Issue: 20 / Sunday 15 April, 2018
Written by Stuart McCloskey
Hardys has an incredibly long history dating back to 1853, when a young Thomas Hardy sailed from the English port of Devon for the colony of South Australia in 1850. Only three years later, he purchased his Bankside property on the River Torrens in Adelaide where he established his first winery. Over 160 years, five generations have withstood two world wars, the Great Depression, the vagaries of a harsh climate and even personal tragedy, to create a brand recognised for delivering great Australian wines to the world – Or have they?
Back home, Hardys has a great reputation with the ultimate accolade coming from James Halliday who awards the winery a red, five star rating, where the winery name is itself is printed in red, it is a winery generally acknowledged to have had a long track record of excellence in the context of its region. Truly the best of the best. Only 102 wineries form part of this group, placing Hardys alongside Penfolds, Torbreck and Henschke.
Hardys supermarket / low tier range including Stamp, Crest, Nottage Hill and VR has to some degree tarnished their reputation in the UK and few Brits would consider placing Hardys alongside Aussie greats. Clearly, there is either a lack of respect for their ‘Top’ wines including the Eileen, Thomas and Winemakers Rare Release, which I feel is misplaced and perhaps born from a snooty attitude (given their supermarket range) or possibly, there is a lack of knowledge which is obscuring views.
This week I was invited to Hardys HQ to sample their museum stock and current ‘top tier’ vintages. Let me be clear, I am a fan and long before this week’s tasting. So much so, The Vinorium is the UK exclusive source for their stunning 2015 Eileen Chardonnay which both James Halliday and I award 98 points.
The wines were arranged in flights - whites, reds, fortified and as per the norm, young to old.
The 2014 Heritage Reserve Bin (HRB) Chardonnay does not fall under their premium label. This is a multi-regional blend with the fruit sourced from Pemberton, Margaret River and Adelaide Hills however, the quality is excellent and I feel punches well above its price bracket. Next, came the 2008 HRB (Bin D643) which was full of vigor and youthfulness (not bad for a ten year old mid-tier wine and would put many white Burgundies to utter shame!). Perfectly balanced, fresh with a super long finish.
I know both the 2014 and 2015 Eileen Chardonnay well therefore, we poured the 2009 first. A little reductive on the nose however, time in the glass lessened the stuck match characteristic which I am not overly fond off. 100% Tasmanian fruit and it was such a joy to taste. Expansive, buttery fruit, underpinned by citrus / lemon oil and toasty oak. Gorgeous and drinking beautifully now but certainly has another five to ten years left in her. The 2008, which has the edge over the ’09 was sublime. The palate was silky, graceful and ultimately high-class. Jam packed with minerals and multi layered. A large WOW was scribbled across my tasting note! The 1995 was opened (under cork) and thankfully was in great condition. Fully mature and only drinkers who understand old / mature Chardonnays would appreciate this wine’s long and graceful journey (I fear many would consider this wine oxidized and over the hill). Full-bodied, mouth coating with tropical fruits intermixed with banana bread, warming ginger and a lovely saltiness… Time in Hardys cellar has been kind to this wine and only the very best conditioned bottles will reward the lucky few.
Eileen Pinot Noir came next with all fruit being sourced from Tasmania. I know the younger vintages well and have a real fondness for their 2012 – We are shipping their library stock to the UK with 50% being offered in a few months. I’ll be honest, the remainder is for me! The 2014 is brooding and certainly does not shy away. The berry fruit is bright and the tannins svelte. A wonderfully honest impression of Pinot Noir and does need a few more years to unveil the wines complexities. The 2010 was simply sensational and soars over its peers. The bouquet was enthralling and with waves of dark fruit, smoke, telltale Hardys spices fusing together to produce an effortless and beguiling wine. I understand the Eileen Pinot Noir will not be produced in future.
