The second part of a summary on Australian Shiraz producers
The commentary below is from one of Australia's most distinguished wine identity's - scholar, wine judge, author, valuer and auctioneer - Andrew Caillard MW. I have deleted some text not related to shiraz and added some comments of my own.
Part 2. L - Z
Langmeil, Barossa Valley
In the early 1840s Christian Auricht, a blacksmith and newly arrived from Prussia, acquired some land at the new village of Langmeil in the Barossa. He planted a mixed orchard and Shiraz vineyard. He built a butcher’s shop, a bakery, a blacksmithy and the first village well. During the early days it was a coaching point where travellers stopped on their way to Kapunda and Burra. The Auricht family sold the buildings and land in the 1930s.
A winery called Paradale was established on the site, but was again sold in the 1970s and renamed Bernkastel wines. In 1988 Langmeil was established by Richard Lindner, Chris Bitter and Carl Lindner – all Barossa-born and bred. A small patch, roughly 3½ acres of original Shiraz vines planted in the early 1840s remained intact. These vines are the source for Langmeil’s flagship wine The Freedom Shiraz, so named to recollect the early Lutheran pioneers of Langmeil who escaped religious persecution and political turmoil in Prussia.
It is a traditional but concentrated Barossa style with lashings of sweet fruit, ripe tannins and oak. The wine is open fermented and then matured for up to 24 months in a combination of new and old French oak. The Orphan Bank Shiraz which sees a combination of new and used/seasoned American and French oak (proportions vary according to vintage) is a bloody good stock-in-trade style with plenty of fruit generosity and flavour length. The Fifth Wave Grenache, based on dry grown 60 year old vines is a powerful maturation style. The Three Gardens Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre is a classic juicy wine. Langmeil produces a number of other wines including a limited release Jackaman’s Cabernet Sauvignon based on southern Barossa fruit.
Winemaker Paul Lindner belongs to a new generation of winemakers who believe that the fruit should be allowed to resonate with its origins. Oak is therefore always matched according to the overall volume and character of fruit. Langmeil has a moderate presence on the secondary wine market. The wines, however, are really good.
McWilliam's Mount Pleasant, Hunter Valley
The Mount Pleasant winery was established in 1880 by Charles King and then purchased by the legendary pioneer winemaker Maurice O’Shea, considered one of the fathers of the modern day wine industry. His legacy of great old Hunter wines and winemaking philosophy are still widely respected. The current owner McWilliam's purchased a half share in the winery in 1932 eventually securing full ownership.
Although the Shirazes have an impressive heritage, based on 1880 vines and having once been made by Maurice O’Shea, the overall style is blurred. The OP and OH (Old Paddock and Old Hill) Shiraz, Rosehill Shiraz and Maurice O’Shea Shiraz are all consistent and beautifully evocative Hunter reds. These are all emerging wines on the secondary market, slowly gathering momentum as the market rediscovers the beauty of the Hunter Valley.
Mitchelton, Nagambie Lakes
Located near Tahbilk, Mitchelton was established by Ross Shelmerdine a Melbourne entrepreneur in 1969 at Blackwood Park, an old grazing station on the edge of Nagambie Lakes. The vineyard site is adjacent to an important early river crossing, discovered in 1836 by Major Mitchell who opened up the route between Sydney and Melbourne.
Colin Preece (of Seppelt Great Western fame) steered this venture through the early years. From 1974 Don Lewis, the retired but long standing and long suffering winemaker, built up a strong and loyal following. Mitchelton is now a member of the large Lion Nathan group, the owners of Stoniers, Petaluma and St Hallett.
The highly seductive and perfumed Central Victorian Mitchelton Print Shiraz came to prominence in 1991 when it won the prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy for the 1990 vintage. Then154 hectare Mitchelton estate vineyard hugs a horseshoe bend of the Goulburn River. This body of cool water can moderate temperatures by up to 2 degrees Centigrade. The wine is based on selected fruit from the 35 year old Crescent and D Blocks located respectively on alluvial red brown loam soils and heavier clays. These gnarled “phylloxerated” and low yielding vines have somehow survived through symbiosis. The 15 year old Airstrip Block – on rootstocks – also contributes exceptional fruit.
Winemaking follows the maxim: ‘Maximum attention, minimum intervention’. The wine is fermented in headed down static fermenters and matured for 16-18 months in a combination of new (around 35-40%) and old French oak. This is a superbly concentrated single estate wine with chocolaty tannin structures and mocha oak complexity.
The Heathcote Shiraz is archetypal.
Mount Langi Ghiran, Grampians
Langi Ghiran means ‘The home of the yellow tailed black cockatoo’. The Fratin brothers planted the vineyards in the late 1960s. The late Trevor Mast, Best’s Great Western’s winemaker at the time, was the winemaking consultant for many years, before purchasing the property in 1987.
The winery and land was subsequently purchased in 2002 by the Rathbone Family Group, owners of Yering Station, Parker Coonawarra Estate and Xanadu. The spectacular vineyard, originally planted in the late 1960’s, lies at the base of the 540 metre cliff face of Mt Langi Ghiran. The well ventilated site is trellised to an arched cane system which promotes an open canopy and more even budburst. Vinification takes place in shallow open fermenters with regular hand plunging. The wine is aged in a combination of American and French oak barriques and puncheons for approximately 12 months before bottling.
