Showing posts with label McLaren Vale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label McLaren Vale. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Australian Winemaker Helps Fire Victims

Australia's recent trouble with wildfires - 42 of them the last time I checked, 17 burning out of control - have prompted an outpouring of love from around the world.  It has also prompted at least one Aussie winemaker to donate the proceeds of the pouring they do in their tasting room to help in the effort. 

Two Hands Wine is donating, for a two-month span, the take from their Cellar Door tasting fees to the victims of the Cudlee Creek fires near Adelaide.

Publicist Donna White tells me that Australian Red Cross has, since July, assisted more than 18,600 people affected by the fires.  The New South Wales-based Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc., Australia's largest wildlife rescue organization, is accepting donations to fund the rescue and care of animals affected by the fires. Learn more at

Two Hands Wine makes a bottling which they call Angels' Share Shiraz.  Medieval winemakers believed that angels watched over the wines, and that they took a share as payment.  It's a reference to the small amount of wine that evaporates from barrels while the wine is aging.

The Two Hands Angels' Share Shiraz 2018 was made from McLaren Vale fruit, in what the winery calls "a true Australian style that will appeal to both angels and mortals alike."  During the 16 days of maceration, the wine was pumped over three times a day to get the most color, flavor and tannic structure from the grapes.  Once the wine was in barrels, malolactic fermentation occurred.  The wine was unfined and unfiltered before bottling.  The wine aged for 14 months in oak which was 12% new American, with the balance being one to eight-year-old American and French oak.  Alcohol is somewhat typical for a wine down under at 14.2% abv.  The retail price sticker reads $30.

This wine is delicious.  It offers a nose of black and blue berries, shoe leather and a hint of black olives.  It’s a deep, rich bouquet.  The flavors are similarly dark, with berries leading the way again.  Black pepper and a nutmeg note also appear, with the fruit staying long on the finish.  There is a good tannic structure, easily enough for a steak or a beef stew.  The oak regimen was nearly all previously-used barrels, so the oak effect is quite nice, not a bit overdone.  Actually, the oak does exactly what oak is supposed to in a wine - accent it and highlight the grapes, not bulldoze them.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Beast Of A Cabernet

Terlato Wines tells us that Australia exports more wine to the U.S. than France, but that's a claim for which I could not find any corroboration.  In fact, the wines from Down Under appear to be the fourth most imported by the U.S. in dollars, behind Italy, France and New Zealand.  In any case, Americans are drinking more Australian wine than vice versa.

Australia's wine industry dates back to the 18th century, when vine cuttings were first brought to the continent from Europe and South Africa.  The country has no indigenous grapes of its own.  However, they do refer to Syrah as Shiraz, which has proven so popular that some other winemakers around the world have adopted the name.  Shiraz is the most widely planted grape in Australia.

Two Hands Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

The 2018 Two Hands Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% McLaren Vale Cab, so it's not elegant as in Napa Valley, it's a brute, as in Australia.  The winemaker calls it "rich, brooding and powerful," and that just about nails it.  Alcohol hits 14.2% abv and the retail price is $33.

This wine is inky dark.  The nose is full of plums, blackberries and cherries, with a touch of bacon grease and earth.  More than a touch, actually.  The palate hits a sweet note amid the dark fruit and oak spice, although the latter stays in the background.  The tannic structure is young and firm, but not overpowering.  Tasted blind, I probably would have guessed Syrah instead of Cab. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Aussie Cab Means Business

The South Australian winery Shirvington was founded in 1996 by Paul and Lynne Shirvington and their sons.  A plot of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines became their first vineyard, Redwind.  The red clay and limestone soil is in Willunga, just south of McLaren Vale.  There they grow Cab, Shiraz and Mataro, better known as Mourvédre.

Peter Bolte takes care of the vines, while Kim Jackson lends her Sonoma and Burgundy trained knowledge to crafting the wine.  The 2014 Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon tips the alcohol scale at 13.5% abv and it retails for about $32.

