Written by Magdalena Sienkiewicz
Last year, we published a large article centred on Shiraz. The feature looked carefully at the fashion of bashing Aussie Shiraz and we set to the task (with the aid of our producers) of fighting back. You can read the full article here. We also promised to revert with part II which focuses on feedback gained from our customers and a deeper insight into the wealth of the statistics we both generate in-house and source from Wine Australia. In fact, and after absorbing detailed figures supplied by Wine Australia, we plan to run a series of articles which we will publish over the coming months.
In the 36 months from January 2017, The Vinorium has sold precisely 199,198 standard 750ml bottles of Shiraz and a further 6,178 large formats of various volumes from 1.5L to 6L bottles, which is a staggering number. It is important to acknowledge that our sales are all from high-value, fine wines from Australia rather than low-value supermarket wine. The full retail value of Shiraz sales in the same period sits at just under £4 million with the total volume sold equal to 162,141 litres. To put these numbers into context, we have sold enough Shiraz to fill two thirds of an Olympic swimming pool or 2,026 baths! Today, our entire collection of Shiraz in stock is pennies short of £1 million in value and it consists of over 30,000 bottles…
The Shiraz statistics are further emphasised with the aid of Wine Australia’s amazing research into both the national and global perspective of Aussie Shiraz. In 2015, there were 39,893 hectares of Shiraz planted across Australia, which makes it the most widely planted variety in the country (30% of total plantings) and the most planted red grape variety by a vast margin (47% of total red wine crush). The next most popular red variety, Cabernet Sauvignon sits at 26% (Shiraz is nearly double the quantity) and it is followed by Merlot (12%), Pinot Noir (5%), Grenache (2%) and others (8%).
Over 232 million litres of Shiraz were exported from Australia in 2017, which represented 29% of its total wine export and an annual growth of 15%. The widespread demand for Shiraz is clear in the breakdown of Australia’s biggest export markets. Only 3% of its annual production was shipped to neighbouring New Zealand, 14% to the USA, 8% to Canada and 9% to the United Kingdom, which is a staggering number for a small island. It comes with little surprise that China continuously outdrinks us all as it imported 44%.
Shiraz is planted in almost every region in Australia, of which there are over 60. Due to different climates, soils and growing conditions, Australia has the greatest diversity of Shiraz in the world. Those unique qualities driven by diverse climates and terroirs are raw diamonds in the hands of Aussie winemakers who are curious by nature. Not bound by a single, homogeneous reflection of Australian Shiraz, the winemakers have a rich palette as a base for their incredible work, which is supported further by Australia’s affable winemaking community, full of creative minds, open to share ideas both old and new. I could happily provide hundreds of examples; starting from creative Shiraz blending or making Shiraz into Rosé styles and sparkling wines, all of which became quintessentially Aussie styles. However, this is almost certainly a subject for another article in this series.
As set out at the beginning of this read, we asked our customers for their own observations on the evolution of Shiraz. A particularly good conversation starter in discussion with one of our Aussie customers, Nick, who now lives in the UK:
“Although I grew up with the Barossa on my doorstep, I left Adelaide after finishing University at 21 and, at the time, failed to appreciate what was in front of me. When I discovered the world of wine a few years later, Shiraz seemed the logical choice. The last 15 years, in my view, has seen a real appreciation develop for small batch Shiraz that captures the subtlety and showcases the diversity not only between regions like Barossa, McLaren Vale and more recently Tasmania, but blocks only a few miles apart, down the road. We’ve seen smaller producers embrace the flexibility and freedom.”
Many customers expressed their observations from a purely subjective point of view, sharing their individual journeys with Aussie Shiraz through the years. An interesting perspective was received from Richard, who opened a personal door and shared his thoughts as follows:
“I suspect that my changing perceptions of Australian Shiraz are more a sign of my changing engagement with wine in general, rather than being a genuine reflection of how Australian winemaking has changed over time. I’m willing to pay a lot more for a bottle now than I was when I first started drinking wine, which is just as well given our deranged national preoccupation with doing everything possible to devalue sterling. As such, it is hard to pass firm judgements on changes in the quality of Shiraz over time. Having said that, the continuing deliciousness of many (not excessively priced) wines from the mid-2000s attests to the fact that they’ve really known what they’re doing for longer than I can credibly pass comment on. What is striking is that it is now easier to source good quality Australian shiraz in a range of styles and regionality appears to have become more of a selling point in the marketing of wines.”