The wine is renowned for its hallmark spice aromas. Mast believed this was partly explained by the old vine selection introduced by Swiss settlers and the particularly long ripening period in autumn. In a cool vintage the wine shows distinct white pepper/raspberry aromas and flavours. In warm years it can have intense raspberry/blackberry/cracked pepper aromas but ripe elegantly structured palate. In a great vintage it can outclass some of the most famous Shirazes in the country.
Significant capital investment has allowed expansion of vineyards and a new winery. Langi Shiraz is still considered one of the top five Shirazes from Victoria. The wines are elegant, fruit-driven styles, underpinned by a combination of American and French oak of varying ages and sizes. Restrained but complex, with long-term ageing potential, they make excellent foils to the Barossa Valley style.
The Langi Shiraz is a strong market performer especially for recognised vintages. Its resilience is further illustrated by the solid price realisations when unusually high volumes have reached the secondary wine market. The young vines Cliff Edge and independently grown Billi Billi Shirazes are second and third tier wines of varying success.
Paringa Estate, Mornington Peninsula
Paringa Estate, located at Red Hill in the Mornington Peninsula, is a much feted label with an extraordinary track record of gold wine show medals, trophies and other accolades. Established in 1988 by schoolteacher Lindsay McCall with limited capital and resources the winery has since thrived with the reputation of making one of the finest Pinot Noirs in the country and an outstandingly beautiful Shiraz.
Paringa Estate first specialised in red grapes because “red wine could be made in the garage and you didn’t need refrigeration”. Paringa has about 10 acres of vines and a further two leased/managed vineyards in Callanan’s Road and Paringa Road, all on basalt clay soils. The Lyre (or U) trellised vineyards are designed to divide the canopy and maximise light penetration and fruit quality. Vineyard management is all about achieving optimum ripeness in what is often regarded as a marginal wine-growing region.
The Reserve Shiraz, with its remarkable blackberry pastille/pepper aromas and richly concentrated palate, is an utterly seductive style.
Lindsay McCall is an absolute master of his craft.
Penfolds, Barossa Valley
Penfolds is probably the most extraordinary of the world’s wine brands with an enviable reputation for quality at every price level. The original Penfold was an English doctor who, in 1844, planted grapes at Magill, now a suburb of Adelaide. It is really only since the late 1940s that Penfolds has forged a reputation for red wine. Penfolds traditional reds are mostly multi-regional blends.
Penfolds House Style emerged from a fortified wine producing culture and evolved as a winemaking philosophy – a way of making wine – which has had a profound effect on the entire Australian wine industry. The development of red table wines during the 1950s was underpinned by an investment in new vineyards, winemaking equipment, skilled personnel and perhaps most importantly research and experimentation.
Penfolds already had a reputation (within the wine industry) for its ground-breaking work during the 1930s and 1940s in overcoming spoilage and wine stability problems, an industry-wide concern. It employed a full-time chemist, Ray Beckwith, to investigate and research every aspect of the wine making process and to develop ways of improving all Penfolds wines. His contribution underpinned the extraordinary creative development of Penfolds Grange and St Henri during the 1950s by Max Schubert and John Davoren.
A preventative winemaking making regime, a team of highly intuitive and imaginative winemakers, and benevolent, production-orientated owners (particularly Jeffrey Penfold Hyland) provided an atmosphere of creativity and innovation. The remarkable ‘Story of Grange’ written by Max Schubert gives an insightful view of the times. While he was ordered to stop production of Grange in 1957, Penfolds had already set an irrevocable course towards table wine production.
The friendly rivalry between Max Schubert and John Davoren resulted in a wide, rather than narrow winemaking perspective. However the development of Grange had a major impact on Penfolds winemaking culture. St Henri, a traditional style, inevitably played a cameo role. Penfolds House Style embraces the concept of multi-regional blending, optimum fruit quality, the use of fine-grained American (and increasingly French) oak, barrel fermentation and maturation.
Max Schubert, who was appointed production manager at Magill Estate in 1948, was an early proponent of regional definition. His fascination and specific demands of fruit quality resulted in a comprehensive understanding of vineyard performance. He said, “The development of a new commercial wine, particularly of the high grade range, depends on the quality and availability of the raw material, the maintenance of standard and continuity of style.” He achieved this through identifying specific vineyards sites and developing relationships with growers. He once observed, while developing Grange, that using Shiraz from two specific vineyards would “result in an improved all-round wine”.
During the 1950s Max Schubert searched widely for suitable fruit particularly in the foothills around Adelaide, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. Both Max Schubert and John Davoren were mindful of vinification and maturation practices in Bordeaux. The development of both Grange and St Henri was modelled on Claret styles. The availability of Bordeaux grape varieties in South Australia, however, was limited. Schubert soon favoured Shiraz, largely because of the spectrum of ripe flavours, tannin structures and the relative ease of supply. He struggled initially with Cabernet Sauvignon because of its scarcity and capricious nature in the South Australian climate.
