Category Archives: Wine review

Wine review – Soumah’s opulent chardonnay

Soumah Equilibrio Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2017 $80
Soumah’s first-release Equilibrio sits at the plush end of the chardonnay spectrum, offering no beg-pardons for hugely opulent fruit and assertive barrel-derived flavours. The price might appear steep, but Soumah provides pure, sensuous drinking pleasure way beyond the everyday. The maker says the wine’s blended from the best barrels of chardonnay made from the Mendosa clone, noted for its richness.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019

Wine review – Andrew Thomas Wines, 2017 shiraz

A warm dry 2017 growing season produced comparatively strong, full-flavoured shiraz in the Hunter Valley, albeit within the area’s medium-bodied mould. Our panel of four tasted Andrew Thomas’s vintage offerings and found considerable style variation – from taut and savoury to soft and opulent.

We tasted the wines masked and in random order.  We knew what was in the lineup, but not the order. Our reviews below follow their sequence in the tasting.

Belford Shiraz 2017 $45
Single vineyard, Belford sub-region, first release

Deep but not opaque, with crimson rim; pure, high-toned fruity aroma with hint of sweet vanillin oak; full, concentrated palate reflecting the aroma but with more oak than the nose suggests and quite firm, fine tannins. Oak nose emerged more with time, along with a savoury, earthy aftertaste.

Sweetwater Shiraz  $35
Single vineyard, Sweetwater Ridge

Similar hue to the Belford wine; strong, earthy–savoury aroma, meaty, charcuterie; meaty, charcuterie palate with underlying fruit sweetness and lean, tight tannins.Over time, sweet fruit aroma and flavour emerged more strongly.

Kiss $85
Single vineyard wine, the Thomas flagship

Deep colour, with crimson rim; savoury and charcuterie aroma combined with sweet fruit and oak; the powerful palate combines intense, fleshy fruit, with mouth-filling tannins and assertive oak flavours. Two  tasters perceived bitterness in the oak aftertaste. However, a wine of this great dimension ought to absorb the fruit fully as it matures over the decades.

The Cote 2017 $35
New release, single vineyard, the Cote d’Or, Central Pokolbin

Medium to deep colour with intensely crimson rim; lovely combination of sweet fruit and savour on the nose; strong, grippy palate, earthy, savoury, charcuterie, with tight, firm, lingering tannic finish.

DJV 2017 $35
From the alluvial flats of Hermitage Road

Medium to deep with crimson rim; subdued aroma combining fruit with savour; lean, tight palate, grippy and tannic but with sweet, juicy fruit under; structure reminiscent of Burgundy (but not the flavour).

Two of a Kind 2017 $25
A blend: Hunter Valley 55%, McLaren Vale 45%

Deep, not opaque, with crimson rim; earthy, savoury aroma with hint of underlying fruit; intensely fruity palate, buoyant and sweet, with soft, fine tannins. Juicy and loveable.

The Dam Block 2017 $45
From an 0.8ha block adjacent to old-vine Kiss shiraz
Deep with crimson, not opaque; aroma combines sweet red fruits with savour and oak, most enticing; powerful, concentrated flavour, round and mouth filling, cut with soft, dry, tannins. Impressive.

Synergy 2017 $25
Blend of old-vine vineyards
Medium to deep with crimson rim; aroma combines fruit, spice and savour; lively palate, tight and tannic, but woven in with vibrant berry fruit flavours. Agreeable now and with some ageing potential.

Elenay 2017 $55
Selected barrels blended from Sweetwater, Kiss, Belford and Dam Block vineyards
Deep with intense crimson rim; big, rich aroma of ripe, sweet fruit laced with sweet oak, in harmony; full, powerful palate, saturated with ripe fruit, but the fruit countered by equally rounded, soft tannins, of fruit and oak origin. The oak is apparent but sympathetic. The group’s favourite.

The Andrew Thomas 2017 shiraz tasting: four tasters, masked wines.

