Focus on South Australia – Wine & Spirits Magazine

Focus on South Australia

Shiraz and Mediterranean Varieties


93             Spring Seed     $22     2018 McLaren Vale Scarlet Runner Shiraz (Best Buy)
Joch Bosworth and Louise Hemsley-Smith farm their vineyards in the eastern hills of McLaren Vale under organics, producing wines like this weird and wonderful shiraz. My first notes on the wine were "beautiful vegetable"; it presented a completely savory style so different from many of the fruit-driven wines in our tasting. Half of the wine ferments in old oak barrels, the rest in stainless steel, creating a bright, lithe shiraz with an earthy plum and cassis undertone, smoky, spicy and pleasingly bitter. Epicurean Wines, Seattle, WA

92             Chapel Hill     $22     2018 McLaren Vale The Parson Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre (Best Buy)
This wine's lifted perfume pours out of the glass with scents of roses, rose stems and purple fruit. It's youthfully waxy and bold, tough and tannic, needing bottle age to settle down, but there's a lot to develop in the bottle. American Estates Wines, Summit, NJ

91             Mitolo     $22     2019 McLaren Vale Jester Grenache (Best Buy)
Give this wine some time to get past its youthfully blunt, strawberry soda pop notes and you'll find an earthy, subtly spiced grenache that lasts on brisk red fruit. The fruit sweetness contrasts the sandy, salty tannins in a way that might make you smile, especially in the company of grilled lamb rubbed in Middle Eastern spices. Vintus, NY

91             Langmeil     $24     2020 Barossa Valley Rough Diamond Grenache (Best Buy)
A clean, fresh style of grenache from vines less than 20 years old, this is all about youthful fruit. Late-season strawberries and the tartness of sour cherries meld into the wine's light, airy tannins, which take it toward a savory, meaty tone. For lamb with fresh mint. Epicurean Wines, Seattle, WA

90             Handpicked Wines     $15     2017 South Australia Versions Shiraz (Best Buy)
This outperforms its price, a tarry shiraz with an explosive bitumen road scent, powered by alcohol and muscular tannins. The flavors are smoky and leathery, built for a gamey braise. American Spirits Exchange, Bridgeport, PA

90             Tim Smith     $25     2020 Barossa Valley Bugalugs Grenache (Best Buy)
This is grenache grown in sand, the vines planted in 1950, with a small contribution from mataro vines planted in 1880. Spontaneously fermented, it delivers a weird and wild savory red with cured-meat notes, scents of green olive and capers all contributing to an umami impression you can breathe. Right now, it's as salty and savory as MSG, needing time for the fruit to come forward. Little Peacock Imports, Brooklyn, NY

89             Wits End     $20     2020 McLaren Vale Luna Shiraz (Best Buy)
The Harvey family farms the Wits End vineyard on heavy black clay, working under organics. Their shiraz is cool and spicy, its anise scents perked up by a small percentage of barbera in the blend. A lithe, fruit-driven red that's simple and lasting. Little Peacock Imports, Brooklyn, NY

88             Yalumba     $21     2019 Barossa Samuel's Collection Bush Vine Grenache (Best Buy)
A simple, bright and juicy grenache, this wine's sweet red fruit and black pepper spice will settle in with roast lamb. Winebow, NY

88             Hewitson     $22     2018 Barossa Valley Miss Harry (Best Buy)
A blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvedre, this contrasts sweet black-currant flavors with earthy, smoky tannins. It's soft and simple, an easy red for a braise. Frederick Wildman & Sons, NY

88             Chapel Hill     $22     2019 McLaren Vale The Parson Shiraz (Best Buy)
High-toned cherry and blackberry scents meet some vegetal notes of coffee beans in this smoky shiraz. The vanilla and mint scents of oak sweeten the warm finish. For a braise. American Estates Wines, Summit, NJ

88             Tait     $23     2018 Barossa Valley The Wild Ride (Best Buy)
Sunny Barossa fruit pours through this wine, lasting in a bright and sweet finish. There's some bitterness in the acidity to balance that sweetness, a tangy red for Cantonese roast pork. Southern Starz, Huntington Beach, CA
93             Yalumba     $58     2017 Barossa Tri-Centenary Grenache
The 820 dry-grown grenache vines in this parcel date to 1889. In 2017, their fruit is pure Barossa in the reserve of sandy tannins and the red-cherry glow of the flavor. The wine's structure provides a sounding board for the fruit, reverberating through the finish of peach pit, rose and herb-scented air. It's fascinating to drink a pretty wine from such venerable vines. Winebow, NY