John Davoren was also similarly constrained although both winemakers would use Cabernet to add perfume and structure to their wines. The release of Bin 389 in 1960, a Cabernet Shiraz blend which is now considered the quintessential Australian wine, reflects the winemaking attitude of the time: that Cabernet Sauvignon did not have the power or mid palate intensity to be made as a single wine. Improved vineyard management, site selection and winemaking have resulted in the subsequent releases of Bin 707 and Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The concept of multi-regional and vineyard blending – a feature of the Penfolds House style – is an amplification of the ‘all-round wine’. Without the constraints of a single vineyard, winemakers could choose the best possible fruit with “the outstanding characteristics of each vineyard”. This idea gathered pace during the 1960s, largely as a result of the success of Bin 389 and experimental cross-regional blends such as Penfolds Bin 60A. This method of fruit selection also contributed to a consistency of style. As the volume of production increased over the years a method of classification was introduced to earmark particular fruit for individual Bin numbers. This selection process has been further refined allowing extraordinary blending options. The Rewards of Patience tasting showed that optimising fruit quality in blends does not compromise vintage character.
The felicitous choice of using American oak was one of availability. Max Schubert had noticed during his visit to Bordeaux in 1949 that some winemakers used new “raw” oak during vinification and maturation. Actually he stumbled across a rare practice. Few Clarets at that time completed fermentation in barrel. However it was true that top Chateau employed new oak during maturation, the percentage used depending on the quality of the vintage. His experiments with Shiraz and American oak were profound. He discovered that if the wine completed fermentation in new American oak the two components would generate a tremendous “volume of bouquet and flavour”. Max Schubert remarked that, “It was almost as if the new wood had acted as a catalyst to release previously unsuspected flavours from the Hermitage (sic) grape.”
The release of Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz and Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz in 1962 pre-empted the contemporary enthusiasm for regional definition by about 25 years. Max Schubert applied many of the techniques used in the research and development of Grange, using American oak and barrel fermentation. All the same the difference between the ripe opulent Bin 28 and elegant structured Bin 128 illustrate strong regional differences.
While American oak has played a central role in the development of Penfolds red wines, French oak has been increasingly used in the evolution of new wines, particularly RWT and Yattarna. Don Ditter, who became Chief Winemaker in 1975, introduced French oak to the elegantly structured Bin 128 as a way of refining the style and emphasizing its regional characteristics. RWT Barossa Shiraz, which is barrel fermented, is also particularly suited to the savoury nuances of French oak. Nowadays Magill Estate Shiraz is matured in two thirds French oak and Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon in 50% French oak.
Maturation in oak, which follows fermentation, is also a key to the Penfold House Style. Penfolds Grange, which is matured in American oak for a period of 18 months, benefits greatly from the ageing process where aromas and flavours derived from both fruit and oak evolve and tannins polymerise and soften. At the other end of the spectrum is Penfolds St Henri which benefits from the maturation effect rather than from the influence of new oak.
The Penfolds approach to winemaking has percolated through the Australian wine industry over the last 50 years. The use of American oak and barrel fermentation – for instance – is considered these days as a traditional Barossa winemaking practice! The techniques employed in the research and development of Penfolds wines are astonishing. Max Schubert and his team pioneered: major advances in yeast technology and paper chromatography; the understanding and use of pH in controlling bacterial spoilage; the use of headed down/submerged cap fermentation and the technique of rack and return; cold fermentation practices; the use of American oak as a maturation vessel and perhaps most critically – partial barrel fermentation. The Penfolds Wine Making Philosophy is the accumulation of more than half-a-century of knowledge and winemaking practice initiated by Max Schubert and subsequently refined by Don Ditter, John Duval and Peter Gago.
Overall, the Penfolds style is about highly-defined fruit aromas, fruit sweetness, ripe tannins, richness, power and concentration. Penfolds Grange, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, St Henri, Magill Estate and Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz are all strongly sought after on the secondary wine market.
Penfolds RWT Barossa Shiraz is a strengthening prestige wine based on Barossa fruit. Both Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz and Bin128 Coonawarra Shiraz can hardly be described as little wines, even though they are at the lower end of the Penfolds hierarchy.
Despite this, winemakers have always been allowed to research and experiment with new wines and styles. This has resulted in a remarkable list of great, interesting and innovative wines. Penfolds Bin 60A, a 1962 blend of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon and Kalimna Shiraz, has often been described as the greatest red wine ever made in Australia. Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1966 and Bin 7 of 1967 were also well sought after.
The most famous recent experimental wines are Bin 80A-1980, Bin 820-1982, Bin 90A-1990, Bin 920-1990, Bin 60A 2004 each reflecting the original styles of the 1960s.
Peter Lehmann, Barossa Valley
As a young man Peter Lehmann worked at Yalumba during the 1940s, beginning a lifetime of great achievement in the Barossa Valley. He is one of the most important characters in the Barossa. The son of a Lutheran pastor, Lehmann kept the spirit alive during periods of severe economic downturn. His reward is access to some of the very best fruit in the Barossa Valley.
The winery owns approximately 73 hectares of vineyard including the famed Stonewell Vineyard. However this only amounts to approximately 3% of production. The winery relies hugely on the trust, loyalty and friendships that have been built up with independent growers over the last 40 years.