To my favorite varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon which sits under their premium label, Thomas Hardy. First released in 1989, their Cabernet Sauvignon sits firmly with Aussie elites. The 2012 (a blend of 70% Coonawarra, 27% Margaret River and 3% McLaren Vale) is enthralling with aromatics of crème de cassis, blackberry, pen ink and lead pencil. Wonderfully ripe palate packed with sweet fruit, glycerin and luxurious tannins. Irresistible now but certainly capable of lasting two decades in a good cellar. The 1995 Coonawarra was poured however, Hardys does lack a good corkscrew. In fact, I believe this is a rare commodity at their HQ – One crappy corkscrew shared amongst the entire team. Consequently, a few corks were butchered including the ’95 which was quickly decanted away from the debris. A sensuous nose of leather, farmyard (almost Burgundian) and game. The palate is flawless which will leave wine-lovers speechless. One of the great Aussie Cabernet Sauvignons.
The 2009 HRB (Bin 649 Malaren Vale & Clare Valley)) Shiraz was poured and was immediately impressive particularly given the wine’s value. Enthralling, it was not although I must admit I really enjoyed the wine’s overall charm and femininity. 2013 Eileen Shiraz followed and the quality jump was obvious. There was the added pressure as I know Mr. Halliday awarded 98 points and declared it as the best Eileen Shiraz since the legendary 1971. Unquestionably, a very fine Shiraz indeed. Multidimensional with layer upon layer of ripe dark fruits. By no means a blockbuster (thank goodness), just everything perfectly done, in the right place and comes across the palate at the right time. The 2002 came across more Bordeaux-esque than Rhone. Wafts of new saddle leather followed by sweet aromatics. The wine glides across your palate seamlessly. Again, and without repeating myself, virtually perfect balance here too. The 1998 followed and disappointed. Not because the wine was poor – more to do with the fact that the ’02 was seductive compared to the dusty tannins of the ’98. Finally, to the 1997 served ‘en-magnum’ and reeked of farmyard (in the positive). The palate is beautifully balanced, very pure, elegant with a seductive quality which makes tipping my glass content away hard to do. Superb and a real treat.
We moved onto their 2008 Winemaker’s Rare Release. Sadly, ‘rare’ is often an overused word in our industry however, this wine marks their most recent release. Chief Winemaker Paul Lapsley blends grapes from the three best Shiraz growing regions; McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Frankland River and only when the Shiraz is exceptional. Only 195 cases were produced as we tucked into bottle number 2223. The palate is supremely balanced with a wonderful spiciness. Given the quality of fruit section, there is enormous depth on show but far from a powerful fruit bomb which are often produced with these extra-special / rare releases. This is an outstanding Shiraz.
Finally, and something Australia is famous for, we moved on to their fortified selection. I started with their Rare Show Tawny (24 years old) which was brimming with lip licking burnt sugar and crème brûlée notes however, their 20 year old Rare Muscat really got the thumbs up with me. Christmas cake spices and old woody notes drifted-out from my glass. The palate was powerful, with startling viscosity. The layers of flavours are countless, from the finest dark chocolate, caramelized roasted nut to butterscotch and vanilla packed creme pat. We finished with their 1947 Show Port which was produced using Shiraz and came as a shock due to the wines lightness of presence on my palate, which is something I was not expecting. Very, very difficult to decide points for a wine so unique and if I dare say it, incredibly rare.
It is easy to draw to a conclusion. Hardys is a great winemaker and their top-tier wines sit amongst the very best in Australia. These wines should be revered and true wine drinkers should, I say respectfully, stop the nonsensical snobbery and enjoy these stunning wines. I am currently working very hard to bring some (and perhaps all) of these museum releases to you – Of course, there isn’t much to go around but we will do our best.