We particularly enjoyed asking about the earliest memories of encountering a bottle of Australian Shiraz. St Hallett Old Block Shiraz, Wolf Blass, Wirra Wirra and Two Hands featured heavily in your responses, which is a testament to their celebrated reputations and their continuous power of creating memories which last a lifetime. An avid fan of Two Hands wines, Bob, shared a great story of his own journey of Shiraz discovery and offered the following conclusions:
“I have seen quite an advancement over the years of Aussie Shiraz production, with more focus on small boutique wines, higher quality, smaller production wines and more environmentally friendly practices. The big producers still seem to be making an impact within the industry, but I feel they are having to keep up with modern practices in order to compete with new rising stars. I do not profess to be any kind of expert when it comes to wine or wine knowledge, but the most important thing I have learnt over the years is that if you love the wine, it is a good wine! Reviews and Parker scores are always a good guide, but ultimately all that is important is that you enjoy the wine and it gives you pleasure!”
Simon’s story was a great read too:
“My first real exposure to Australian, or more accurately good Barossa Shiraz came when I was in my early 20s (now aged 54) living in my hometown of Manchester. Very limited access to a broad range of wines other than through limited specialty wine shops, supermarket offers were very limited.
The owner of St Hallett was once persuaded to head north during his trip to London, and we held a BBQ, drank St Hallett Old Block Shiraz (1990 vintage I think) and discussed Australian wines over food. Great event, and we purchased a case as I recall and that was the start of my interest. Fairly random, but a lucky introduction. The reason I mention this is that I do not have a perfect knowledge of what is out there, and whilst information is much better today than back then, it is still only as good as the knowledge / information you are exposed to and the wines that you subsequently get access to.
Then I came across you guys recently - much easier in the age of internet to get good information. Even started to put down a few cases with you rather than buying older wines to consume. Enjoying buying from you, so excited to try new wines on recommendation! My feeling is that you recommend what you genuinely think are great wines and not a sales promo where everything is great and not to be missed - I value this.”
Simon raised an important point of information as one of the pivotal aspects of one’s experience with wine, which is one of the main reasons behind the copious amount of work which goes into our weekly magazine editions. As for this article, we specifically set out to find answers to the questions surrounding the popularity of Shiraz. Has it become a fashionable drink? How can we define its past and present, and perhaps most importantly, is the future promising for Shiraz?
Again, we asked our customers to reveal whether they are personally excited by the ‘new wave’ of producers. Interestingly, all responses, although varied in their approach, are genuinely passionate about the future of Shiraz, as well as the future of Australian wine in its entirety. For example, Nick is “really excited” by the new wave with the emphasis on “their ability to experiment with single block/vineyard, new varieties, natural yeast fermentation and the rediscovery of old/ancient vines that are lovingly restored to production.”
Nick also refuses to conform to any fashions, and he comments:
“Having been told on several occasions I have a face for radio, trends and fashion pass me by. In our experience the ‘latest thing’ is heavily influenced by the size of the marketing budget rather than quality, and hype is often associated with increased prices. As such, we prefer to discover through friends, family and random bottles shared. Having the luxury of frequent trips back to Oz gives us the freedom to explore ourselves.”
His final thoughts are full of optimism for the future:
“We really hope that the younger, smaller producers are given the opportunity to showcase their talents. The move to micro-regions and single vineyard wines is the way forward at it showcases all the great things that Australian Shiraz has to offer.”
A great affection for the future, as well as the past of Aussie Shiraz is reflected in Richard’s own words:
“I feel that Australian winemakers will take their wine in more interesting directions than I could hope to imagine myself, so I’ll leave it in their ridiculously capable hands. But if anybody can use diabolical scientific methods to clone Branson Coach House Block Rare 2005, I wouldn’t say no.”
