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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A producer with a long history for this drinker, my first vintage when there was just one Langi Shiraz bottling was 1986. Only one change of ownership since then puts it firmly in the heritage category. Such is the warming of the climate that an alcohol ripeness of 14.5% would have been unthinkable for this traditionally cool vineyard in the eighties. This release is all about a delicious cushion of evenly ripe summer pudding fruit backed up by what seems to be succulent natural acidity and some woody stem tannin. The details are some typical Langi pepper and aniseed spice. A warm and generous version of a regular buy. Maybe most attractive as a youngster.
14.5%. Screw cap. $25 member’s special at Woolies ethanol barn.
Looking through Aldi’s less than enormous wine selection, it was a pleasant surprise to see those beloved words, Grampians and Shiraz. Despite nearly causing an avalanche in those precarious gravity driven shelf dispensers. The wine’s a tasty surprise too. Bright red fruit, lots of stalky herbs add a green overlay, pepper, spice and earth. The label says a portion of whole bunches were used in the making and they do make their presence known in the green flavours carried along on some firm acidity together with stern gummy tannin. Unless somebody’s invented a mechanical harvester that can snip bunches instead of rattling grapes, then hand picked bunches are quite a cost input for the price. Despite the herby flavours stalking the initial taste, there’s a typical Grampians flare of ripe berry and cherry fruit that builds as the wine lingers around the mouth. Maybe a bit stern and shrubby for some at the moment but it did go well over two days. Real Grampians character for not much, yes please.
13% alcohol and better for it. Screwcap. $12.99.
A warm welcome at a small cellar door in the ancient, scrubby bushland of the gobsmackingly beautiful Grampians. A small proportion of the fruit grown is saved for just a few hundred cases of the vineyard’s own label. The quality of the selection is obvious from first sniff and slurp. Red fruits, touch of blueberry, brown spices and noticeable pepper richly swirled with a seasoning of vanilla custard oak. Very technically clean and conservative making perhaps limits the exuberance a bit as the finish tightens with some lemony acidity. Nonetheless, if you want to taste just how good Grampians Shiraz can be at a very modest price, take a delicious swerve off the highway to Adelaide and go have a taste. A recent bottle of 2018 Riesling was also delicious in that virtually bone dry traditional Grampians way.
14.5% alcohol. Screwcap. $25 and a bargain.