93             Yangarra     $200     2018 McLaren Vale High Sands Grenache
This is Peter Fraser's barrel selection of the best grenache from a parcel in Yangarra's Blewitt Springs vineyards, the vines planted in 1946 on three feet of silica sands over clay. He cold-soaks the fruit without its stems, half of it as whole berries, then allows it to ferment spontaneously, bringing out a complex perfume in the concentrated old-vine fruit. Even as the alcohol is apparent—giving the tannins a mouth puckering power—the wine feels cool and rich. The savory intensity takes grenache in a classical direction, with the kind of grandeur more typically found in the Rhône or in the hills above Madrid than in the New World. Sovereign Wine Imports, Santa Rosa, CA

92             Angove     $75     2019 McLaren Vale Warboys Vineyard Grenache
Light and fresh, this delivers a lot of flavor from a lean frame. The grenache-red fruit is clean, with bright acidity pointing up the strawberry and tarragon flavors. Then it finishes on a cola note in the end, to pour with lean game, whether kangaroo or elk. Trinchero Family Estates, St. Helena, CA

92             Living Roots     $28     2019 McLaren Vale Grenache
Sebastian Hardy met his wife and business partner, Colleen, when she left the Finger Lakes to work harvest at Tintara, the winery that Sebastian's ancestor, Thomas Hardy, had founded in 1861. They established Living Roots in 2016, based at Hardy's family vineyard in the hills above McLaren Vale, and at an urban winery in Rochester, New York. Their 2019 Grenache is a mix of old- and young-vine fruit, part plump and juicy, part tight and tense. It tastes like a perfectly ripe summer strawberry with a touch of wild to it. Living Roots, Rochester, NY

91             Langmeil     $24     2020 Barossa Valley Rough Diamond Grenache (Best Buy)
A clean, fresh style of grenache from vines less than 20 years old, this is all about youthful fruit. Late-season strawberries and the tartness of sour cherries meld into the wine's light, airy tannins, which take it toward a savory, meaty tone. For lamb with fresh mint. Epicurean Wines, Seattle, WA

91             Mitolo     $22     2019 McLaren Vale Jester Grenache (Best Buy)
Give this wine some time to get past its youthfully blunt, strawberry soda pop notes and you'll find an earthy, subtly spiced grenache that lasts on brisk red fruit. The fruit sweetness contrasts the sandy, salty tannins in a way that might make you smile, especially in the company of grilled lamb rubbed in Middle Eastern spices. Vintus, NY

90             Nick Haselgrove     $25     2018 McLaren Vale Blackbilly Grenache
The Aussies on our tasting panel found this to be "old school" in its savory edges and in the restrained intensity of its fruit. This American editor found it concentrated with black cherry, asphalt and cedary notes of oak. The alcohol and tannins give it a luscious texture, still unresolved, needing cellar time to integrate. Ecovalley, Salisbury, NC

90             Tim Smith     $25     2020 Barossa Valley Bugalugs Grenache (Best Buy)
This is grenache grown in sand, the vines planted in 1950, with a small contribution from mataro vines planted in 1880. Spontaneously fermented, it delivers a weird and wild savory red with cured-meat notes, scents of green olive and capers all contributing to an umami impression you can breathe. Right now, it's as salty and savory as MSG, needing time for the fruit to come forward. Little Peacock Imports, Brooklyn, NY
94             Penfolds     $800     2017 South Australia Grange
Cinnamon, star anise and five spice mark the oak scents of this latest vintage of Grange. It comes from a season that broke out of the drought with plentiful winter rains and few heat spikes in summer, but it doesn't yet show the drama of some of the top vintages of Penfolds' top wine. And it may well with time: After a day open, it begins to show its sleek beauty, the supple fruit battling primary oak tannins, filling them completely while not yet flipping into the seat of power. A stealth Grange, this needs ten years or more to reveal itself more fully. Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA

