2005 Elderton, Command Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia
Jay S Miller - 25/02/2009
About this WINE
Elderton was established in 1984 by Neil Ashmead - it is now run by Allister and Cameron Ashmead.
The winery is located on the banks of the Barossa Valley`s North Para River just outside the town of Nuriootpa. The fruit is drawn from 31 hectares of high-quality vineyards in the Barossa Valley. Aged between 40 and 102 years old, coupled with minimal irrigation, the vines produce rich, concentrated fruit showing off classic varietal flavours.
Its flagship wine is the Command Shiraz, which is made from small parcels of vines planted in 1939 and 1947. It is matured in American oak puncheons for 24 months and is one of the richest and concentrated examples of Barossa Shiraz to be found today.
Elderton released Tantalus to provide an easy drinking style of premium red at an every day drinking price. Tantalus was a figure from Greek Mythology who was punished for offending the Gods by being kept perpetually thirsty and hungry but tantalised by water and fruit he could see, but not quite reach.
Barossa Valley is the South Australia's wine industry's birthplace. Currently into its fifth generation, it dates back to 1839 when George Fife Angas’ South Australian Company purchased 28,000 acres at a £1 per acre and sold them onto landed gentry, mostly German Lutherans. The first vines were planted in 1843 in Bethany, and by the 1870s – with Europe ravaged by war and Phylloxera - Gladstone’s British government complemented its colonies with preferential duties.
Fortified wines, strong enough to survive the 20,000km journey, flooded the British market. Churchill followed, between the Wars, re-affirming Australia’s position as a leading supplier of ‘Empire wines’. After the Second World War, mass European immigration saw a move to lighter wines, as confirmed by Grange Hermitage’s creation during the 1950s. Stainless-steel vats and refrigeration improved the quality of the dry table wines on offer, with table wine consumption exceeding fortified for the first time in 1970.
Averaging 200 to 400 metres’ altitude, the region covers 6,500 hectares of mainly terra rossa loam over limestone, as well as some warmer, sandier sites – the Cambrian limestone being far more visible along the eastern boundary (the Barossa Ranges) with Eden Valley. Following a diagonal shape, Lyndoch at the southern end nearest Gulf St Vincent is the region’s coolest spot, benefiting from sea fogs, while Nuriootpa (further north) is warmer; hot northerlies can be offset by sea breezes. The region is also home to the country’s largest concentration of 100-year-old-vine Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre.
Barossa Valley Shiraz is one of the country’s most identifiable and famous red wine styles, produced to a high quality by the likes of Rockford, Elderton, Torbreck and Dean Hewitson. Grenache and Mourvèdre are two of the region’s hidden gems, often blended with Shiraz, yet occasionally released as single vineyard styles such as Hewitson’s ‘Old Garden’, whose vines date back to 1853. Cabernet Sauvignon is a less highly-regarded cultivar.
Wines are traditionally vinified in open concrete fermenters before being cleaned up and finished in American and French oak barrels or ‘puncheons’ of approximately 600 litres. Barossa Shiraz should be rich, spicy and suave, with hints of leather and pepper.
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.
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Elderton’s flagship is the single vineyard Command Shiraz, a wine with serious aging potential, and one with which all other South Australia Shiraz must be compared. The opaque purple/black 2005 Command Shiraz was aged in French and American oak puncheons (500-liter barrels). It offers up a sexy/kinky bouquet of wood smoke, lavender, leather, game, mineral, black raspberry, and blueberry pie. Voluptuous on the palate, complex, and dense, it demands a decade of cellaring after which it should offer hedonists much pleasure through 2035.
Jay S Miller - Wine Advocate - Issue#181 Feb 2009
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