Game of Rhones, the premier tasting event in Melbourne for Rhone variety producers from around Australia. It’s a day closely rivalled by Pinot Palooza which is coming up soon. This was the perfect assault against the cold Melbourne weekend. When I think of the Rhone valley, my mind conjures up images of the baking hot sun beating down on the stones and river pebbles that spot the vineyards of the Rhone floor. Then just as you sought relief in the night, all that heat persistently radiates from the ground upon which the soles of your feet contact. And yet, in that seemingly harsh unyielding climate, special vines thrive under the tender eye of expert viticulturists and treasures are crafted by master winemakers.
Thankfully, winemakers do not have to contend with such unforgiving weather or untamed lands. On second thought, should we be thankful? Maybe the vines aren’t as stressed or forced to work as hard to survive. Perhaps the fruit from Australian vines could be better. Who knows. The argument is pointless when the bottomline is, there is much nice wine to be enjoyed. I had previously written up the white Rhone-sque wines, and now here are the contenders for your champion full-bodied, red-blooded wine.
The North (well, it’s more like the South-Eastern part of Australia)
Clonakilla Ceoltori Grenache Mourvedre 2011, Canberra District, NSW
RRP$40. Intense purple ruby colour. Noes of spiced blackcurrants, plum, moist brambles. A full-bodied wine, high acidity, med+ coarse grainy tannins. There is lovely savoury spice flavours, along with black berry fruit, but feels thinned down on the core, lacking character. Drink now – 2016. 87/100.
Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2012, Canberra District, NSW
RRP$30. Fortune favours the lucky. The 2012 vintage in the Hilltops district was hit by heavy rain at the end of February but most of the grapes had been picked, perfectly ripe, the day before the rains. This wine is easily enjoyed, with depth of flavours, structure and elegance typically characteristic of wines above this price point. Black cherry, blackberries, roasted meats with a touch of oaky spice. The tannins are ripe, probably a couple of years away from gradually resolving. 13% alc. Long savoury finish. Drink 2015 – 2022. 92/100.
De Iuliis Wines ‘Limited Release’ Shiraz 2009, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, NSW
RRP$60. Excellent growing conditions in 2009 led to the creation of this wine made from ten selected new French oak barrels. Dark purple-ruby colour. Intense youthful aromas of blackberries, black cherry, sweet spice, pepper and a hint of dried vanilla bean pod. A full-bodied wine, rough velvet texture, high acidity, firm grippy tannins. Rich flavours of black cherries and dark berries persist right through on the long finish. A well-balanced wine which surprised me, though I can’t admit to having experienced many Hunter Valley Shirazes. Drink now – 2020. 92/100. Look out for the Charlie and Steven shiraz too.
Mount Pleasant Wines ‘Old Paddock & Old Hill’ Shiraz 2009, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, NSW
RRP$36. Handpicked fruit from low-yielding vines first planted in 1921 is combined with fruit from the old hill vineyard planted in the 1880s. Destemmed fruit was fermented on skins for 12 days. Matured in new and second year French oak barriques and hogsheads for 22 months. Intense ruby colour with a crimson rim. Youthful aromas of blackberries, blood plum, earthy bramble, and a hint of baking spice. Med+ – full-bodied wine, high acidity, moderate level of fine grainy tannins suggest a good cellaring potential. Sleek fruit profile, lovely rich dark berry flavours accompanied by tingling spice to give it a slightly savoury finish. Good value for money. Drink now – 2025+. 92/100.
Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 9 Shiraz 2010, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, NSW
RRP$85. The fruit for the 2009 Vat 9 Shiraz was sourced from vineyards with an average vine age of 50 years. Handpicked fruit was fermented in open top fermenters then matured in new and one year old French oak casks for 15 months prior to bottling. Crimson-ruby colour. Lifted youthful aromas of fresh blackcurrants and red berry fruit, licorice, fleshed out with oak spice. A medium-bodied wine, high acidity, young fine-grained tannins. 13% alc. Lovely dark berry fruit flavours, almost like swirling jam into water (in a good way). Clean flavours, easy drinking, doesn’t swamp your mouth. Drink 2015 – 2025. 92/100
The Bales (McLaren Vale, Barossa & Eden Valleys, Adelaide Hills)
Brash Higgins Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, SA
RRP$37. Matured in 50/50 new/old oak. Young, rich dark berry flavours, grippy tannins. Brash Higgins is a relatively new winery started by Brad Hickey, a former sommelier from NYC at Cafe Boulud, then as wine director at Bouley and Danube. Basically this man knows this wine! And certainly wine that would go with a great meal.