© Copyright Chris Shanahan 2019

Canberra shiraz: revolutionary new Clonakilla wine, gold-medal Mount Majura

Clonakilla Murrumbateman Syrah 2017 $108
Of medium hue, lighter in colour than Western Vineyard Syrah and Shiraz Viognier reviewed below, Syrah 2017 offers sweet aromas of dark fruits, cut with savoury notes. The palate’s full but fine, with tight tannins adding structure and additional savour to the deep fruit. Summed up as subtle, sensuous and powerful.

Clonakilla Murrumbateman Western Vineyard Syrah 2017
Western Vineyard 2017’s bold fruit, soaring oak, and stalky whole-bunch flavours take it in an entirely different direction from Syrah 2017’s subtle power or Shiraz Viognier’s floral, succulence. Alone of the three Clonakilla flagships, it’s matured in all-new oak, perhaps the biggest single contributor to its attention-getting style. Even at this early stage of its evolution, the whole appears greater than the sum of its parts – even if the parts stand out individually for now. This is a revolutionary Clonakilla wine to revisit in future. Winemaker Tim Kirk says he made only 150 dozen for release in a mixed six-pack to loyal customers before Christmas 2019.

Clonakilla Murrumbateman Shiraz Viognier 2017 $108
Brilliantly coloured and limpid, Shiraz Viognier shows the classic Clonakilla style: violet-like, spicy, fruity aroma; assertively structured on the palate, in the gentlest way, with distinctive spice and pepper pervading the succulent palate.

Mount Majura Vineyard Shiraz 2017 $30.40–$38
A winner of gold medals in the 2018 NSW Small Winemaker Wine Show and Canberra and Region Wine Show, Mount Majura holds the drinker’s interest from the first sip to the last drop. First impressions are of spice and savour, both in the aroma and palate. But sweet, vibrant fruit pushes through the charcuterie-like savour and spice, while fine tannins give satisfying grip and structure.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019

Grenache review – Clonakilla and Heidenreich

Grenache deserves more credit than it gets says Clonakilla winemaker Tim Kirk.

Speaking at a Canberra tasting in late April 2019, Kirk rated Chateau Rayas 1990 as one of the three greatest wines he’d tried. The current vintage of this all-grenache red from France’s Chateauneuf du Pape area (southern Rhone Valley), sells for around $900. And the legendary 1990 may still be found for $2000–$4000.

For that price you could buy two to four tonnes of Australian grenache grapes (average $1016 a tonne in vintage 2018). Lending credibility to Kirk’s faith in the variety, the price of grenache price exceeded that of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot and was on a par with pinot noir and tempranillo – making the trio, on average, the priciest red wine grapes in Australia in 2018.

While Rayas 1990 stands apart, in both France and Australia, high yields for grenache has meant historically a tendency to produce light bodied, undistinguished table wines. At the same time, grenache contributed to many of the superb ‘ports’ produced in Australia’s warmer areas and, because of its light colour and fragrance, was and remains a delicious rosé variety.

Visibility of grenache in more serious Australian reds grew in the 1980s through the work of the Barossa Valley’s ‘Rhone Rangers’. This small group dedicated itself to making earthy, savoury, spicy reds from the Barossa’s treasure trove of old-vine Rhone Valley varieties, grenache, mourvedre and shiraz.

Of the three, shiraz remains the most widely grown and best known to drinkers. But over the decades mourvedre (aka mataro) and grenache became familiar in warm-climate blends with shiraz – a style popularly known as GSM (grenache shiraz mourvedre).

Clonakilla Murrumbateman Ceoltoiri 2018 $36

As these generous, spicy blends came originally from warm to hot regions, the arrival a few years back of Clonakilla Ceoltoiri from Murrumbateman, in the Canberra District, surprised those of us who’d assumed the area too cool to ripen the Rhone varieties.

This turned out to be deliciously not the case. Though lighter bodied than the warm-climate originals, Ceoltoiri nevertheless offers the blend’s fragrance, spice, juicy fruit flavours and supple, soft texture. The warm 2018 vintage gives Ceoltoiri a little more richness than usual. Kirk says, ‘It’s over 60% grenache, with five other varieties. It’s an ode to the southern Rhone’. The other varieties are mourvedre, shiraz, cinsault, counoise and a drop of the white variety roussanne.