With a reputation for making quality Shiraz since the 1950s Lehmann’s foil of 24 vintages is Andrew Wigan who represents in winemaking terms a blend of traditional thought and modern practice. Stonewell Shiraz reflects a fundamental truth of the wine industry: that vineyards, left alone, are the only constant. Superb, immensely concentrated, low-yield fruit, combined with skilled winemaking, is the basis of this great Australian Shiraz.
The wine is derived from 14 Shiraz vineyards located in the drier sub-districts of the Barossa, such as Stonewell (hence the name), Marananga, Greenock, Kalimna and Ebenezer. Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz is made from the best, most concentrated, parcels from each vintage. It is a classical/modern style, barrel fermented in new French and American oak and then matured for up to 2 years in the same barrels. These wines show plenty of Christmas cake/plum/chocolate aromas, sweet fruit, structured tannins, well-seasoned oak flavours and tremendous length. This wine is hugely undervalued when compared to other Barossa classics.
The beautifully packaged Eight Songs Barossa Valley Shiraz, matured in French oak and produced in minute quantities, has a compelling regional quality.
Peter and Margaret Lehmann are still involved in the wine business and actively involved in the Barossa community. Peter’s son Douglas, and Peter and Margaret’s son Phil (almost a generation apart), both continue to fly the family flag at Peter Lehmann. This family’s contribution to the Barossa is a great Australian story. Without question Peter Lehmann is a living legend; a man possessing great wisdom and courage. Not to mention the best “short order cook” in the state.
Since 2003 Peter Lehmann Wines has been a member of the Hess Group – owner of four great wineries under one sky: Peter Lehmann Wines in the Barossa Valley, The Hess Collection Winery in the Napa Valley, Glen Carlou in South Africa and Bodega Colomé in Argentina.
Pikes, Clare Valley
Like Mitchell, this small Clare Valley producer deserves more recognition for its beautifully defined Rieslings and fruit driven Shirazes. Pikes Wines was established in 1984 by Neil and Andrew Pike and now comprises 140 acres/55 hectares of southeast facing vineyard planted on red/brown earth over yellow clay subsoil and slate in the cool Polish Hill River sub-region of the Clare Valley.
The vines are trellised to a single wire with moveable foliage wires for vertical shoot positioning. Supplementary irrigation is used only when necessary. The fruit is all picked by hand at optimum ripeness.
All of the old reserve wines have been given new names based on family.The Merle Riesling (named after Merle Pike) is a profoundly aromatic and concentrated wine with plenty of lemon curd aromas and minerally acidity. The EWP Reserve Shiraz – with a touch of Viognier – is named after Edgar Walter Pike and is matured for 24 months in new French oak.
Plantagenet Mount Barker, Great Southern
When original proprietor Tony Smith, a member of the prominent British bookselling family, established a sheep farm in the very isolated Great Southern region of Western Australia it took a few years for him to realise that the future was in ultra-fine wine rather than ultra-fine wool.
The vineyards are the oldest in the Mount Barker sub-region producing extraordinarily high quality fruit.
The Shiraz (first vintage 1974) is a definitive Great Southern style and derives principally from the estate’s cool climate vineyards Bouverie and Wyjup and the warmer sited Charleston Vineyard. The wine is matured in 40% new and old French oak for a period of 16-18 months.
Plantagenet, now owned by WA based family owned Lionel Samson Group, has established a very fine reputation for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
Rockford, Barossa Valley
Robert O’Callaghan belongs to a genre of visionary winemakers that include Max Schubert, Peter Lehmann, Jeffrey Grosset, Brian Croser and David Hohnen. His proteges include Chris Ringland and Dave Powell. Rockford wines have had a profound influence on winemaking philosophy and wine style in the Barossa.
During the early 1980s the technocrats and style merchants said the future was cool climate viticulture – literally causing a widespread uprooting of old vines – known as the vine pull scheme. Robert O'Callaghan's deep sense of history and belief in traditional Barossa values began a vinous counter-reformation. He has singularly inspired a whole generation of Barossa winemakers.
Rockford embraces the inherent qualities of old vine Shiraz: the physicality of winemaking where muscle and personal touch transform process into an art-form; the traditional tools of trade (basket press, open fermenter) and the complementary nuances of American and French oak maturation without smothering fruit. O'Callaghan's commitment to labour-intensive techniques for the sake of going the extra mile in quality makes Rockford Basket Press the quintessential hand-made wine. It encapsulates traditional and contemporary winemaking practice and philosophy.
The Shiraz fruit is sourced from local growers on many of the best dry grown old vine Shiraz vineyards in the Barossa including around Kalimna, Ebenezer, Moppa Springs, the Eden Valley and Central Barossa. The vines are between 60 and 136 years old, giving fruit of tremendous colour, power and richness. Rockford Basket Press Shiraz, now presented in the most lovely brown 50s style bottle, is made in the classic mould with strong, ripe, blackberry and fine chocolate fruit characters underscored by excellent palate richness, well-seasoned American and French oak and ripe tannins. This is a very approachable wine style suited to both relatively early drinking and medium to long term cellaring. It is curious that so many people think of this wine as being massively structured – as it is so clearly not!
O'Callaghan also makes a mean but idiosyncratic Sparkling Black Shiraz, a style that is highly sought after. It is a non-vintage wine, although the date of tirage is on the back label. This wine is produced in minute quantities and is absolutely delicious – the ‘crave factor’ can override all logic.