Australian Shiraz has been a topic of many lengthy conversations in our office this week. One, long lunchtime discussion centred around the diversity of our winemakers in Australia, not based on the quality of their wines. Instead, on how they represent the past, the present and the future of Australian wine. It created much disagreement and we felt that those placed in the past heroes’ category would appear write-offs which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Many being responsible for the brilliance we see today and continue to produce great wines outside of the limelight.
Given our mutual fondness towards the veterans of Australian Shiraz, we are pleased to re-introduce a few old-time favorites from St Hallett, Thomas Hardy and Eileen Hardy and it is important to note that most will not feature as regulars – Just a nostalgic, short term return. The Accolade portfolio represents fabulous examples of wineries with long histories and a list of awards, biblical in its length.
For us, the deserved title of ‘the hero of the past’ goes to John Glaetzer. John has a long history as the senior red winemaker at Wolf Blass, resulting in winning an unrivalled four of the prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophies for Australia’s top red wine 1974, 1975, 1976, and 1999. Also winning eleven Montgomery Trophies for the finest red wines at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show, to name just a few of the awards. John’s Blend was an instant success when first released in 1977 and continues to sell-out globally. Sadly, we will not be seeing John’s Shiraz until 2021 and the Cabernet Sauvignon is close to selling-out. To us, John is a very gifted winemaker who has never sought fame.
This lineup of important producers is joined by: Clarendon Hills, Hobbs of Barossa Ranges, Kay Brothers, St Hallett, Wolf Blass and Reynella. We feel that Greenock Creek is also worthy of mention, but and given their recent change of owners, we expect to see a new direction built on their heritage.
Producers in their full artistic stride who have elevated Australian wines to unprecedented levels. They all have a long future ahead of them.
The present-day looks very exciting indeed. Over 25 talented producers have joined The Vinorium in the past 36 months. They embrace the present to the fullest and a bright future lies ahead of them all (listed alphabetically):
Artisans of Barossa – with outstanding devotion to showcasing the best of the Barossa Valley, winemakers John Duval, Greg Hobbs, Jason Schwarz and Pete Schell (amongst others) often contribute selected barrels from their own cellars to create fascinating blends.
Cobaw Ridge – producing spellbinding wines which are honest, authentic and unashamedly full of flavour. Since its birth in 1985, the winery has embraced both organic and biodynamic practices and are clearly well ahead of the curve.
Glaetzer-Dixon - Nick's 2010 Mon Père Shiraz was awarded the prestigious Jimmy Watson Memorial trophy at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show - the first time in the trophy's 50-year history for a Tasmanian wine. That sums-up the brilliance of Nick…
Hutton Vale Farm – the Angas family helped to shape the history of Eden Valley. In 1912, they planted the great Mount Edelstone vineyard with 100% Shiraz, which and we must highlight, was unusual for the time. Today, they continue to produce superb fruit with the regular buyers including Dan Standish (his Lamella is made purely with Hutton Vale Shiraz fruit) and John Duval. However, the present is far more exciting as we finally see Hutton Vale wines bottled under their very own label.
JC’s Own – Jaysen Collins is Barossa born and bred and thus, his passion for Shiraz is inevitable. However, it is his also his dedication to Grenache which makes JC’s Own a creative venture which elevates the status of the great Barossa Grenache to new levels (and as we now know, Grenache stands for only 2% of Australia’s red plantings!).
Massena –joint venture of the formidable Dan Standish and Jaysen Collins. It started at the beginning of the century with a mission of respecting Barossa’s old vines and focusing on Grenache and Shiraz however, with two talented and creative winemakers at the helm, they quickly moved into alternative varieties. ‘The Howling Dog’ Saperavi is a must for every vinous explorer.
Purple Hands – Craig Stansborough remains one of the most reputable winemakers in the Barossa Valley. With over 20 years of experience heading up the wine craft at the iconic Grant Burge, and together with his partner in crime Mark, he brings us his own project where his knowledge, experience and passion can blossom to the fullest.
Standish – the spotlight has finally found the many talents of Dan Standish, putting his wines at the pinnacle of the very best Shiraz wines produced today. Clearly, Dan epitomizes the reflection of the present with a long future still ahead for Standish wines.