92             Penfolds     $150     2018 South Australia St. Henri Shiraz
Post WWII, as winemaking moved into the modern era, there was a decades'-long shift toward stainless steel and new oak barrels. At Penfolds, that shift began with Max Schubert's development of Grange, finishing top selections of shiraz in new French oak barrels. But the company never abandoned its old oak vats, sustaining an alternate top selection of shiraz as St. Henri, which never sees a barrel. This 2018 takes St. Henri's savory style toward richness, lasting on sweet blueberry fragrance and gentle, meaty tannins. The wine needs a day or two to open; better to wait on it in the cellar for a decade or more, when it will deliver its riches and restraint with complexity. Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA

93             Penfolds     $150     2019 Adelaide Magill Estate Shiraz
This grows at a small vineyard on Dr. Penfolds' original estate in the hills above Adelaide. In 2019, those vines produced a succulent shiraz, with a brisk mineral character of crushed rock layered into the sunny ripeness of fruit. It has the smooth richness of a great Penfolds wine, balanced to age with grace. Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA

92             Charlotte Dalton     $33     2019 Adelaide Hills Love Me Love You
Charlotte Dalton Hardy (a New Zealander, no relation to the South Australian Hardy family) makes this wine from two family-run vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, Deanery and Downer. Its ripe strawberry-red fruit gives a brisk take on shiraz, a clean, sleek wine with stamina. Wine Dogs, NY

92             Vintage Longbottom     $80     2019 Adelaide Hills Henry's Drive Magnus Shiraz
Matt Wenk makes this wine from vineyards in Clarendon and Blewitt Springs, the elevations offering bold cranberry and huckleberry fruit that lasts in a clean red line. Peppery and gentle, it has the sweet-savory balance to take on barbecued brisket. Quintessential, Napa, CA

93             Penfolds     $100     2019 Barossa Valley Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz
From a historic sub-region west of Penfolds' winery in Nuriootpa, this wine transforms central Barossa fruit into a sleek textural pleasure. It's a substantial wine, "a thumper," as one panelist described it, but following on the upfront oak, then the plum and prune richness, there's complexity that pours out in the end with a low spark of red spice. Cellar it until you plan to braise duck in red wine and prunes. Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA

93             Penfolds     $150     2019 Barossa Valley RWT Bin 798 Shiraz
Peter Gago, Penfolds' Chief Winemaker, spent his early years at the firm developing RWT, an exploration of Grange-level shiraz from Barossa aged in new French oak barrels (Grange finishes its fermentation and ages in new American oak barrels). More than two decades on, the RWT style has focused on shiraz with the aromatic and textural finesse to marry with the new French oak. This 2019 is floral, with scents of jasmine rice and sour cherries, lasting with spicy length. Its elegance shows in a texture that is not juicy—more about grape skins than juice, even as those skins are saturated with flavor. Clean and bright, this is an earthy wine with youthful tension, one that will age with grace. Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA

92             Elderton     $117     2017 Barossa Valley Command Shiraz
A tarry powerhouse, this wine keeps its cool against the bitumen and intensity with red fruit providing some levity. The oak scents and tannins stand apart at the moment, needing time in bottle to integrate, with plenty of fruit freshness to sustain the wine as it ages. Broadbent Selections, Richmond, VA

91             Yalumba     $48     2017 Barossa Valley Paradox Shiraz
This is a selection from growers in the warm northern districts of Barossa, aged in French oak barrels (15 percent new) where it picked up a bacon-fat richness. The wine's red-berry flavors merge into pleasantly bitter tannins, meaty in their umami savor, lasting on smoke, salinity and green herb highlights to the fruit. Winebow, NY

94             Jim Barry     $48     2016 Clare Valley The McRae Wood Shiraz
A beautiful 2016, this is named for the property Jim Barry purchased from the McRae Wood family, where he planted vines for the Armagh. It includes declassified lots from the old vines that produce the Armagh, as well as fruit from Barry's other Clare vineyards. The wine's integration shows in the way you can taste the flavors in the structure, with powerful black tannins transparent to the cool notes of red currant and tar. Lasting on flavor detail that stays on the breath, this delivers Clare's balance of grandeur and fragility in a wine that will live for a decade or more. Loosen Bros. USA, Oregon City, OR