The Home Block is a cellar-door-only release. Rockford has recently released a special selection of single vineyard Shirazes – Flaxman (Eden Ridge), Moorooroo (near Kalimna) and Hoffman (Ebenezer). These wines are ‘one-offs’, especially made for Robert O’Callaghan’s long term and loyal customers. They are completely different to his Basket Press, embracing the fascination of single vineyards, sub-regional provenance and fruit power.
O’Callaghan is keen to keep Rockford away from the trophy hunters and maintain a price level that is affordfor his customers. His long-term supporters are a major priority. It is ironic therefore that quality, reputation and scarcity make such a double-edged sword.
Saltram, Barossa Valley
Saltram’s first vintage was in 1862 and comprised 8,200 litres of Shiraz wine. Established by William Salter, it is one of the Barossa’s early producers. In 1876 Saltram won a medal at the Philadelphia International Exhibition. In 1882, it made an arrangement with Thomas Hardy and Sons to market Saltram wines in the UK. In 1891 the winery purchased a hydraulic press and a four horsepower steam engine. A cooling system was also employed where cold water was pumped through copper pipes to cool down fermentation.
The winery fell out of family hands in 1941 when it became a subsidiary of H.M Martin of Stonyfell. Saltram has only had 8 winemakers, including the great Peter Lehmann. Saltram has had its fair share of takeovers. It is famous for the Metala Shiraz Cabernet, released under the Stonyfell name and then Saltram. It was one of the most popular dry reds of the 1960s and at one stage ‘pound for pound’ a real competitor to Penfolds Grange.
However the Saltram and Stonyfell connection was confusing and the vision for the future blurred by poor marketing. The Saltram Mamrebrook is a popular commercial brand. Saltram No. I Shiraz is a top notch Barossa Shiraz and fills a gap in the premium market at its price point. It’s more than half-decent and worth seeking out.
The Eighth maker Shiraz is an ultra plush Barossa Shiraz made by eighth winemaker Nigel Dolan, whose father Brian was also winemaker and manager during the 1950s and 1960s. This is an attempt to make something different and expensive. The 2002 vintage won the Jimmy Watson Trophy – which kind of says it all. Nigel Dolan has since shifted camps and moved up to the Hunter Valley at Wyndham Estate.
Seppelt Great Western, Grampians
Seppelt at Great Western was built at the end of the gold rush when scores of out-of-work prospectors built its extensive drives and cellars. Originally established by Joseph Best, it passed to Hans Irvine and then to Seppelt in 1918.
Seppelt Great Western is where Colin Preece, one of the fathers of the modern day wine industry, also plied his craft. Retired winemaker Ian Mackenzie steered Seppelt during the 1980s and 1990s as its chief winemaker and architect. This venerable old winery is now a Victorian icon representing a connection with the past, but also illustrating the possibilities of the future.
Seppelt St Peters Great Western Shiraz is sourced from low yielding vineyards and planted on weathered volcanic soils. St Peter’s Vineyard and Imperial Vineyard were established in the 1930s and Police and McKenzie Vineyards established in the late 1970s. The fruit is cold soaked before batch vinification in a combination of static and open top fermenters. It takes about 5 days before natural ferments commence. A combination of pump over and rack and returns are used to extract colour and flavour. The wine is left on skins for between 10 and 20 days post ferment to extract the “beautiful powdery tannins”.
After draining and pressing the wine is typically matured in French oak for a period of 18 months in around 30% new and 60% one and two year old French oak. Seppelt Great Western Shiraz is a style in evolution. More recent vintages are fruit driven with bright blueberry/mulberry/blackberry aromas, fine chalky tannins and fruit concentration.
Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz is both an Australian Classic and a curiosity. The wine has been made at Great Western in Central Victoria for over a century. At one stage the wine drew fruit from as far afield as the Barossa Valley, yet it has remained incredibly consistent across vintages. Nowadays the wine has become a sparkling version of the St Peter’s Great Western Shiraz. The wine is made in exactly the same way but is matured in large oak vats for a further 12 months. It is then triaged (addition of liqueur and yeast for secondary bottle fermentation and bottle aged) for a further 8 years before disgorgement. This is a highly eccentric style and the absolute pinnacle of its type. This is a “dry table wine with bubbles”; the beautiful creaminess and yeasty complexity is derived from a long period of bottle age. The wines have remarkable cellaring life.
St Hallett, Barossa Valley
The Lindner Family established St Hallett in the heart of the Barossa Valley near Tanunda in 1944. After a relatively sleepy beginning producing fortified wines, the winery restructured its ownership. The rumbustious pioneering energy of Barossa legend Bob McLean during the 1980s and 1990s saw an extraordinary metamorphosis.
Stuart Blackwell, St Hallett’s senior winemaker, oversaw the development of St Hallet Old Block Shiraz, perhaps one of the most successful ultra-fine Barossa Shirazes and an early cult-type wine. The move towards larger scale winemaking has perhaps taken the lustre off Old Block Shiraz, but it still remains something of a Barossa classic.