Wild Duck Creek – although traditional winemaking techniques are very much the status quo with winemakers David and Liam, they do go against the grain by making delicious Barossa Valley Roussanne, Riesling (both varieties forming a minority in the Barossa Valley) and various other exciting blends. Our customers give much favour to the Yellow Hammer Shiraz Malbec blend amongst others.
Artisans of Barossa Six Origins Shiraz 2018
The 2018 Six Origins by Artisans of Barossa features six Shiraz produced from six Barossa vineyards by six artisan winemakers.
This high-altitude site sits at 610m above sea level, yielding Syrah imbued with floral aromatics and a spicy flavour profile.
Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Père Shiraz 2017
"Very northern Rhône nose – pepper, game and floral notes.... What a lovely half-way house between Old and New World."
Hutton Vale Farm Shiraz 2014
"So natural and so effortless. A remarkable wine."
JC's Own Greenock Shiraz 2017
"A big red... autumnal but sweet flavours. It’s a pretty darn epic wine here."
£36.50 per bottle
Massena Eleventh Hour Shiraz 2017
"The opulent palate is full of black cherry, raspberry and dark chocolate with typical Barossa black fruits and a rich, supple mouthfeel."
After Five Wine Co. Barossa Shiraz 2017
“A thrilling, single vineyard Shiraz which has been meticulously crafted by the skilled hands of Craig Stansborough."
Standish Lamella Shiraz 2017
"Full-bodied, ineffably complete with an overall mouthfeel akin to velvet - juicy with a super-lavish, creamy texture."
£64.95 per bottle
Wild Duck Creek Springflat Shiraz 2016
"Big, heady, dark and powerful red wine. Supple, soft, decadent in the palate."
The young guard who have been surrounded by vines from birth. Today, and after watching their parents and mentors for the past two decades, they take winemaking in a new direction.
We represent three super-talented young guards who, in our opinion, are producing extraordinary wines. Owen Latta, Angus Vinden and Joshua Cooper learnt their craft from their parents and now forge their own paths. If these are an example of Australia’s wine future, it’s looking very bright indeed.
"Domaine Simha, which follows biodynamic principles and employs only minimal sulfur in the production. Their micro-batch wines are excellent, but come at a price as a result. Which is scarcely surprising for someone who has made wine at Le Pin and Domaine d’Arlot... Low intervention wines from vineyards across the state, especially some old vines in Tamar Valley. Founded by husband and wife Nav Singh and Louise Radman. Very fine Chardonnay especially."
Tim Atkin, Jan 2020
"...one of the most intense Australian
Chardonnays I have tasted."
Domaine Simha Rao Chardonnay 2017
99 Points Stuart McCloskey “Grand Cru Burgundy in its structure, complexity and certainly, one of the most intense Australian Chardonnays I have tasted. The bouquet is heavenly scented with buttered citrus, sweet pastry, buttered popcorn, lemon oil, beeswax and wafts of sea spray. Just incredible. The palate is full-bodied, powerful, texturally perfect with a depth beyond the fathoms - Montrachet in all its magnificence. Clearly, a wine which offers a degree of indulgence, but the acidity provides the perfect frame. The finish is super-long, luxurious with wonderful hints of minerals and a touch of saltiness. Totally exquisite. Served with Zalto Bordeaux glassware. Decant for 20 minutes, this is drinking divinely now and will continue to do so for a further 8-10 years.”
In Bond price
£209.10 per case of 6
"Simply magical and
a highlight in our portfolio"
98++ Points - Stuart McCloskey “The bouquet is both intoxicating and beguiling ranging from petrichor (that wonderful earthy scent when rain falls on dry, hot ground) brambles, hedgerow fruits, orange rind and floral notes to pencil. Certainly, edging towards a more savoury side. The palate is broad, expansive and keeps giving – far from being a nervous Pinot Noir. The tannins are svelte and melt into a heady mix of wild berries. The lavish texture is impossible to ignore – Satin and structurally perfect. The deep core of fruit is impressive as is the bottomless finish. Simply magical and a highlight in our portfolio. I cannot wait to see how this wine ages over the coming 6-10 years. Served with Zalto Burgundy glassware (as important as the wine itself).”