90             Jim Barry     $300     2017 Clare Valley The Armagh Shiraz
Jim Barry planted this vineyard in 1968, on a northwest-facing sand-and-gravel slope near the hamlet of Armagh. Those old vines produce a concentrated shiraz with Clare's cool tones of forest and earth. Rich and smoky from its 18 months in oak, this needs some bottle age to stretch into its structure. There's plenty of lovely black fruit to sustain it as it rests. Loosen Bros. USA, Oregon City, OR

90             Penfolds     $40     2019 Coonawarra Bin 128 Shiraz
This wine's brisk blueberry flavor has a bright ripeness. It's firmly structured by the lean tannins that grapes develop in Coonawarra's terra rossa soils over limestone. A touch of volatility points up some barnyard scents in the end. For grilled lamb kabobs. Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA

95             Yangarra Estate     $110     2018 McLaren Vale Ironheart Shiraz
Peter Fraser and Michael Lane rely on a gravelly outcrop of ironstone in the midst of their sandy soils to farm their flagship shiraz. In 2018, that parcel gave a wine of sunny intensity and athletic grace, its mineral power resonating within the frame of the oak tannins, its fruit continuing to gain layers of freshness over the course of days. Panelists described the wine's complexities before turning back toward its fruit, which ranges from "black currant pastilles" to "plum leather and blueberry leather," before the fresher elements of those fruits come forward with air. A great vintage of Ironheart, this should age for decades. Sovereign Wine Imports, Santa Rosa, CA

93             Yangarra Estate     $60     2019 McLaren Vale King's Wood Shiraz
Michael Lane, who renovated the vines at Yangarra, grows this fruit at a 5.7-acre block where the shiraz grows on sand mixed with ironstone. That fruit ferments spontaneously with 25 percent of its whole bunches, then ages in large French oak foudres , allowing the minerality to race along with the black cherry flavors unbridled. Jason Hoy, of Tucker Silk Mill in Easton, PA, compared this wine's elegance to the feel of a St-Joseph. "It has light, savory fruit without being vegetal," he said. David Hawkins, who also grew up in Australia, found it "very McLaren," especially in the balanced sweetness of that fruit. Either way, it's bold and delicious. Sovereign Wine Imports, Santa Rosa, CA

92             Mitolo     $75     2018 McLaren Vale Savitar Shiraz
Savitar grows at a small parcel within the Lopresti Vineyard, about 2.5 miles inland from Port Willunga on the south coast of McLaren Vale. The vines are more than 40 years old and grow in a rocky soil over black clay, producing a wine that takes some time to go from finely made and simple to bold and saturated with juicy richness. Decant it for clean and heady pleasure with a pan-seared steak. Vintus, NY

91             Hickinbotham     $75     2019 McLaren Vale Brooks Road Shiraz
The team at Yangarra started bottling wine from their Hickinbotham estate in 2012. The dry-farmed vineyard in Clarendon produced a shiraz with the meatiness and bloodiness of rare roast beef, backed up by McLaren Vale tannins that add a black mushroom savor. It's smooth and ripe, a pleasure with filet mignon. Sovereign Wine Imports, Santa Rosa, CA

91             Hugh Hamilton     $55     2018 McLaren Vale The Odd Ball Saperavi
These 12-year-old vines produced a cool and zesty red wine, delivering black fruit under notes of orange bitters and sappy tannins. It's loose and juicy, made for calf liver sautŽed with onions and bacon. Vino Logics Corp, Boston, MA

91             Tiny Paradoxes     $$25     2020 McLaren Vale Shiraz
From David Paxton's vineyards, certified biodynamic, this wine has a cool current of mineral spice running underneath its brambly black raspberry flavor. The texture is full and rich, cut by zesty freshness. Little Peacock Imports, Brooklyn, NY

90             Mitolo     $30     2019 McLaren Vale Angela Shiraz
A bright splash of cherry seems to take the wine's color directly into its flavor, packed with black cherry in the middle, a little salty, a little jangly in its acidity, which needs six months of rest in the cellar to integrate into the wine. Then catch it while it's still lively and fresh. Vintus, NY
90             John Duval     $60     2018 Barossa Valley Annexus Mataro
John Duval sources this fruit from a grower in Light Pass, who dry farms these century-old mataro vines. They produce concentrated fruit, a heavy drape of black cherry and red cherry flavors which Duval further enriches over the course of 15 months in French oak hogsheads. The oak points up the sweetness of the fruit in a wine for smoky barbecue. Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA

90             Schwarz Wine Co.     $58     2019 Barossa Valley Meta Mataro
Jason Schwarz grew up in Bethany, later working internationally in wine marketing before returning to Barossa to make his own wine. Today, he works with growers in Bethany, Vine Vale and Moppa to source the fruit for this mataro, which he allows to ferment spontaneously in open-top vats, crushing the grapes by foot. So, yes, the wine is a bit volatile, emphasizing earthiness over freshness, but the fruit comes through in the rough and tumble juice of black raspberry, black cherry and blackberry. It has intensity and length without feeling heavy, the tannins bolstering the stony, umami savor. Kysela Pre & Fils, Winchester, VA
90             Henschke     $48     2019 Barossa Henry's Seven
Mostly shiraz (74 percent, co-fermented with a little viognier), this blend includes grenache and mataro grown in Eden Valley and Barossa. It's a plump and voluptuous red, with sour-cherry fruit to tone down the richness. Dense and satisfying, this is ready to pour with roast lamb. Winebow, NY

90             Henschke     $72     2016 Barossa Keyneton Euphonium
Named for the b-flat euphonium in the Henschke's collection of instruments that were part of the Henschke Family Band in the 19th century, this is a plummy and perfumed blend of shiraz with the menthol notes of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and franc. Dry notes of fig and leather meet fresh black cherry and raspberry fruit in the middle, a saturated, warm-hearted red built for lamb roasted with eggplant. Winebow, NY

92             Henschke     $66     2018 Barossa Valley Johann's Garden
The Henschkes source this fruit from a collection of dry-grown parcels, focusing on limestone soils and vines that average 80 years old. The blend is 77 percent grenache, with mataro and shiraz, a clean and fragrant red that offers up its flavor density without weight. Strawberry, lemon and mint come together in a bright, lifted red for braised beef tripe. Winebow, NY

91             Penfolds     $40     2019 Barossa Valley Bin 138 Red Blend
The Penfolds team focuses this blend of shiraz, grenache and mataro on old-vine parcels in Barossa. It's fruit-driven, contrasting the flavors of bright Bing and tart Morello cherries. The tannins carry a range of spice, red cinnamon, nutmeg and green-peppercorn edges to their black touches of tar. Decant it for roast squab. Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA

92             Tim Smith     $35     2019 Barossa Valley M.G.S.
This is mostly mataro grown in white sand (60 percent of the blend), the balance grenache and shiraz, the vines dating from 1878 on to 1956. Fermented in stainless steel without added yeasts, it ages in oak barrels that are more than five years old, sustaining its fruit briskness, brightness and length of flavor. This feels lithe and mouthwatering, spiced by the cracked green peppercorn notes of mataro, underscored by light strawberry and darker cherry flavors. Little Peacock Imports, Brooklyn, NY

93             Nick Haselgrove     $25     2019 McLaren Vale Blackbilly Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre
Grenache accounts for 65 percent of this blend, the fruit grown at a vineyard planted in 1910. The scent of tar and roses comes in at high volume, even as the wine holds to a savory grace. It's clean and fragrant, a McLaren Vale wine packed with flavor, iron-like power and friendly richness. Ecovalley, Salisbury, NC

92             Chapel Hill     $22     2018 McLaren Vale The Parson Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre (Best Buy)
This wine's lifted perfume pours out of the glass with scents of roses, rose stems and purple fruit. It's youthfully waxy and bold, tough and tannic, needing bottle age to settle down, but there's a lot to develop in the bottle. American Estates Wines, Summit, NJ

92             Vintage Longbottom     $50     2020 McLaren Vale Henry's Drive Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon
Shiraz makes up 55 percent of this blend, from four vineyards throughout McLaren Vale, while the cabernet comes from one parcel of 65-year-old vines in the southwest. That cabernet contributes acidity that keeps the wine feeling cool and fresh. It seems a little underripe at first, but that turns toward cracked green peppercorn, strawberries and brisk salt air as the wine opens over several days. This will take well to a few years of cellaring. Quintessential, Napa, CA

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

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