Heathcote Estate Shiraz 2019
The arrival of the hugely talented Tom Carson as group winemaker has added lustre to the winery and its wines. JAMES HALLIDAY
I described him as one of the most gifted young winemakers in the country: a restless, high-energy, no-nonsense man with a whippet-like body and eyes that sparkle with intelligence. Nothing’s changed.
For a Burgundy nut, he’s a pretty handy shiraz maker. HUONE HOOKE
Winemaker Tom Carson is one of this country’s most gifted wine people and his slew of awards and trophies is too large to keep track of these days. If there is a gong you can get in the industry that’s applicable to the man then he has taken it out at some point.
While I guess Tom, for most people, would be more recognisable as the winemaker of Yabby Lake, or perhaps his own cult estate in the Yarra Valley, Serrat. There is another gem in Tom’s bejeweled crown and it is one of the more interesting parts to the story. Along with Yabby Lake and Serrat, Tom is also the winemaker at Heathcote estate… in Heathcote.
My experience with these wines over the years has been a bit up and down. Like so many Shiraz produced in the area they were, at times, a bit overblown and overworked for my tastes. Today though the wines are so far from the style common in the area 10+ years ago as to require a complete reset in the thinking of how we talk about Heathcote.
The vineyards for the estate are nestled up against Jasper Hill and planted on the, now, legendary deep red Cambrian soils that run through a stretch of the region. Winemaking and viticulture has shifted significantly here over the last large handful of years and the results are dazzling.
Blocks are picked separately with up to 25 different sub plots fermented individually so tweaks to deal with site specific details can be adjusted as required. Wood treatment has moved away from small format, new wood to larger, older, 500 and 6250L Foudres. No punch downs but rather a softer approach to extraction of phenolics. A trend towards bottling earlier to retain freshness and zeroing in on picking days to ensure perfect ripeness. All of these have resulted in a wine that absolutely hums.
As Huon Hooke mentions, Tom is a Burgundy nut, and I have to wonder if that obsession really helps to hone in on the details of site and expression that has allowed him and his team to transform the wines at Heathcote Estate in such a drastic and profound fashion. We have seen this with his own estate Syrah, which was Halliday’s Wine of the Year for the 2014 and the growing style of the Yabby Lake Shiraz as well.
Perhaps I am overthinking it or looking for answers where there isn’t any. Maybe the reason he makes great Shiraz is the same reason he makes some of the best Pinot and Chardonnay in Australia, because he is a genuinely gifted wine mind who is utterly focused on quality and obsessed with detail. Whatever it is this is what Heathcote Shiraz can do in the hands of a true master of his craft.
As to the wine itself, it’s an emphatic reminder that Australia is still the home of Shiraz and while we are producing some tremendous examples of other varieties this is where we hang our hat and for good reason. Tom talks about making “the most authentic expression of our vineyard” and if this is what Heathcote Estate should look like then sign me up. This is a slick and perfectly pitched Shiraz of compelling depth, energy and immaculately measured structure that lends gravitas to the gorgeously sumptuous fruit. So good. So very good. Plenty to enjoy now but a lot of juice in the tank to hold it for a good long period in the cellar.
We are offering this at more than 20% discount in straight six packs making the wine only $39 each. For that price this is outrageous value. I recommend buying enough to try a little now and then holding some for a period if you can. As good as it is now I would love to see it in ten years or so.