In the early 1980s the original Old Block vineyard was nearly pulled out because demand was so poor. The Old Block Shiraz is one of the leading wines of the district, a Shiraz reflecting the traditional Barossa Valley style. The fruit is sourced from a rich palette of 28 low-yielding, old vine vineyards in the Barossa, located in the higher elevated areas around Eden Valley and Springton to the Barossa Floor, especially around Ebenezer and Lyndoch. Soil types, aspects and meso-climates vary, although most of the vines are between 70 and 100 years old. The vines, mostly trellised to a single wire, are all hand-pruned and hand-picked. Vintage takes place on the valley floor in March and continues right through until late April. The wine is matured for three years in predominantly French oak, although earlier vintages were aged in American oak. The style is warm, rich and full-bodied with complex, plum/mulberry and dark chocolate aromas, soft tannins and vanillin oak. It has excellent cellaring potential.
Stanton and Killeen, Rutherglen
The lure of gold and untold wealth drew many families to the gold fields of North East Victoria. In 1855 Timothy Stanton, a mechanic from Suffolk, made the journey to Australia eventually buying land at Rutherglen in 1864 with his son John Lewis Stanton.
By the 1920s the Parkview winery and vineyards were flourishing under the ownership of John Richard Stanton. The Depression, not to mention Phylloxera, caused financial ruination for many vignerons including the original Stanton business at Parkview. However JR’s son Jack Stanton’s Graceray property managed to stay in family hands.
In 1953 Stanton and Killeen was formed as a result of marriage. Norman Killeen (he married Jack’s daughter Joan) took over the business in 1948 and steered the business to prosperity once again. Norman’s son Chris Killeen, who died at the age of 52 in 2007, took over the winery in 1981 as winemaker. He was a brilliant winemaker and a great collector of fortified wines from around the world (he bought quite a few bottles through Langton’s). His obituary described him as “one of the last great port makers in this country which is almost criminal but it’s the truth.”
The Stanton and Killeen property extends to 300 hectares of mixed farming land with around 30 hectares planted on well drained gravels and red loams over clay. Some of the original vineyards planted by Jack Stanton in 1921 still survive.
The Jack’s Block Limited Release Shiraz is not only a great Rutherglen rich chocolaty style but is also used as blending material in the highly regarded S&K Vintage Port (which comprises 4 port grape varieties).
Tahbilk, Nagambie Lakes
Near Nagambie lies Tabilk Tabilk (‘place of many waterholes’), an important early river crossing for travellers. Tahbilk (with an ‘h’), known until recently as Chateau Tahbilk, is Victoria’s oldest family-owned winery, celebrating almost 140 years of continuous wine production. It has played a hugely important role in the development of the modern Australian wine trade. For over 75 years it has been a vini-cultural centre of wine; a meeting point of some of Australia’s most influential wine intelligentsia.
A pagoda style weatherboard tower commands the winery complex, which dates back to this time. The fabulous new cellar was excavated in 1875. This place reeks of history. Indeed a National Trust plaque near the cellar door recognises this property as being "among highly significant examples of early rural architecture worthy of preservation".
The Purbrick Family bought the property in 1925. Alister Purbrick is a third generation winemaker who has modernised Tahbilk without abandoning the past. Tahbilk produces a wide range of wines and is particularly known for its high-standard Shirazes and Cabernet Sauvignons. 1860s vines Shiraz derives from a small patch of half hectare ungrafted pre-Phylloxera, original Estate planted vines and is amongst some of the oldest direct producing Shiraz vines in the world. The wine is both a curio and an experience. The fruit is handpicked and fermented in century old oak vats before maturation in French oak for 18 months prior to bottling. The wine is further aged in bottle for four years "bottle-aging" before release making it 6 years after vintage before it reaches market.
The label design harks back to an original Tahbilk wine label used during the 1870s although the 1979 vintage was the first of this release. Produced in miniscule quantities, this wine is made very much in the traditional fashion. The term ‘old vines’ often suggests deeply concentrated wines, but this style is more elegant with plummy/chocolaty/berry fruit flavours and looseknit gravelly tannin structures. The Reserve type wines are now re-badged Eric Stevens Purbrick Shiraz from 1933 vines and Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon are both muscular but resonating styles with plenty of cellaring future.
Tahbilk is a Victorian icon – in the truest sense of the world.
Teusner Wines, Barossa Valley
Teusner Wines is a relative newcomer to the ultra-fine wine scene. The business was established in 2001 after a conversation between family members about the future viability of an old dry grown Grenache vineyard in the Northern Barossa.
Kym Teusner, Adelaide University trained and Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine’s young Winemaker of the Year in 2007, is seen as an up and coming star. His Joshua Grenache is a beautifully balanced style without excess richness. The wines are utterly delicious.
The Avatar Grenache Mataro (nice to see the use of its local name rather than Mourvedre) Shiraz is an emerging Rhone blend which has more volume but remains minerally and easy to drink. These wines are matured in hogsheads for 24 months before release.
Kym Teusner’s business partner Michael Page looks after the vineyards. The Riebke Shiraz, matured in older American and French oak hogsheads, is a maturation style based on Ebenezer sub-regional fruit. The Albert Shiraz is a more traditional red based on old vine (45-90 year old) material.
The aim is to make exceptional, affordable wines with an emphasis on fruit selection and minimal handling. Much of the fruit is sourced through family or close friends. Production is still relatively small but the future is really big. Teusner Wines is a member of the Artisans of the Barossa.
