SC Pannell Koomilya Shiraz 2017

One of the greatest Australian winemakers ever to make wines in our age. NICK STOCK

One of the great, and more progressive thinkers in Australian wine is Steve. If only there were more like him. GARY WALSH, The Wine Front

Steve radiates intensity and his extended experience has resulted in wines of the highest quality, right from the first vintage. The Pannells have two vineyards in McLaren Vale, the first planted in 1891 with a precious 3.6ha of shiraz. The Koomilya Vineyard was purchased in 2012, lifting the total estate vineyards to 22ha (Steve first set foot on this viticultural jewel in 1994 and it was love at first sight). The future for the Pannells is limitless, the icon status of the label already well established. JAMES HALLIDAY

After working 40 vintages, including nine in Europe, I’ve spent plenty of time in vineyards and wineries to ponder: Why do I love wine? Why do I love making wine? What is it exactly that makes a great wine? I think that all great wines obey a set of rules, and the most important of these is that wine should have a sense of place; the best possible expression of where they are from. Put simply, a wine should taste like it comes from somewhere specific; unique, discrete and impossible to replicate. And with this being the case, it gives a winemaker greater direction and purpose, and drives everything that you do. With the attention on place, the protection of regional, vineyard, and even single block characteristics become the most important factor in the winemaking decisions. The focus is on growing the wine and working the vineyard to reduce the need for winemaking tricks. STEPHEN PANNELL

Sometimes it seems like every second winemaker in SA is doing some new project, trying to recreate the great wines of old or rejuvenate some patch of dirt that has been overlooked. I am not suggesting this is a bad thing, just that we hear similar stories a lot. When Stephen Pannell engages in something like this you kind of have to take notice.

Koomilya is the passion project, actually maybe let’s call a spade a spade here, it is the obsession of one of Australia’s greatest winemakers. While Steve has been at the top of his game for a long time and is one of, if not the most, awarded winemakers in the country he felt like something extra was needed in his insanely good stable of wines.

Steve makes an array of things, from traditional Australian styles through to far more adventurous projects and varieties. Koomilya though is all about capturing the essence of McLaren Vale and crafting wines that hark back to the glory days where the wines were not as burdened with artifice and the hand of the winemaker was less an influence over the place and time the wine represents.

The Koomilya vineyard was acquired by Steve in 2012 but he had been working with the site in his previous role. In fact he won the Jimmy Watson Trophy for the 1995 Eileen Hardy Shiraz, a major component of which came from this vineyard. Since it’s acquisition the vineyard has consumed a lot of his attention and time. I remember the first time he told us about it and we tasted a pre release sample with him. For those who don’t know the man he is, intense, but when talking about this project you could tell that this was something that was going to consume a good degree of his energy and focus.

Today the wines are an extraordinary reflection of these ancient vines (Stephen is not sure exactly when vines here were first planted but there is an estimate that it was somewhere in the 1850s), Steve’s determination and, as he mentions in the spiel I included above, that most remarkable and most exciting of all aspects of wine, they taste of their site and their vintage above all else.

The 2017 is a remarkable expression of Shiraz from the Vale. Not the bulldozers of recent times but rather a wine of stature, subtle intensity and depth that retains a fresh and cool edge to the fruit profile while also delivering on the inherent power of the site. Wines like this deserve attention and in the glass it commands it, not by overwhelming but by calling on you to explore what it has to offer.

Some of you may remember we offered one of the Koomilya wines earlier this year and it sold out quickly. Lots of people missed out unfortunately. I encourage you to get in early if you are interested to avoid missing out. This is something I think deserves to be in the cellars of every serious Australian wine consumer.

It may not be the kind of offer you are used to seeing from me but Koomilya is genuinely exciting and, I believe, well and truly on its way to becoming an Australian icon and a beacon for quality and individuality in the region.

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