Odious Comparison, 2018 Wheeler Vino Great Western Shiraz and 2018 Reed Knife Edge Great Western Shiraz

An irresistible opportunity to open these and compare over a few days. Both made by two young and it must be said attractive tyros of the changing nature of Australian wine. Choosing small batches of carefully grown grapes and guiding them into a bottle without the impositions of big company formulae seems to end up in a glass of something properly authentic to place perhaps. The bottle shot is a glorious Grampians landscape unashamedly stolen from Max Allen’s splendidly definitive book, The Future Makers.

The Wheeler Vino version opens with a beautifully perfumed whack of Rhône like flowers and smoke. It’s hard not to compare when the resemblance is so striking but this in no way undermines how special are the Grampians. Perhaps in years to come someone will pick up a glass of Cornas and say this is so good it could be from Great Western. Medium weight in the mouth, red fruit and both peppery and sweet spice glide with a dragging anchor of natural acid and emery tannin. Any perception of oak is limited to texture and a sprinkle of dark brown seasoning. Just how this looks so…er..Syrah like without whole bunches is a question whose answer can only be guessed, maybe the natural yeast, whole berries, pre or post ferment soaking, ripeness or clone? From maybe one of the cooler sites around the special bit of the Great Western landscape, some gently just ripe fruit has led to a terrific, perfectly groomed, smooth operator.

By contrast, the Reed immediately looks darker and deeper in nature. Blackberries, spice and the tarry earth that echo the old vine flavours of Garden Gully and St. Peter’s gnarled soldiers. A top note of slightly balsamic ethyl acetate tickles the fancy as it so often does in great Victorian Shiraz. A rich but tense mouthful of the same blackberries and dark tar spice sweep through, savoury stem tannin offering a firm grip on the arm of a saline, low acid personality teetering on the edge. At its weighty core, there’s a chiaroscuro of bright fruit and dark earth. Knife edge making indeed but never falling off the perch in three days of balancing up in the open air.

Wheeler 13.6% and Reed 13.5% alcohol, nice numbers. Screwcap both. To be had for between $25 and $30, both bargains for such authenticity.

Over time both competed neck and neck in the pleasure stakes, one a bit ahead, only for the other to gain breath, catch up and gain a nose. The bottles drained almost simultaneously, a good indication of even favour. Churlish to play favourites with such proud efforts.

94 points for both but more importantly there’s modern love and respect for an ancient place. Colin Preece would have approved.

2012 Best’s Great Western EVT 51 Riesling

Some people always bring a thoughtfully chosen and delicious bottle when they have to suffer my cooking. Great Western isn’t exactly renowned for Riesling but it’s got a long history there, particularly in old vineyards like Concongella and its ancient soil. Often broad and diffuse but not lacking a focus on some ripe lime marmalade, toast and a sweet green herby twist. All those flavours plus an old incense, almost eucalyptus perfume buried in the richness. Autumnally sun warm and still full of life. Not too fruit sweet though, a bit of a nutty savoury edge adds extra satisfaction. Perhaps it’s the influence of the big oak ferment instead of the usual clinical stainless steel? Not sure the food was as good as the wine.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. Another generous share.

94 points.

2009 Best’s Bin No. 1 Great Western Shiraz

A bottle of wine from the pile of cardboard boxes euphemistically called a cellar and made from fruit harvested in a hot dry year, its time had come. Rich blackberries and that camphor and old leather bottle development. Clean as an onsen bath and full of rich, black treacle fruit, it’s pulled back by some savoury, dusty earth. The tannin’s fallen back into the whole and it’s freshened by some acidity that’s just a bit too raucous for its own good, trying to shout over the warmth of the ethanol. Sure, you could say it’s a bit too engineered and warm but the blackberries and tar still speak of a warm, ancient and beautiful place. Don’t think you can enjoy wine properly without being a romantic hedonist. Go on, scoff.

14.50% alcohol. Screwcap. About $24 and not much more for the current release, under appreciated.

92 points.

2015 Best’s Great Western Bin 1 Shiraz

The Grampians and Great Western, a place of quiet brilliance. Never had the scale of production or popularity but for a few of us a favourite Australian Shiraz. Somehow it makes wine without those sometimes too raucous eucalypt perfumes of Victoria. This is bright with dark berries and plums all in perfect harmony with that sweetly savoury tarry earthiness of those dusty soils. Oak’s a faint seasoning. The scale is the big hearted Aussie Shiraz but there’s a poised balance of perfume and earth, firm tannin, acid and fruit that’s unlikely in it’s subtle assurance. Given time, the fruit should get nice and sweet. Best’s go on their quiet way. In the last few vintages the alcohols are getting lower and the sense of place more in focus.

14% alcohol. Screw Cap. $25.

94 points.