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2013 Old Plains Longhop Shiraz, Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia
Old Plains is a joint venture formed by two high school friends whose paths re-crossed in the olive growing business, Tim Freeland and Domenic Torzi, the aim of the Old Plains wines is to preserve the heritage, character and quality of the few remaining parcels of old vines on the Adelaide Plains planted by Italian immigrants after World War II. In some cases all that has survived of a 30 acre plot after the 1980s vine pull is a couple of rows that, since 2002 have been coaxed back in to production to make these big, flavourful wines.
Further vineyard finds in the nearby Mount Lofty region have enabled the Longhop range to be created, the name a pun on the ubiquitous “critter” brands from Australia, and a cricketing term that will bemuse many.
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.
Adelaide Hills, this up-and-coming South Australian region, may only be half an hour's drive from the city of Adelaide, spanning a 75km by 20km zone, but the change in topography is dramatic, the hot, dusty streets giving way to an elevated maze of verdant, twisting valleys of the Mount Lofty Ranges, offering varying aspects at between 350 and 700 metres.
Naturally, such a cool environment favours early ripening varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Soils are predominantly low, fertile grey loam. The total area is approximately 500 hectares, with a disproportionate number of single wineries. However high land prices deter all but the die-hards.