Barossa Shiraz redux.
Big. Rich. Bold. Delicious. Barossa Valley Shiraz has a near indelible image.
What wine drinkers in the US are discovering is that Barossa Shiraz, that ubiquitous grape and regional combination, is actually way more diverse. Strikingly so. Barossa Shiraz may have established a reputation on perfectly balanced, booming styles that talk of concentration, full flavor and ripe fruit. However, alongside these, there’s a new generation of Barossa Shiraz devotees who are creating thrilling wines with diversity, a deft touch and approachability in youth. This new wave of wine producer reveres the historical backdrop of Barossa Valley Shiraz styles, but works with lower alcohols, light-to- medium weight, spice and savoriness in mind. The quality is all there, the character different. A reverence for ancient vineyards, a flair for discovering tracts of underutilized vines and a gentler hand in winemaking application are all distinguishing features of this new generation of winemaker.
Young gun Fraser McKinley, with his wonderful, idiosyncratic Sami-Odi wines, farms the Hoffman-Dallwitz vineyard that dates back to 1912. Sami-Odi is one of the Barossa’s most exciting, artisan projects, focusing on a single vineyard, with minimal intervention winemaking key in the make-up of his bright, wild-edged, yet flavorsome wines. The range is cemented by ‘Little Wine’, a quixotic, delicious, multi-vintage Shiraz, carefully blended each year.
Abel Gibson comes from a family of Barossa winemaking royalty. His father, Rob Gibson, creates iconic wines of heft and power. Abel, now living on an 80-year-old vineyard of bush vines in the upper reaches of the cooler Eden Valley, produces wines at the opposite end of the spectrum. Juiciness, freshness, and silky texture are calling cards, and wines are made with little or no oak influence, picked at modest ripeness to avoid higher alcohol.
Tim Smith worked at traditional Barossa stalwarts Chateau Tanunda and St Hallett before embarking on his solo winemaking endeavors. His silky-textured, spice-dusted Barossa Shiraz strikes out with a daringly different personality, finding fragrant perfume, succulent tannin and brightness of fruit.
Indeed, the Barossa Valley Shiraz spectrum is shifting. One only has to consider the increasing interest and adherence in biodynamic farming, which established producers like Kalleske, as an example, alongside more experimental wines from Wayne Ahrens’ fascinating Small Fry biodynamic vineyards in Eden and Barossa Valley. There’s more than meets the eye.
While we’re all comfortable and proud of the bulging, muscular Shiraz that the Barossa has hung its hat on for eternity, there’s a renaissance at hand. What we’re seeing come from the Barossa Valley is an optimum possibility; a diversity of Shiraz where wines are of greater elegance, finer flavors, reveal an uncharacteristic flex of subtlety for which the Barossa is not usually known. It’s time to unearth these thrilling wines.