Brash Higgins Omensetter Shiraz 2008, McLaren Vale, SA
RRP$95. 90% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet. Matured for 3 years in 5 new 300L French oak hogsheads followed by 2 years in bottle. Akin to the Spanish Gran Reserva works. A lovely perfume of cherry fruit, blackcurrant tea, kirsch, oak spice, savoury mallow meaty notes that I associate with aged wines. A full-bodied wine, dense layers, yet it somehow feels lighter than I expected. Nice clean acidity with fine diffuse tannins work in sync to give this wine good balanced structure. Mixture of chopped plum meshed with blackcurrants. Long easing finish. Drink now – 2023+. 94/100.
Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz 2010, Keyneton, Barossa & Eden Valleys, SA
RRP$85. This wine was made from parcels from the Barossa and Eden Valleys. It has an alluring, heady nose of dark berry aromas with wafts of sweet alcohol. A dense, layered full-bodied wine, young no question about that. Pure dark berry fruit flavours with fine grippy tannins, oak spice on the mid-palate. As slick as the oil off an Italian mob papa’s head. Drink 2015 – 2025. 94/100.
Rolf Binder Heysen Shiraz 2010, Dorrien, Barossa Valley, SA
RRP$65. This wine has a dense, heavier aromatic profile. It is earthy, broody, black plums, blackcurrants, anise and cinnamon bark. A young, full-bodied wine with precise clean-cutting acidity, a good load of soft powdery tannins. Rich, darker fruit flavours, cocoa and baking spice. Have this with a piece of dark chocolate or cherryripe! Drink now – 2023. 92/100. Look out for the more rustic Bull’s Blood and Heinrich GSM.
Rolf Binder Hanisch Shiraz 2010, Dorrien, Barossa Valley, SA
RRP$125. Intense ruby purple colour. A lovely bouquet of violets, summer florals, black plum, dark berry fruit, bacon fat, chocolate spice and oak vanillins. This is a wine for the long haul. At present, it is a very young, full-bodied wine, with high acidity and a chunkful of young, grippy tannins. Compact, tight structure like an Ikea shelf still in its original shrink wrapped packaging. I suggest that this probably requires a good couple of hours in a decanter. Sweet spiced flavours of blackcurrant, plum, cherry liquor, smooth flowing, drawn out on a long finish. Drink 2015 – 2030+. 95/100.
Yalumba Guardian Shiraz Viognier 2010, Eden Valley, SA
RRP$22. Matured for 10 months in a mix of new and older French and Hungarian hogsheads, and French barriques. A lovely balanced, med-full-bodied wine spiced up by more exotic elements of Viognier. Sweet blackcurrant and raspberry flavours shine through from the Shiraz. Youthful tannins suggest a reasonable drinking window. Very good value for money. Drink now – 2020. 91/100.
Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz 2011, Barossa Valley, SA
RRP$22. Matured for 12 months in new American hogsheads & octaves, and new French barriques. I found this slightly primary, too soon? Nice perfume of juicy plum, dry grippy tannins, 13.5% alc. A decent good drinking wine. Drink now – 2018. 88-89/100.
Torbreck Kyloe Mataro 2010, Barossa Valley, SA
RRP$50. 100% Mataro with fruit from Marananga, Greenock, Moppa, Seppeltsfield, Gomersal and Ebenezer. De-stemmed fruit was fermented separately in wooden & concrete open top fermenters with twice daily pumping of juice over the skins for 7-10 days. Matured in older French hogsheads for 24 months before bottled unfiltered and unfined. A robust, meaty drink, like feeling that there’s no point in any surprises or veiled corners. Notes of blackcurrant, black plum, sweet spice yet with a conflicting note of savoury pit-roasted rosemary lamb (or was I just really hungry at that time?!). A full-bodied wine with soft supple tannins and cleansing acidity. The latter is required to keep in check the core of rich dark berry fruit flavours. Very tasty finish. Drink now – 2018. 92/100.
Torbreck Run Rig Shiraz Viognier 2010, Barossa Valley, SA
RRP$300. As much as I had enjoyed the 2009 Run Rig, the 2010 version is a down-right sexy beast. It’s like eyeing a matte black Lamborghini after you’ve had a spin around the Tuscan hills in the yellow one. Patience, and you will learn to tame the beast. Fruit from 8 parcels across the Barossa subregions of Marananga, Greenock, Moppa, Gomersal, Kalimna & Ebenezer. Matured for 30 months in new and old French barriques with one racking. 2.5% Viognier. Intense ruby purple colour. An attractive, lifted perfume of anise, licorice, hot stones, blackcurrants, black raspberry, plum and hints of black olive and baking spice. A full-throttled, full-bodied wine with young grippy tannins covered by a clean blanket of acidity. A complex flavour profile, layers of anise, dark berry fruit, sweet strawberry Lindt chocolate, touch of Asian salted plum. A lovely long finish. Given time, once the tannins start resolving, this is going to be a pretty good drink. What a F-in understatement! Drink 2015 – 2035. 99/100.