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2011 Michael Hall Syrah, Flaxman's Valley, Eden Valley, S. Australia
Englishman Michael Hall’s first career was as a jewellery valuation expert to the top auction houses, but his passion for all his adult life has been wine. After graduating with top honours in Wine Science from Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, and after stints learning the ropes at various top wine estates in Australia and Europe, Michael recently set up his own winery in the Barossa Valley.
His sole objective is to make wines which reflect their individual terroir, and to this end he sources fruit from carefully chosen plots throughout the best wine-producing regions of South Australia to produce small-volume, highly individual wines which are very expressive of their origins. Michael’s stated aim is to make wines which will be “loved by some rather than liked by all”.
The response and critical acclaim has been remarkable. James Halliday and Nick Stock, Australia’s foremost wine critics, have consistently awarded marks in the high 90s.
Moreover, it’s clear that Michael Hall's wines are outstanding representations of the trend, rapidly gathering pace in Australia, and much in favour with us, to champion specific sub-districts and terroirs which are capable of producing wines of exceptional personality, a welcome antidote to the bland , mass-produced offerings which dominate our supermarket shelves.
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.
Samuel Smith planted vines here in 1849. Johann Henschke’s farm near present-day Keyneton, then called ‘North Rhine’dates back to 1862. However until the 1950s the region reverted back to livestock to make a living (as irrigation impractical). The 1950s saw a resurgence in the region’s fortunes, thanks to the likes of Cyril Hencshke’s promotion of Riesling. Yalumba acknowledged the region’s high quality fruit by relocating its winery to Angaston in the early 1970s; they had already planted the now famous Pewsey Vale vineyard in 1962. In 1972 they planted their Heggies vineyard with Chardonnay & then in ’84 with Viognier.
At between 380 – 550 metres, the region displays nutrient poor yellow podzolic/sandy & pink quartz soils over decomposed (gneiss) granite. Due to the rocky nature of the soils, irrigation is largely provided by dams & planting densities are higher than average. Compared to Clare Valley, Eden Valley is a marginally higher in altitude, if notably cooler zone with similar sunshine hours but slightly lower levels of continentality.
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