This extremely dark wine offers a nose of rough-hewn blackberry with a tiny wisp of freshly sanded wood.  It's a fairly muscular package of aromas, and that heft carries onto the palate.  It's a pleasing bunch of flavors, but I wouldn't call any of them elegant.  This a Cab for a steak that's been bad and needs corporal punishment.  Dark fruit plays for the front row with some oak spice for support.  The fruit is fairly pure, though, and has an interesting dark flair which I find captivating.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Australian Old-Vine Shiraz

The Kay Brothers - Herbert and Frederick - formed a winery in 1890 in the Australian town of McLaren Vale.  The area is south of Adelaide in South Australia, right next to St. Vincent Gulf.  Their Amery Vineyard produces grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nero d' Avola, Grenache, Mataro, Muscat Blanc and a little thing they like to call Shiraz.

The grapes for this wine come from Block 6 of the vineyard, hence the catchy name.  The winery says that Block 6 was planted in 1892, which makes the vines well over 120 years old.  The process of establishing the winery was meticulously recorded in a family diary, some of which is available to read on their website.  The brothers put their backs into running the winery for 57 years, before death claimed them just one year apart.  The following generations were led by Cud Kay, and now Colin KayDuncan Kennedy is the Kay Brothers' senior winemaker.

The 2014 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards Block 6 Shiraz is the 32nd wine in the flagship series.  The grapes were handpicked from those century-and-a-quarter-old vines.  The 3½ acres which make up Block 6 have varied soil which the vines call home.  The winery says the earth ranges from red loam to heavy clay to gravelly alluvial soils. They say the underlying "South Maslin Sands" geology is extremely complex, with layers of glauconite, limestone, sandstone and siltstone.  Which translates to minerals, minerals, minerals.

The juice for the wine spent ten days on the skins after pressing for maximum color extraction.  Aging took place over a nearly two-year span, in French and American oak barrels, 40% of which were new.  The oak plays a supporting role to the fruit in the Block 6 wine, as it should.  Alcohol hits 14% abv and at $95 retail, the wine is by far the most expensive in the Kay Brothers line.

This Australian Shiraz has four years of age on it.  The dark wine displays a nose rich with flinty minerals, pretty flowers and black and blue fruit.  The palate shows similar, but a little heavier on the fruit.  Still, the earth is plainly there along with cigar box, sage and licorice.  There's a zippy acidity and some fairly youthful tannins which invite a pairing with your favorite steak.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Around Australia in 80 Sips

Wine lovers looking to broaden their horizons and learn a little more about wine regions they don't try very often should keep an eye open for events like this one.  Around Australia In 80 Sips - held at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood on January 12, 2012 - offered a chance to travel around Australia in a wine glass.

80 Sips is part of a series of tasting events - held in different American cities every so often - in which participants can discover different facets of the wine world.  This time, Australia was the topic.  Wine Australia and G'Day USA combined to bring a few dozen Aussie winemakers to the US to pour some sips and open some doors.  Additionally, the event served as a fundraiser for St. Vincent Meals On Wheels.

About a year ago I attended an Australian wine dinner which was also presented by G'Day USA.  This event, however, was a walk-around wine tasting, which offered a chance to sample many more wines than in a dinner setting.  The downside, no dinner.  That's alright, I came for the wine.

The way this event was set up was a table-to-table exploration of the different wine regions of Australia.  This allowed tasters to get an isolated view of each region's grapes and terroir.  There were 40 or so wineries participating in the show, each featuring multiple examples of their efforts.

The McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley of South Australia were represented by almost half the wineries present.  Having had ample exposure to those regions, I tried to focus on the ones that were unfamiliar to me in the time available.

Tasting notes:

Western Australia
The Margaret River region seems to be the Napa Valley of Australia, with so many Cabernets and Chardonnays featured.

Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion, Margaret River - Very nice, grassy nose, quite fresh.  Herbal notes on the palate, too.  Refreshing.  $15

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling, Margaret River - Not terribly fruity, but a very nice acidity.  $22

Plantagenet Unoaked Chardonnay Omrah 2009 - Very clean taste. Would have sworn there was a bit of wood, at least.