I must thank Hardys for their generous line-up…
James Suckling Left & Right Bank
tasting notes added…
And to another special producer, Greenock Creek who has been awarded many Robert Parker 100 to 98 points… Sadly, the majority of our mature stocks have either sold-out or are coming close to, which gave us the impetus to contact the winery and open-up communications regarding becoming their UK exclusive source however, the owners, Annabelle & Michael are retiring shortly and their famous winery is up for sale. In all seriousness, we investigated whether we could purchase their winery as the size and scale of production would work for us financially. Alas, we are too late as the closing bids were submitted in March…
Whilst we wait for the update on the new lucky owners, we have purchased as much as we could (lots of new wines too). Given the haste, we have not had time to sample the wine therefore, please forgive the lack of tastings notes. These will be submitted shortly.
Michael Waugh was a bricklayer, a trade which brought him to Barossa in the 1970’s. With his wife, Annabelle he bought a 20 acre property near Seppeltsfield in 1976. It consisted of nothing more than a rundown house with an attached almond and apricot orchard and around 2 acres of old Shiraz vines planted along the line of a creek.
In 1978 Michael planted just over an acre of Chardonnay on this property and produced several vintages from these vines. But he soon realised that Chardonnay was by no means suited to the Barossa climate and grafted the vines over to Shiraz in 2000. In the early years, the grapes from the old vines were sold to the Seppelts, but in 1988 Michael began to produce his own wine from these old vines. Chris Ringland was the winemaking consultant.
In 1994 they purchased the Roennfeldt Road property consisting of around 6 acres of Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines with around 8 acres of apricot orchard. The vineyard was in very poor condition but after much hard work re-trellising the vines and deep-ripping the soil, the vineyard was re-vitalised and brought back into full production. 1995 was the first vintage of the Roennfeldt Road Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz from this entirely dry-farmed vineyard. The apricot orchard was pulled out in 1995 (along with around 500 tons of granite) and the land was planted with a further 8 acres of Shiraz, the Apricot Block. Alice’s Vineyard was planted on a 20 acre property adjoining the original homestead on Radford Road and produced its first vintage in 2008.
Greenock Creek now produces between 3,000 and 3,500 cases a year depending on seasonal conditions. Since none of the vineyards are irrigated, yields are dictated purely by weather and pruning, averaging around 1.2 to 2 tons per acre (24 to 32 hl/ha). All fruit is estate grown.
All the wines are 100% single variety and the winemaking is broadly the same across the range. Low to very low yields from dry-farmed vineyards. Grapes picked on phenological ripeness and flavour at a baume range of 16° to 18° which can give high alcohols. The grapes are fermented in large, shallow 4 and 6 ton open fermenters, pumped over and chilled 3 times a day to give maximum fruit expression. The ferments are on skins for 6 to 8 days and pressed through 3 and 2 ton basket presses for a minimum of 8 hours to extract big but soft tannins. Free run and press juice are kept separate through maturation and blended together one week before bottling. The wines spend 2 weeks in stainless steel and concrete underground tanks to complete primary fermentation and are then racked to barrels for malolactic. Oak is a mixture of French and American oak, mostly second use with new for the two Roennfeldt Road wines.
These are large-scaled, big-boned reds which nonetheless display fine acid balance, and, oddly for their size, elegance, with a tremendous ageing potential. They are charismatic, individual and rare, produced as they are in utterly finite, not to say minute quantity.
Now available by the bottle & in-store
98+ points - Antonio Galloni
Bottled just a few months ago, the 2015 Continuum is shaping up to be a real gem. The flavors are dark, bold and incisive. In 2015, poor weather during flowering took with it 50% of the production in Continuum's prime Cabernet Sauvignon blocks. As a result, the 2015 has a high percentage (31%) of Cabernet Franc. Today, the Franc is keeping the wine a bit clenched, but that should be less of an issue as time passes.
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Our standard online price for Springlfat Shiraz (all vintages) is £34.95 which is already the best offer in the world market however, and for a limited time only, you can try these stunning wines at £23.95 per bottle.
All prices will revert at 5pm Tuesday 17th April.
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