Robert M. Parker, Jr. - 31/10/2006
About this WINE
About 15 miles due south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale was one of South Australia’s inaugural regions to be planted in 1839; Tintara was the first commercial vineyard planted in 1862. Post fortifieds, war and a Depression, the dry red wine boom of the 1960s poured life into a multitude of small-medium sized wineries, mostly producing wines from Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon; vineyard hectareage stands at approx. 4000.
In terms of terroir, the region is characterised by a predominantly warm dry temperate climate, with little diurnal shift, despite the cooling presence of the Gulf of St Vincent, and low relative humidity (49%); a gently sloping topography rising NE from the coastal plains at 50 metres up to the Mount Lofty Ranges around Woodstock reaching 350 metres; soils varying between the fertile red loams on the coastal flats through to the hard rock shales & limestone deposits of the Ranges. The most prized terroir is known as the ‘Blue Ribbon’ between the town of McLaren Vale and Kangarilla in the Mount Lofty Ranges, just south of the Onkaparinga River.
Good Shirazes and Cabernets tend to be a deep purple in colour, richly extracted with velvety, luxuriant dark berry, black pepper and chocolate flavours with relatively high pHs, ageing for up to 10 years.
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.