Tim Adams, Clare Valley
Tim Adams is not unlike his wine. Robust and blunt, he appears abrupt, if not distant, until you start talking. Then the richness and generosity appears. He is the son of a local bank manager who fell into winemaking.
Adams is a classic self-reliant Australian with excellent bush engineering skills and could run a car on the smell of an oily rag. He has achieved rapid success by identifying that he should concentrate on developing his winemaking enterprise rather than invest in vineyards.
Tim Adams is making extremely fine Shiraz, a variety that he is passionate about. His oak regime is also fundamental to his style. “I use exclusively American oak from eight different coopers from Australia, the United States and France.” According to Adams, this combination gives strong vanillin characters with subtle nuances of cloves and cinnamon. Tim Adams, with his wife Pam Goldsack, established his winery in 1986 after an early career with Stanley Leasingham, first as cellar hand and then eventually as a winemaker.
His winery is located near Wendouree, towards the northern edge of Clare. It crushes approximately 1000 tonnes of grapes, sourced from varied established growers and from its own vineyards throughout the valley. It also provides contract winemaking services to smaller vignerons in the area. The intensely perfumed and muscular Aberfeldy Shiraz reflects the character of vineyard site as much as the personality of the winemaker. The independently owned four acre Aberfeldy Vineyard was originally a part of the adjacent Wendouree property and comprises a large proportion of original old vine dry grown Shiraz planted by Alfred Percy Birks in 1904. This is also older clonal material with very high seed content and larger berries.
Vinification takes place in closed top fermenters with regular pumping over and extended skin maceration. After basket pressing it spends 12 months in one year old oak, mostly American, before transfer to new three to four years air dried American oak for a further eight months. This is a deeply concentrated opulent style with blackberry aromas, malty/cedary oak and a firm tannin kick. The underlying structure is reminiscent of the Wendouree style and is yet another strong example of top notch Clare Valley Shiraz.
Tim Adams Shiraz is also of a high standard and worth seeking out. The Tim Adams style is certainly leaning towards the firm adroit style, a bit like Tim’s handshake.
Turkey Flat, Barossa Valley
Turkey Flat, named after the bush turkeys that used to roam freely, was established by fourth generation grape growers Peter and Christie Schulz at their property on the banks of Tanunda Creek.
Johann Friedrich August Fiedler, one of the Silesian pioneers brought out by William Angas, planted the first Shiraz vines in 1843. Gottlieb Ernst Schulz, a butcher whose family later ventured into dairy farming, purchased the property in 1865. A modern, Italian designed state-of-the-art winery was recently built adjacent to the historic bluestone butcher’s shop.
The Turkey Flat Shiraz is a classic Barossa style with fruit sourced from various vineyards of varying ages. Vintage takes place typically in late March/April. Fermentation is allowed to run between 18 and 24 degrees Centigrade. The wine is generally macerated on skins for a period of about 7 days before being drained and pressed off. This is followed by maturation for 22 months in a combination of new and seasoned French and American oak hogsheads. Turkey Flat Shiraz is a really well regarded wine on the secondary wine market. In the context of Barossa Shiraz it offers strong regional provenance at a more affordable level. The wines often show dark cherry/chocolaty aromas and flavours, ripe textured tannins and plenty of fruit sweetness, concentration and length.
Tyrrell’s, Hunter Valley
In 1850 Edward Tyrrell arrived in Sydney. He was granted 330 acres of prime Hunter Valley land, planting his first vines in 1858. Tyrrell’s first vintage in 1864 began a family tradition of winemaking in the Hunter Valley. His original slab hut is still standing today. Tyrrell’s still harvests Shiraz fruit from blocks planted in 1879 and 1892 on bright red clay, the core provenance of Tyrrell’s Vat 9. The economic slump in the 1930s, however, saw a decline in production as demand waned. Tyrrell’s has managed to survive. Indeed ‘Dan’ Tyrrell supervised 75 vintages before his death at the age 86 (His old slab hut still stands). During his years as winemaker most of the wine was sold to Maurice O’Shea, a highly skilled winemaker who is regarded as one of the pioneers of the modern-day Australian wine industry.
Tyrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz is a traditional maturation style of Hunter Shiraz. The emphasis is on elegance, softness and ‘somewhereness’.
Wirra Wirra, McLaren Vale
In 1969 the late (and wonderful) Greg Trott and brother Roger purchased the old ruins of the Wirra Wirra winery and lovingly rebuilt it to its former glory. The original cellars were built by South Australian eccentric, cricketer and hell raiser Robert Strangways Wigley. The original vineyards were planted in 1894 and he made his first wines with Alec Johnston at Pirramimma in 1897.
By 1903, Wirra Wirra was an impressive business with state of the art winemaking facilities and 240 acres of landholdings. The wines were imported by Burgoyne’s of London, one of the pioneering importers of Australian wine. The family sold all but the old disused winery and surrounding 7 acres around 1936.
His winery was rebuilt with local quarried slate and ironstone, and bricks from 19th century buildings. Old Oregon beams, jarrah railway sleepers and flooring from various demolished buildings were also used. Robert O’Callaghan of Rockford in the Barossa was certainly inspired by this extraordinary vision. The vineyards are located on deep alluvial river flats.
