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Barossa

Australia’s oldest, most famous and internationally renowned wine growing region located a short distance from Adelaide, South Australia, the Barossa Valley contains the sub district of the Eden Valley, and is home to some of Australia’s, and the world’s oldest Shiraz vines. The Barossa Valley’s viticultural history extends back to the early 1800’s when English and Prussian immigrants founded vineyards, enterprises and wineries still family owned to this day. The British gentry was led by George Fife Angas (Angaston), Joseph Gilbert (Pewsey Vale), Samuel Smith (Founder of Yalumba in 1847) and William Salter (Saltram 1859). On the other hand a significantly more numerous population of Lutheran’s migrated fleeing the reformation in Prussia, pioneering viticulture and agriculture, numbering among them were names synonymous with the most established wineries in Australia including Johann Gramp (1847), Joseph Seppelt (Seppelt, 1851) and William Jacob (1854). Many of these original families continue in the wine business and own vineyards. The growers of the Barossa have weathered two world wars, drought, flood, bushfire, erratic swings in market preferences from red wine to white (1970’s), the Vine Pull Scheme of the 1980s whereby 130 year old, priceless, low yielding vines were removed due to lack of demand, to emerge stronger than ever, the one constant it’s ancient weathered vineyards and stoic population.

Principally a red wine growing region, historically the varieties planted were Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro (Mourvedre) alongside Pedro Ximenez and Frontignac for the production of fortified wine. The climate is warm and dry, with cool nights and warm to hot days. The Barossa Valley contains a complex typography of valleys, hills slopes and soils. The soils vary widely though the dominate composition is a clay loam and in areas low fertility sandy soils. Although red grapes are more pervasively planted, there are small quantities of white varieties including Semillon, which is often unwooded, with bright lemon zest notes and moderate acidity. Barossa Chardonnay tends to be richer and more generous with Melon and ripe peach notes and is quick to develop and best consumed young. Riesling which are also of a more broad and generous style, though many Barossa based wineries produce more zesty examples from Clare Valley and Eden Valley fruit. Small quantities of Viognier are cultivated, used primarily for blending with Shiraz, though some outstanding mono varietal bottling’s are available, Yalumba Virgilius in particular.

Of the Red varieties Shiraz is king with considerably more planted than Grenache or Mourvedre. Significantly, many of these vines are older than Shiraz or Syrah vines planted in Europe, the Barossa being fortunate enough not to encounter the devastations of phylloxera. Typically Barossa Shiraz is full bodied, lush with notes of blackberry, plum, medium acidity and high, but soft ripe tannins. They are traditionally aged in new oak imparting flavours of graphite and cigar box (new French oak) and coconut and vanilla (new American oak), the wines are renowned for their depth and longevity. The shift in the mid-1990s towards producing blockbuster wines that were high in alcohol fuelled by high Parker scores that then pushed the prices of the wines in America and Asia to new levels encouraged some winemakers to follow suit. The pendulum has now begun to swing in the other direction, led by a new generation of producers committed to making elegant, full to medium bodied Barossa red articulating individual vineyard character.

Many of Australia’s most famous wines are made in the Barossa and some of the most recognised producers include Penfolds, Peter Lehman, Yalumba, Wolf Blass and Henschke. The quintet of Penfolds Grange (mainly old vine Barossa shiraz aged in new American oak), Penfolds RWT Shiraz , Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz (100% single vineyard), Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and Penfolds St Henri Shiraz) are all highly sought after wines. And Henschke’s iconic single vineyard ancient vine Hill of Grace is considered by many to be the equal of Penfolds Grange in terms of both quality and as wine investment. A recent resurgence has seen many smaller artisanal wineries producing outstanding wines on small scale, including Spinifex, Teusner, Ruggabellus, Standish, Kalleske and Head Wines to name a few.

Less pervasively planted are Grenache, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon prefers a slightly cooler climate and tends to be better in cooler years and the use of French Oak is more common than American. Grenache and Mourvedre are often blended with Shiraz in a traditional Rhone Blend, though also bottles as mono varietal wines. Grenache from the Barossa tends toward sweet fruits, raspberry, with hints of spice and soft tannins. Outstanding producers include Spinifex, Kalleske, Charles Melton and Rusden.

Sources:
The Oxford Companion to Wine, (ed) Jancis Robinson
James Halliday's Wine Atlas of Australia, James Halliday
Australia & New Zealand Complete Book of Wine, Compiled by Len Evans
 


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  1. Peter Lehmann H & V Shiraz 2019
    Peter Lehmann H & V Shiraz 2019
    The H&V range are designed to showcase the diversity of the Barossa and in some ways challenge the views of what consumers think. The wine is a blend of mainly Barossa and a touch of Eden fruit which adds a lovely cool edge and offers great value.

    Nicel filled with plum, blackberry and dark chocolate flavours. There is a nod to 'traditional' Barossa with the use of American hogsheads. In saying that this is surprisingly elegant and wonderfully put together. Plenty of ripe blackberry conserve and a spicy, leathery lick. We are thoroughly impressed with this little number.
    2019
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  2. Laughing Jack Jack's Shiraz 2019
    Laughing Jack Jack's Shiraz 2019

    Sourced from vineyards in Greenock, Marananga and Moppa. Mostly hand picked with just a small amount mechanically picked from Home Block section.

