2019 The Story Grampians Syrah

How big be the influence ancient Greek culture and it’s imperial Roman offshoot on us modern westerners? Apart from the politics and art stuff, what’s wrong with a low key Bacchic revel now and then? A tangle with a classics education seems to lead to the need for a drink. Heritage, that’s my excuse. The back label says the Hydra of Lerna is pictured to represent a vintage with a series of challenges to face, metaphorical heads to sever. The Romans get a look in too as the front label reverts to MMXIX for the vintage. To the drink before Monty Python jokes take over. Initial impression of rich and ripe for the label. Raspberries and blackberries in syrup, plump and dark. Holds onto freshness though and well seasoned with brown spices and what feels like woody stem flavour and tannin. Gains some energy at the end with sweet skin tannin for a bit of lush pleasure. As it opens up on the second day, things get more serious. Dark and earthy at its concentrated core. A frown that says come back in a few years and we’ll see. Hidden depths?

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30, value.

94+ points.

2010 The Story Temperance Grampians Shiraz

The second Shiraz from the cellar for a comparison to the 2013 Pannell Jimmy Watson winner, see previous post. And another in the whole bunch, new but ancient way of making. Starts out looking much more stem influenced than the Pannell with scents of tobacco, woody herbs and some older wine leather. Must say the stems seem brown and woody rather than green and sappy. Oxygen works its changes and freshens up fruit flavours of somewhere between raspberries and blackberries, loganberry? A sweet green herb pesto underneath the bright swell of rich berries. Touch saline and savoury with age to end but the chunkiness of Grampians Shiraz still stands firm. Structure being as important as flavour in wine, once again The Story scores well with a twist of ripe skin and stem tannin and comfortable acidity to leave space for another sip. Not exactly articulate but yum.

13.5% alcohol, some sort of temperance compared to Parkerised monsters. Screw cap. $25 ten years ago I think?

93 points.

2021 Eastern Laneway Vintners Grampians Shiraz

The label says a Shiraz of genuine class and elegance. Two virtues unusual to the aisles of Aldi whence comes this bargain. Loads of fresh as a new government fruit, pepper and raspberries seasoned with a whip of herby stems. Seamless glide of fine tannin and fresh acidity. Despite the advertised 14% on the label there’s a coolness to the fruit that suggests good even ripening. A burst of 30 degree warm, sunny autumn weather seems to have been a blessing to a cool, sometimes damp La Niña season. There’s maybe a young vine washy dilution through the end but Grampians beggars must be very grateful for such a sensitively made Shiraz for not much. Probably at its best now and for the next year or so. I had to buy another, the true test.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.

90 points.

2020 Reed Knife Edge Grampians Shiraz

The back label pays homage to the Sugar Loaf vineyard, both its viticulturist and grapes. Good to see praise going where it’s due. I think it’s the large vineyard Best’s bought in 2018 as a mitigation against climate change. A reliable source of precious water and altitude to combat the increasing frost risk. From a good three days of sipping, the grape quality is obvious. It all starts off quietly with the energy of whole bunch infusion rather than crushing extraction. As the oxygen gets to it, colour, aromas and flavours deepen. At first a whiff of sappy stalk, then sweet red fruit takes over with stewed raspberries verging on sweet strawberry juice. Spice and earth baking in the sun. Then back to stems and the delicious cycle returns. Some regional tar and darker fruit rumble along with natural feeling acidity and sweet drying stem tannin. You could say knife edge balance perhaps? It bears repeating that a young generation of clever producers with little capital but a lot of passion are making the most interesting interpretations of a special place. And they’re getting better at it. Not often a return to the mid eighties could be taken as a compliment. Wine balance not haircuts of course.

13.6% alcohol. Screw cap. $30.

93 points.

2017 Fallen Giants Block 3 Grampians Shiraz

Must admit to conflicted feelings about deluxe or reserve bottlings from what are essentially smaller scale vineyards. Do they mean more effort goes into producing better quality fruit or are they just a fortuitous separation of some tastier grapes and how much does the cheaper range suffer from the exclusion? I think this separates some older vineyard material, planted in 1969. At a normal retail of $50 compared to $30 for the normal Shiraz, I probably wouldn’t be that keen to try. Past experience suggests there’s likely to be more distracting new oak plastered all over the fruit as well. So when a few bottles of this theoretically better wine came up in auction for pretty much the same as the standard bottle it was a good chance to explore the subject. Yep, there’s noticeable new vanilla oak compared to the standard but it’s softly flavoured and firmly put back in its place by plush deep fruit. Grampians Shiraz flavours of dark bramble berries, lightened by spice, pepper and cherries. Typical Grampians savoury notes too. Some tarry earth and a lingering sense of the rich fruit this warmer part of the Grampians can produce, even in what was a relatively cooler and late year. Perhaps that shows in a satisfying tension of just ripe acidity and fine grape tannin fighting the oak. Convincing sum of the parts making something well worth a flutter. Winner.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $27.63 at auction. Good win to balance some of the less successful bids, inasmuch as undrinkable.

