Stephen Pannell is a highly acclaimed winemaker, but up to this point I have not quite understood why. The wines I have tasted from him have all been fresh and well made, but lacked the complexity I am looking for in outstanding wines. This tasting was a good opportunity to revisit my assessment, in particular as I could taste the wines from the exceptional Koomilya vineyard. Stephen makes many innovative wines, but I focussed this tasting on the McLaren Vale stalwarts, Grenache and Shiraz.
The 2018 Basso Granacha is an easy drinking wine, tasting of fresh raspberry and redcurrant fruit, almost as if eating the grapes themselves (88 points). The 2017 Clarendon Grenache, from a limestone vineyard and 63 year old vines, is a big step up. Raspberry flavours are a little sweet, but minerality takes over, before the soft tannins deliver a satisfying finish (92 points). The best Grenache is the 2017 Old McDonald Grenache from 75 year old vines at Blewitt Springs. There is more depth of flavour in this elegant wine with its fine tannins (94 points).
Then I tasted the 2016 The Vale, a 70/30 Grenache/Shiraz blend. Again, this is a pure and elegant wine. Blackberry flavours dominate here, but do not have the strength to carry evenly through to the back palate (92 points).
The labels of the Koomilya wines are very basic. They emphasize the past in the simple writing and do not want to detract from what is in the bottle. The vineyard is quite special. It was first established late in the 19th century, although the vines for these wines are much younger. The vineyard is totally surrounded by native bush and forest, moderating the climate. Complexity is added by three different soil types in the vineyard.
The 2015 Koomilya Shiraz is a very delicate, yet intense wine. The blackberry flavours are very long on the palate. There is a great line in this wine with an elegant long finish. This is majestic, but not overwhelming (96 points). The 2015 Koomilya Cabernet/Shiraz is an 80/20 blend. The Cabernet vines are 70 years old, the Shiraz vines much younger. Similar to the Shiraz, this is a medium-bodied wine of great intensity with layers of dark fruit flavours dominating and firm, yet silky tannins coating the mouth for a long finish (96 points).
I was very impressed with this tasting.