In Bond price
£209.10 per case of 6
1 x Domaine Simha Rao Chardonnay 2017 - 99 Points
1 x Domaine Simha Rama Pinot Noir 2017 - 98++ Points
Far exceeded my expectations...
Stu - Wednesday evening, I popped down to the warehouse and helped myself to a bottle of wine (HMRC – Purely to assess its progress in the bottle). I opted for a bottle of the 2017 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay as it’s midweek and one shouldn’t be decadent. What a shock as it was utterly compelling and if truth be known, far exceeded my expectations. A touch of struck match on the nose which quickly dissipated after a few minutes of airtime (I opted for a Bordeaux glass from Zalto). The palate was full-bodied, concentrated, sumptuous, rich and yielded a plethora of buttery fruits. Wonderful texture, expansive and a super-long finish. This is certainly worth a special mention and a Chardonnay which you should seek out. Now my favourite NZ Chardonnay 97++ Points…
It changed my view of the low sulphur wines...
Mags - Following a lot of research into Australian Shiraz this week, I felt inspired to re-sample the Eastern Peake Project Zero SO2 Syrah. In fact, without the suggestion of low sulphur on the label, I would be asking myself what makes this wine so unique. It’s lush, it’s wild and it is very delicious. Simply put, it changed my view of the low sulphur wines.
Undoubtedly paired with
some sort of cheese...
Michelle - This weekend I'm taking home Josh Cooper's Pinot. We all loved his range here and I can't wait to try this. Undoubtedly paired with some sort of cheese, maybe Manchego on crackers with a perfect layer of butter smeared to the edges... and sipping from my Zalto Bordeaux glass.
Missing out on something special...
Natalie - Last week I had two days off which meant that I missed out on sampling the hotly anticipated Vinden Estate wines when they arrived at our HQ. (Always a risk when you’re away from Vinorium HQ!) Having seen the tasting notes and how popular they have been with our customers I am now feeling like I’m missing out on something special. The 87 Block Single Barrel Chardonnay 2019 might have to come home with me this weekend before we sell out…
Feet up, out of the wind and rain...
Shonty – Taking home a Flowstone Queen of the Earth Chardonnay 2015; an utterly delicious, smokey, citrus Chardonnay. Feet up, out of the wind and rain and sat in my warm and cosy lounge, this is just perfect chilled and served in a Zalto Bordeaux. I might share it on Friday night, might not…
It's stayed with me ever since...
James - We tried the Cobaw Ridge Chardonnay in the office not too long ago and it's stayed with me ever since. It is an interesting and flavoursome wine which I can't wait to try again and which will very much be enjoyed this weekend.
The UK's largest Australian wine tasting for private customers
OXO2, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, Level Two, London SE1 9PH
Date & Time:
Friday 22 May, 4:30pm to 8:30pm
Saturday 23 May, 10:00am to 6:00pm
Saturday 23 May:
A series of special Masterclasses all priced at £15.00 each will be running throughout the day. A Masterclass ticket must be purchased in addition to a tasting ticket for the main room. A tasting ticket does not entitle you to attend a Masterclass. Please read the T&C's that apply on the tasting ticket.
The outstanding list of winemakers who will be attending
Artisans of Barossa, Dan Standish, Jaysen Collins (JC’s Own), Massena, Nick Glaetzer, John Pooley, Nav Singh from Domaine Simha, team Greenock Creek, Owen Latta from Eastern Peake, Stuart Angas from Hutton Vale Farm, Julian & Alana Langworthy from Nocturne, Stuart Pym from Flowstone, Greg Hobbs, Kay Brothers, Craig Stansborough from Purple Hands / After Five Wine Co, the boys from Wild Duck Creek, Soumah are back, Angus Vinden from Vinden Estate, Paul & Gilli Lipscombe from Sailor Seeks Horse, Franco D’Anna from Hoddles Creek, Grant Taylor from Valli Vineyards (New Zealand)… and we are waiting on confirmation from Domaine Naturaliste. All-in-all, a very impressive line-up.