This is my first interstate trip in a year. It is brief: three South Australian wine regions in three days.
Day 1: Barossa Valley
On the first day, I visited the Artisans of Barossa to taste Spinifex and John Duval wines, the Standish Wine Company, and Elderton.
Something unusual seems to go on at Spinifex. Peter Schell did not respond to my emails. More importantly, there seems to be quite a change in strategy. He used to be the master blender of the Barossa, identifying small plots of the less common Rhone varieties and creating beautiful fresh wines. Now, there is a marked shift to single varieties wines. I am not sure why.
The 2019 Esprit is still 'old school'. It is a fresh, elegant wine, although a little sweet (91 points). Then I am confronted with the drought vintages of 2019 and 2020. The 2020 Garcon is a robust Grenache, with macerated strawberry flavours and a bit confectionary (89 points). Similarly, the 2020 Syrah is broader than usual and a little harsh (88 points).
In moving away from the blends, Peter Schell has also decided to bottle varieties which arguably are better suited to warmer climate. The labels are different, to maybe indicate a more experimental character of these wines. The 2019 Aglianico has relatively weak fruit weight, certainly in comparison to the firm and very dry tannins (87 points). In contrast, the 2019 Tannat is a revelation. Tannat tends to be very robust in France and Uruguay, but here, this red fruited wine has a lifted character, with an elegant palate and a smooth finish. Who would detect this variety in a blind tasting? (93 points).
Finally, I taste the 2018 La Maline. This Shiraz comes from the northeastern slopes of the Barossa Valley, where winds have a cooling effect and temperatures drop at night. There is 4% Viognier in this wine. The wine is fragrant and perfumed, but not overly so. It has a beautiful core of Shiraz fruit and finishes in an elegant style (95 points).
I tasted the three classical wines of John Duval. The 2018 Plexus, a GSM, shows the Grenache component in particular. It is an entry wine, but shows good harmony and intensity (90 points). The 2019 Entity is another example of the drought vintage. In previous years, this Shiraz was exceptional, but in 2019 it is not balanced. The core is quite sweet, and the finish a bit harsh (89 points). This contrasts with the 2017 Eligo, a best of fruit wine, from a cooler vintage. This wine has a big mouthfeel, but remains elegant with great length (95 points).