    The grapes were 100% de-stemmed and whole berries transferred into open top fermenters. Mostly small open top with hand plunging. After fermentation, (14 to 18 days on skins) the wine drained to oak barrels and skins were hand-dug to the basket press. A percentage of the pressings are blended back in to add more firm tannins for structure. 22 months in 3% new French, 50% seasoned French, 4% new American, 33% seasoned American and 10% seasoned French oak puncheons. Bottled unfined and unfiltered and is vegan friendly.

    2019
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  3. Tomfoolery Young Blood Shiraz 2021
    Tomfoolery Young Blood Shiraz 2021

    Another belter Shiraz from Chippy in the Barossa. He is a part of the new wave of Barossa producers turning out wonderfuly fresh, vibrant and modern wines with a knod to what makes the wines of the region so appealing to drink.

    Dark fruits and deep-set spice greet you on the nose with along with a lovely licorice and earthy hit. The palate is forward and full of black, juicy fruit that goes on for ages. Some firm tannins give it nice structure but the wine as a whole remains soft and pliant. PWS

    2020
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  4. Schwarz Grower Shiraz 2020
    Schwarz Grower Shiraz 2020
    Schwarz Wine Co has for some time been at the forefront of contemporary Barossa winemaking, crafting site and vintage transparent wines of perfume, structure, and finely etched detail. The family vineyards provide the backbone of the label, though Jason Schwarz's relationships with talented growers are paramount to an enviable cache of old vine fruit sources. Touch the fruit lightly, don't pick too late, keep oak use in check - the house style here is pure, vibrant and we love it!

    A fresh and perfumed nose, violets the leading impression over musk and blue fruit.  The palate is rounded with great shape and feel in the mouth, and while the acid profile adds freshness and a precision to the flavours, the wine is by no means austere or lacking generosity.  Flavour-wise it's pretty classic Barossa Shiraz, full of black fruits, dried herbs and earth.  Works as a young drinker or will certainly reward a few years down.
    2018
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  5. Spinifex Bete Noir 2020
    Spinifex Bete Noir 2020

    Pete Schell's 2020 Bête is a blend of old-vine Barossa Shiraz and Eden Valley Shiraz sourced from vines located across seven different small family vineyards of Barossa's sub-regions--with the eastern foothills, Moppa and Moculta all contributing. Vineyard age ranges between 25 and 120 years, with "60 years being a fair average across the blend," according to Schell.

    All the fruit was harvested by hand. The proportion of whole clusters varied from "everything to nothing" depending on the vineyard, with roughly 35% in the final cuvée. Vinified with indigenous yeast fermentation, elevage on lees in new (25%) and seasoned French oak barrels ranging in capacity from 225 L to 2500 L for 20 months prior to bottling without filtration

    2020
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  6. Michael Hall Flaxman's Eden Valley Syrah 2018
    Michael Hall Flaxman's Eden Valley Syrah 2018

    A very complex style with intense blackberries, blueberries and cloves, together with some forest wood, pepper and crushed dark stone. The palate holds a smooth-toned feel with fine tannins cast long and even. Plenty of blue-fruit flavor here. So polished. Drink over the next decade. NICK STOCK

    Hand-picked 95% whole berries, 5% whole bunches, 18 months in French oak (20% new), Michael Hall nailed this one. Lively medium-bodied black cherry/berry fruits, spice, pepper, fine-grained tannins, the oak not obtrusive. (96) JAMES HALLIDAY

    2018
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  7. Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2008
    Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2008
    1 AVAILABLE
    Glorious, deep crimson-purple, with an alluring bouquet of black fruits, spice and cedary oak contributed by 14 months' maturation in 83% new French hogsheads. The medium- to full-bodied palate has layer-upon-layer of velvety blackberry fruit allied with notes of dark chocolate and a sprinkle of licorice and spice, silky tannins and quality oak completing the package. (96) JAMES HALLIDAY
    2008
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  8. Penfolds Grange 2004
    Penfolds Grange 2004

    Saturated purple-crimson colour; has an amazing depth to the bouquet, oak and black fruits already seamlessly woven; the longer you spend inhaling the aromas, the more you learn about the wine within, in much the same way as a Grand Cru red burgundy. The palate delivers all that the bouquet promises, and then some; it has absolutely perfect proportions to the river of flavours running through blackberry, Satsuma plum, licorice and spice; the tannins are quite active, but totally balanced and ripe. Cork. 14.3% alc. Drink 2054 (98) JAMES HALLIDAY

    2004
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  9. Penfolds Grange 2009
    Penfolds Grange 2009
    The 2009 Grange Shiraz is a comprised of 84% Barossa, 8% McLaren, and a little Clare Valley and a little Magill fruit with a small 2% of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. At this youthful stage, this deep garnet-purple colored wine puts forward a vivid expression of blackberry preserve aromas amid underlying cassis, black cherry, spice box, char-grilled meat and chocolate box notes. Surprisingly medium to full-bodied (it smells much fuller!) with taut flavors that are very closed in the mouth, it has firm, chewy tannins to structure through the long and earthy finish. LISA PEROTTI-BROWN, erobertparker.com

    Clear orange peel notes. Intense fruit. A melt of tannin. Oak makes an impression but is tremendously well integrated. Vanilla, soy, orange, saturated plum, licorice and leather. Super seductive. A sweet-fruited delicacy. Indeed for pure or indeed young-ish drinking pleasure I prefer it over the 2008. I like the highlights, the pillowy softness, the remarkable integration of fruit, oak, and tannin. This is a less caricatured Grange, less obvious, less “heavy”, and more approachable as a result. CAMPBELL MATTINSON, winefront.com.au
    2009
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
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