2018 Sutton Grange Syrah

Despite the label, from Bendigo it must be Sheeerrrarrzzz. Early journeys to the wine country of Victoria in the late 1980s led to the softest of spots for the robust, sweet minty wines from Bendigo and Hesthcote. Thirty years on and this is the best sort of memory aid. Spotlessly clean and pure. Waft of mint, suggestion of Oz forest, no more, dense with sweet ripe berries, somewhere between raspberries and blackberries, boysenberry perhaps? Dried cherry and a lick of fruitcake. Spiced nicely. The extraction and oak are gently applied letting the ripe fruit tannin and natural feeling acidity shape the wine. Power, not raw but softly insistent.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $38 at auction, normal RRP is about $60, think I did well.

94 points.

2020 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz

Another year, another trial bottle of a longtime favourite label. Actually three trial bottles. The first left an impression of flabby fruit and a washy unsatisfying end, oh well. The second was a happy freebie from TWE and their Cellardoor.co subscribers’ rewards program. Wouldn’t have recognised it as the same wine. Fresh, punchy and full of raspberries with a crunch of acidity sitting a little bit high as it finished. A little bemused, I thought a third in order to see if a Dan’s sourced bottle could be as good as the second? Sort of. Rich with ripe plum, berries, spice and a hint of tar. Clean but not as fresh as the second but the acidity cleans instead of rasping and the tannin’s ripe, sweet and broad. Perhaps less of the Coonawarra mineral salt than usual. Again for the money, an extraordinary example of large scale viticulture and perhaps the variability of large volumes? Life’s a bit too short but if someone were to line up most Australian Shiraz under $20 and endure a blind tasting, I’d be betting on this stalwart to place well with its quiet composure. Depending on the batch.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $13.60 on special at Murphy’s, sometimes less.

91 points.

2016 Pierre Gonon Saint Joseph

I must admit to googling this label to see what others may have thought and, gulp, noticed how Gonon prices have climbed in recent years. This was a great swap for some Wendouree and I don’t think there will be another looking at those current prices. Enjoy this one then. It doesn’t disappoint, deep reductive Rhône Syrah. Smoke, flowers and berries or as someone sensitive to sulphides noted on Winefront, like a fart in a wetsuit. Nonetheless a tour de force of squishy summer berries, sweet plum over glistening quartz like tannin and acid sparkle tightly bound together. Simply beautiful fruit, precise ripeness and careful making. You can see why the price escalates.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. Swap.

94 points, maybe 95.

2020 Torzi Matthews Francesca Grillo Collina Calcarea Syrah

An unlikely looking sparkling wine bottle sealed with a beer bottle thing called a crown seal, I think? Thought I better have a try after reading a great review on Winefront and subsequent funny comments from its maker about doing what your mum tells you. Yes, mum. In the early days of Charlie Melton and his amusing translation of CNdP as Nine Popes, I must admit to enjoying Barossa Shiraz in its very primary, just fermented, squishy berried deliciousness. So it is with this no sulphur youngster. Yes, summer pudding berries, dripping with sweet juice, no hint of over ripeness. Full and exceedingly generous. After a couple of days, it just got better. Added to those berries, there’s the sweet, tarry earth and spice of quality Australian Shiraz with flickers of sage and salt bush, all bound by fresh natural feeling grape acidity and tannins like wine filtered through a layered pile of rocks. Such poise, no hint of yeasty funk or oxidation, maybe just a hint of fresh sourdough? Maybe this is the essence of quality Barossa the great RP fell for those years ago? Always do what your mum says.

13.5% alcohol. Crownseal, first for me. $35 RRP

94 maybe 95 as Winefront says, no argument here.

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.

2015 Domaine Coursodon Saint Joseph Silice

If memory serves this was one of the last two bottles from the much missed caviste, Les Caves de Marais which was a favourite stop on the number 96 Paris bus route. The most recent visit in 2019 found the shutters permanently closed on an empty shop. It would have been good to have one last chat with Jean Jacques. His English impeccable compared to my deficient French. One last recommendation from the eminence gris; as usual his choices open cleanly, scents of dark roast coffee over smoke and brown spices, smatter of green herb, then a deep raspberry and into blackberry swirl of fruit. Finishes with what gentlemen from the last century’s wine trade would call breeding. I’d say firm but soft cocoa tannins and well bound acidity. St Joseph, Jesus, this is good.

13.5% alcohol I think. Cork. Was about €30?

93 points.

2016 The Graillot Project No.2 Heathcote Syrah

A collaboration between the Graillots of Crozes fame and a reasonably well off Melbourne wholesaler and importer makes you think this might be outside the generously ripe parameters of mainstream Shiraz. Oh, it’s Syrah. The perfume does indeed include that smoky, floral whole bunch waft. There’s spice, raspberry and an earthy bay note. Good to actually drink, less extraction, less oak, less winery fiddling than some. Despite the reminders of the Rhône, there’s a core of loose knit broader shouldered Heathcote fruit. Relaxed and friendly. The second day, it gets darker, dried fruits, woody stems and a nibble of fruit and nut chocolate. Nonetheless, still very nice to drink, good acidity and tannin, ripe and succulently drying. Entente cordiale.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 ish.

93 for impact, 92 to settle.

2013 Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz

From the initial three bottles bought six or so years ago but I did notice it as a Dan Murphy’s cellar release for $20 if you want to join the fun for still not much, notwithstanding the quality of the storage, of course. To repeat myself, again, not sure how this has so much character for something made on a large scale. Savoury and earthy to sniff and taste. Brown spice, blackberries, earthy in a red dirt way, tar and that saline, mineral water thing that seems like an alkaline Coonawarra marker? Just medium bodied, even acidity settled into good firm tannin and a touch of nougat from subtle oak. The label’s even older than I, not many of those left in Australia. Would be great if they went back to the original white label, still calling it Hermitage might be a push but maybe Syrah to be..er..self consciously modern.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $12 discount on release.

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.