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Margaret River - Rosy nose, black cherry on the palate.  Great tannins.   Was told '05 is a good year.  Can't argue that.  $30

Heathcote's cool climate Shiraz lead the way here.

Jasper Hill Occam's Razor Shiraz, Heathcote - Biodynamic. Very dark, full of minerals and dust, blackberry and spices.  $38

Tahbilk Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes - Oldest winery in Victoria.  Tropical fruit, salinity, nice acid, nutty finish.  $14

Mt. Lahgi Ghiran Shiraz 2004 - Big jammy nose, very dark fruit, black cherry cola finish.

Yarra Valley
Look for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in this region.

Bindi Chardonnay 2009 - Lightly oaked, great finish.  From a high elevation vineyard.

Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay - A little heavier on the oak.  $35

* Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley - Lively strawberry nose, strawberry soda on palate with a kick of lemon zest. $20  A great buy.

New South Wales
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in Orange, Semillon and Shiraz in Hunter Valley.  A fellow named Mark poured me through these, and he was by far the best teacher at any table.  Mark would come around pour from in front of the table so he could show on the map where the wines were produced.

Brokenwood Semillon, Hunter Valley - Nice zip.  10% abv.  Distinct mineral nose, pears and tropical fruit on palate.  From lower Hunter Valley, which Mark cited as a  "crap place to grow grapes."  due to heat and humidity.  They try to harvest early and beat the monsoons.  Heard it called the "anti-chardonnay."   $19

Eden Road Wines Hilltop Shiraz, Canberra - Chalky mineral nose, tastes big with black fruit, good acidity  $22

* Inkberry Shiraz Cabernet, Central Ranges -  From a hilltop vineyard.  60% Shiraz, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Floral nose, spicy plum and cherry palate very, very smooth  $14  Unbelievable value.

Robert Oatley Rosé of Sangiovese, Mudgee - Beautiful, dry, light pink, strawberry and raspberry flavors.  $19

Clare Valley
This region is known for Rieslings which are dry and ageworthy.

Kilikanoon Mort's Block Riesling 2009, Clare Valley - Big petrol play on the nose and palate   $20

* Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Clare Valley - BIG mint and eucalyptus aromas, great tannic structure and acid.  $17  Great value.

Limestone Coast 
Coonawarra's Cabs show great character.

Henry's Drive Parson's Flat Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Padthaway - A refined nose, beautiful raspberry/cassis with mint on finish.  $40

* Henry's Drive Reserve Shiraz 2007, Padthaway - Brambly, brawny, blackberry nose, palate raspberry and blackberry, very masculine, burly.  $35  Well worth it.

Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz, Coonawarra - Floral minerals with a big grip.  $26

McLaren Vale
This South Australia region likes ripe Shiraz and savory Grenache.

Chapel Hill Bush Vine Grenache, McLaren Vale - Cherry, good acidity, big tannins.  $27
d'Arenberg The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale - Big cassis and clove notes.  $65

Mr Riggs Shiraz, McLaren Vale - Elegant and huge, tobacco on the nose.  Tastes rich and red.  $66

Adelaide Hills and Langhorne Creek
They like their Sauvignon Blanc in Adelaide Hills but it was a red from Langhorne Creek that grabbed me.

* Brothers In Arms Shiraz 2002, Langhorne Creek - Very much like a Cab with graphite on nose and palate.  Great tannins.  $20  A steal.

Penfolds Thomas Hyland Riesling 2011, Adelaide Hills - Fruity with nice acid.  $14

Wakefield Estate Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills - Violets.  $17

Zonte's Footstep The Lake Doctor Shiraz/Viognier, Langhorne Creek - Nice floral with black fruit.  $16

Eden Valley
Riesling is cited as the big thing here.

Barossa Valley
The South Australia region wows 'em with Shiraz and Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre blends.

I didn't see any Tasmania wines, but they may have been represented on the sparkling wine or dessert wine table - I ran out of time before reaching those delights.