling wines he finds tend to be the ones with the longest histories—so who’s to say whether it’s style or terroir speaking.

1. Henschke Eden Valley Mount Edelstone Shiraz

“This is so enough that you can drink it when it’s three to five years old, with good purity of fruit,” Hawkins says. “That’s partly an elevation issue [1,300 feet, in the Eden Valley hills]—it has more
elegance than the big blends from Barossa. It’s from hundred-year-old vines, dry grown by the Henschke family, which has been around for generations.”

2. Ochota Barrels Marananga Shellac Vineyard Shiraz

“Forty-year-old vines may seem old in California, but they are not so old in Barossa. And this project started in 2000. Taras and Amber Ochota get this fruit from a vineyard between Roennfeldt
Road (Greenock Creek’s highest-level shiraz) and Torbreck’s Descendant Vineyard. He picks very early, works with 30 percent whole clusters, leaves it on the skins for 69 days, then it spends seven months in barrels; only a small amount of the oak is new. I wouldn’t say it’s light-bodied, but a genuine medium-bodied wine. Minerally, seamless, more tolerant of serving at room temperature—a wine you could sip on the back porch and watch the world go by, which is not something you can say about a lot of Aussie reds.”

3. Glaetzer Barossa Valley Bishop Shiraz

“Colin Glaetzer has been around forever, making wine at different places in Barossa. His son Ben came along and they started making wine under their own label. This is a mixture of young and old vines—35 and 120 years old, all Ebenezer fruit,” says Hawkins, referring to a district in far northern Barossa full of red soils and old bush-trained vines. “It’s a wine that’s approachable now—you get a mix of young-vine brightness and freshness and old-vine depth and dark fruit.”

4. Small Fry Barossa Valley Shiraz

“Suzi Hilder and Wayne Ahrens farm this old vineyard in Vine Vale,” Hawkins says, referring to a valley-floor district of sand and clay right in the center of the Barossa Valley. “It’s a hundred percent biodynamic—they are strong believers in wild ferments, with a let-the-wine-go-where-it-wants-to-go approach,” he says, finding that it stands out among Barossa’s dark, full-bodied reds for its texture: “It’s medium-bodied and subtle.” And yet, he adds, it’s structured enough to warrant more time in the cellar.

5. Kalleske Barossa Valley Moppa Shiraz

“Kalleske makes a lot of di erent wines,” Hawkins says. This one comes from the sandy soil of the Moppa District in northern Barossa, where the Kalleskes started their farm in 1853. “They harvest this quite early—end of February, early March. There’s a small amount of viognier and petit verdot in the blend. The farming is all organic, and they also use wild ferments.” He describes
it as “very old-school.”

6. Peter Lehmann Barossa Stonewell Shiraz

“The wine was named for the Stonewell area, but not all of the grapes come from there,” Hawkins explains. “It’s typically from a handful of growers in Barossa’s north and west—low-producing old vines, best plots in any given year. It’s more typical Barossa, with lots of chocolate and raspberry, as well as darker fruits; the wine has plenty of structure for aging but the tannins are typically quite soft, so it’s easy to drink from a young age.”

This story was featured in W&S Fall 2016.
illustration by Gavin Reece

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

This story appears in the print issue of fal 2016.
Like what you read? Subscribe today.