94 points.

2020 The Story Super G Grampians Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre

Another from the super value six pack from Rory and his Story. It’s not breaking news to say it was apparent to grape farmers a long time ago that something was awry with the weather as their crop was on average ripening a bit earlier each year. I’ve heard candid comment about the sustainability of getting Shiraz flavour ripe in its most revered old vineyards from those who earn their living there each and every year. Happily for some there’s always been Grenache and Mourvèdre planted to thrive in those once were infrequent very hot years. The Grampians used to struggle to ripen Shiraz some years, now there’s interest in varieties that cope with the heat and need less water in an area where it’s always been less than abundant. Super G to the rescue perhaps? Early days but this may be the future. Medium weight, bright as a ruby in the sun, fragrant smack in the chops of roses, Turkish Delight, cherries, plums, spice, meat juices and earth. Just bottled primary fruit sweetness cut by stem sap and savour. Good gloss of fruit, a blend more than the sum of its parts perhaps? I like, super good.

13.5% alcohol, seems a recurring story. Screw cap. Part of the six for $150.

92 points.

2017 The Story Wines Grampians Syrah

It’s always a joy when time and patience prove me wrong for the better, again. First bottle of this a couple of years ago seemed too green with stems and lacking fruit power. To such an extent, I passed on writing anything and buying another. When a mixed six pack email offer popped up and Rory the Story maker said it was a favourite cool and graceful vintage, perhaps time for another go? Goodness, he’s right. In two years the fruit has gained sweet weight. The scribble reads, rich but contained, generous spicy plums, dark cherry, tar and pepper, all wrapped up in sinews of mouth puckering tannin, stem, skin and oak riding on natural feeling acidity. Top notes of raspberry and a haze of sappy stems. If a dodgy memory serves, there’s echoes of those beautifully medium weight Shiraz from the eighties before Australia knew what Syrah meant.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 RRP, less proportionally as part of the bargain mixed six pack which looks to be still live on The Story website thestory.com.au

94 points and great value.

2020 Eastern Laneway Vintners Grampians Shiraz

Maybe Aldi’s astute wine buyers have a soft spot for Grampians Shiraz too? Not exactly the most prolific region to plunder for the volumes needed to fill supermarket shelves. This is the second one spotted on those dangerously slippery shelves in the last year. You try taking a bottle out to read the label and then attempt to put it back on those rollers. My first 2020 from a vintage that’s going to be remembered in so many ways. At least the Grampians avoided the smoke from the awful east coast bushfires. This bottle opened with regional mint and damp Australian forest smells. Good build of whole berry red fruit, pepper and a little Grampians tar, earth and pepper emerged with air. Unobtrusive tannins and gentle acidity do enough to even thing up. The burst of youthful fruit is a good distraction from perhaps not the most concentrated of mouthfuls. Nonetheless a $12 wine that drinks like a $25 bottle and nudges you toward a sense of place. The..er..Story behind this Aldi own label may interest the curious reader as the maker’s address is also the home of R. Lane Vintners who make one of the best interpretations of Grampians Shiraz, ever. Coincidence.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $12.

88 became 89 points over two days.

2018 B minor Grampians Shiraz

So good to see more Grampians’ Shiraz made in small detailed batches by a number of smart young, well relatively so, creatives. This one looks as if all the variations of whole bunch and berries have been played. Over three days the main theme of spice, florals and bright berries kept recurring as notes of mulch, sage, regional mint and bush added colour. After a reasonable sample range, from these newer interpretations to the warmer, riper and oakier 1990s styled, there does seem to be a gloss of summer pudding fruit to these 2018 Grampians Shiraz, pretty delicious really. Interpreted here in a way that will challenge some perhaps. Only just medium bodied, driven by acidity despite a mattress of woody stem tannin, it’s definitely one for the Rhône fanciers. The reward is pristine violet perfumed raspberries and spice, the anchor those stems and damp earth bass notes. Almost discordant to some, modern harmony to others. At its most delicious on day three, that must say something.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $34.

Started 92, ended up high side of 93 points.

2006 The Story Westgate Vineyard Shiraz

If memory serves as they used to say on Iron Chef, this was something like Rory’s second commercially released vintage. At first, dusty bottle age, a little caramel and leather. Fading blackberry, soft ripe tannin and a lick of lemony acidity that now stands at a distance. Sometimes you can leave a bottle of Aussie red a bit too long and it seems slumped with age into just an old red wine. It was a surprise then, on the second day to find it fresher, more of a blackberry crunch and the middle palate swelling with spice, tar and rich fruit. Once again proof as to the reticent glory of Grampians Shiraz. A waiting game.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $40.

90 points first day, 92 to 93 on the second.