Sunday, August 18, 2013

An awful Shiraz tasting

This post requires a couple of introductory remarks. Most professional wine writers do not post negative reviews. Why? Because they depend on sample submissions. If they do not like a wine, they simply won't review it. So you never know if the wine was negatively seen or not reviewed. I do not need to worry about this, because I do not rely on samples. You might say, "but you do not have many poor reviews". This is because most of the wines I review come from my cellar which essentially holds wines I enjoy, and even with new releases I pick those which I think I will like (although I sometimes leave out entry level wines - maybe I should not).

The tasting I am reporting on now was a Grange tasting - which is why I went - and included a number of other Shirazes, mostly below $30 per bottle. And it was ugly.

Let's start with McLaren Vale. The wines I tasted were 2008 Chapel Hill, 2008 Kay Brothers Basket Pressed,  2009 Oliver's Taranga HJ Reserve, 2010 Wirra Wirra RSW, 2009 Kay Brothers Amery Hillside, 2011 Chapel Hill The Vicar, 2009 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm and 2010 III Associates Giant Squid Ink Reserve. Some well known wines in this line-up. Some of these wines surprisingly lacked body weight, some were too oaky, added acidity was unpleasant, and generally the wines were not very harmonious. I would not score any of the wines at 90 points or above (other than The Dead arm at 90 points and the III Associates at 94 points). III Associates is three senior wine people from the Vale coming together and producing small quantities of hand crafted wine from old vines. This wine is fashioned in the intense and powerful style, but the fruit is first class, and the structure holds it together.

The Barossa wines were 2010 St. Hallett Blackwell, 2011 Gibson The Dirtman, 2012 Kalleske Pirathon, 2010 Glaetzer Bishop, 2009 Saltram No.1, 2006 Saltram Journal, 2010 Chris Ringland Reservation. Similarly, only the Saltram No.1 is a 90 point wine for me, even though it is a little sweet and unfocussed. The Blackwell is just in your face, and the Chris Ringland wine sweet and alcoholic. These are wines you only want to drink if they serve as a vehicle to consume alcohol.

Two cooler climate wines were much more pleasant. The 2010 Vasse Felix Shiraz showed vibrant red and black berry fruit. The wine is fresh and peppery. It has some sweetness as well, leading to an overall soft elegance (93 points). This winery is going from strength to strength. The 2010 Dalwhinnie Shiraz impresses with its beautiful blackberry fruit and its typical very silky and fine tannins (94 points).

Then there were a couple of Rhone wines. The 2010 Les Vins de Vienne l'Arzelle from Saint Joseph is quite a big wine, with intense fruit. The wine is not very complex, but pleasant to drink (90 points). The 2007 M. Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne Hermitage from the Northern Rhone is a food-friendly wine. It is not about the fruit, but the texture and drinkability of the wine. It is an elegant package, although you might say slightly bland (93 points).  

I did not enjoy this tasting. Most of these wines were not enjoyable to drink. They serve as a vehicle to consume alcohol, in my view, and lack elegance. The French and cold climate examples were much more pleasant than the South Australian wines.

I suggest if you were planning to drink two bottles of Shiraz in a week at $30/bottle, you may get more enjoyment out of only drinking one bottle at $60 per bottle (and it would be healthier, too). - This is a generalization, of course, I am not saying that a good bottle for $30 cannot be found, for example the Vasse Felix.

1 comment:

JasonM said...


Over the last few years I've definitely seen a shift to the cool climate more food friendly styles. And then someone comes along and all they want is big sweet fruit, and lots of it.