The RSW Shiraz, a 100% McLaren Vale wine, is named after the stencils used by the original owner. This wine is vinified in static and open fermenters, partially barrel fermented and matured in a combination of new (up to 70%), American (usually around 5-20%) and French (80-95%) oak barriques. The wine is a classic McLaren Vale Shiraz with dense choco-berry fruit and a fair whack of new oak. The Church Block is named after an original vineyard at nearby Bethany (not to be confused with Bethany in the Barossa). This savoury maturation style, first released in 1972, sees no more than 15% new oak.
Yalumba, Barossa Valley
Samuel Smith established the Yalumba winery in 1849. It is Australia’s oldest family wine company. Yalumba owns vineyards and sources fruit primarily in the Barossa and Coonawarra. Robert Hill-Smith, who presides over the family enterprise, has managed to combine conservatism and tradition with up-to-date winemaking technology and thinking. Indeed he is something of a visionary. He has had a strong winemaking team for years in the form of the hugely influential Brian Walsh and Louisa Rose – a brilliantly intuitive winemaker whose white wines are some of the best in the country.
Yalumba The Octavius is made from dry grown Shiraz with an average age of around 85-90 years, the oldest from a vineyard planted in 1908. The wines are matured for two years in small American oak Octaves (barrels of 80 litres) coopered at Yalumba winery. Missouri timbers are left out in the elements for eight years to leach out undesirable flavours in the oak. With a higher than normal surface area-to-wine ratio, Octavius is a wine of great richness, intensity and power. Its pronounced vanillin, blackberry/liquorice aromas, ripe tannins, sweet fruit and extract, all suggest longevity. The wine is beautifully made and deserves a reputation as one of the Barossa’s best Shirazes. It is tremendous to see The Octavius reach a new level of stardom.
The Yalumba Reserve Cabernet Shiraz is made only in special vintages from prime parcels of Barossa and smaller tranches of Coonawarra and Langhorne Creek fruit. It is usually never more than a 20 barrel selection. The Menzies – named after Australia’s longest serving prime minister (and wine aficionado of some note) – is a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon vinified along typical Bordelais lines and is matured in 33% new French oak hogsheads for up to 24 months.
The Signature, first vintage in 1962, is a Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz blend partially barrel fermented and matured in a combination of new and old American and French oak hogsheads. Each vintage honours the contribution of key staffers from winemakers to sales persons. The 1999 was dedicated to all Yalumba employees past and present to celebrate 150 years. The Signature has become such a wonderful wine institution. With a lineage of four decades and proven cellaring potential it deserves recognition as a great Australian wine.
Yalumba is a great Australian wine institution. If Penfolds Grange is a secondary wine market indicator, Yalumba is an industry bell-weather. Its ongoing success is hugely important for the confidence and positive sentiment of the overall Australian wine industry.
Yarra Yering, Yarra Valley
The late Dr. Bailey Carrodus was one of the great characters of the Yarra Valley, producing highly individual wines that owe as much to his high quality vineyards as to his winemaking theories. They are wines literally out of the box. Hundreds of enthusiasts throng to his cellar door to pick up a few precious bottles of No. 1 or No. 2 each year.
Carrodus established Yarra Yering in 1969, purchasing prime vineyard land at Gruyere near Coldstream in the Yarra Valley Victoria, once a thriving wine community during the late 1800s. His search for suitable vineyard land was based on a simple premise: that it should be where vines had thrived before and had avoided the threat of spring frost damage. Armed with a contour map he eventually chose what is now regarded as one of the choicest vineyard sites in the region. The vineyard, now about 70 acres, is planted on a north-facing midriff of hillside on deep, broken-up secondary gravelly soils with excellent drainage.
The cellar was originally set up so a single person could run it. The winery is making more wine than the early days, but the system is kept more or less intact. His objective was to make wines of complexity, palate evenness and after taste. He liked to ferment his wines at warm temperatures in small open fermenters. Indeed, he had 92 of them. Carrodus believed that he should keep in the background and allow the wines to speak for themselves, but admitted that the wines did have some of the winemaker’s thumbprint.
Yarra Yering No 2 – [the shiraz] - has a touch of Viognier – is vinified in open fermenters before extended skin maceration to increase complexity and tannin balance. At dryness the wine is drained and pressed and then transferred into 30% new and previously used 'closely textured' Seguin Moreau French oak for a maturation period of up to 22 months. It is hard to pin point this style as it is quite individual and subject to vintage variation. The best vintages show intense raspberry/choco-berry aromas, touches of white pepper, ripe tannin structures and plenty of flavour complexity.
It is something of a dark horse, but on reflection this has always been its charm.
The wineries covered above are just some of the main players worth seeking out. I purposely discarded the Barossa Dead Fruit Association and their cronies, as I detest this style of winemaking and (just about) everything it represents.
There are literally hundreds of small producers in Coonawarra, Central Victoria, Canberra District, Orange, Mudgee, Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Lower Great Southern (WA), Hunter Valley, Rutherglen, Grampians etc, etc that make compelling, attractive, tasty and not too alcoholic or overoaked shiraz, but I doubt if they would be easy to source.
Last edited by David Lole
on Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.