This is a fine, elegant expression of a grenache blend.

Introducing Heidenreich Barossa Valley Grenache 2016 $28

In 1936, Rufus Armein Heidenreich planted grenache vines at Vine Vale on the Barossa Valley’s eastern ridge. Eighty years later his granddaughter Liz harvested grapes from those vines and made the first grenache to appear under her new Heidenreich label.

Liz writes, ‘This area of vineyard is located along the eastern edge of the Barossa Valley, which was one of the first areas settled in the 1840s due to its deep, sandy, loam soils and water-holding capacity in non-irrigated vineyards. The gully breeze that is prevalent in this area helps keep grapes cool during the hot ripening season, and retains natural acidity and freshness’.

Place fruit from these lovingly tended old vines in the care of an experienced winemaker and you get an exceptional expression of warm-climate grenache.

Liz says she made the wine in an open-top, four-ton fermenter, gently plunging the skin twice daily for colour and flavour ‘without extracting bitter seed tannins’. After fermentation, the wine matured in French oak hogsheads, 10% new, the rest 2–4 years of age. Clearly, her aim was to mature the wine without inserting overt oaky flavours.

The wine displays the red-berry fruits of the variety, along with spice and deeper savoury notes. The generous, supple palate ripples with ripe, juicy fruit flavours, supported by soft tannins and boosted by the underlying savour first noted in the aroma. This is an excellent straight grenache, demonstrating the great appeal of warm-grown reds.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019

Illuminati Riparosso – enduring, satisfying Abruzzi red wine

Dino and Stefano Illuminati in the vineyard, Contraguerra, Teramo Province, Abruzzi, Italy. Dino’s grandfather founded the family estate in 1890.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riparosso 2016 (Illuminati)  $9.50–$14
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Ilico 2015 (Illuminati)  $14.30–­$14.99

Illuminati’s Riparosso first arrived in Australia in 1991 following a Farmer Bros buying trip to Italy. People immediately took to the savoury, medium-bodied red and it became the company’s biggest selling Italian red. When Farmer Bros collapsed in the mid nineties, importation and sales direct to consumers continued through Coles and later Woolworths, the current importer.

In theory, cutting out the wholesaler gives the retailer a greater profit opportunity. But as other retailers do the same, the potential gain is substantially competed away, meaning lower prices.

This is good news for drinkers and Chateau Shanahan continues to enjoy Riparosso as much now as 28 years ago when those first containers rolled off the ships.

We recently enjoyed Riparosso 2016 (screw cap) and its cellar mate Ilico 2015 (cork) side by side over a meal in Melbourne. Riparosso appealed for its initial fruitiness, then its rustic tannins and overall savour – a satisfying quaffing red, showing the earthy, savoury character of the Abruzzi region’s signature grape variety, montepulciano. Ilico amplifies the montepulciano experience and adds a touch of finesse.

The wines come from leading producer Azienda Agricola Illuminati of Contraguerra, Teramo Province. The winery sits on a ridge with views to the Adriatic to the east and Apennine Mountains to the west.

Nicolo Illuminati founded the estate in 1890 and following the early death of his son, raised his grandson Dino Illuminati. On Nicolo’s death Dino took over and today, at 88, continues to work in the business, now run by his son Stefano.

Woolworths imports Illuminati wines through its subsidiary, Pinnacle Drinks, and sells them through Dan Murphy and BWS retail stores operated by another subsidiary, Endeavour Drinks Group.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019

Wine review – Clonakilla

Clonakilla Canberra District Riesling 2018 $32
To every thing there is a season. And for Clonakilla riesling, the warm, dry 2018 season produced a riper, richer wine than in the cooler 2017 vintage. Despite the heat, ‘Grapes held excellent acid’, says winemaker Tim Kirk.

That tangy acidity balances a delicious riesling with rich, citrus-like varietal flavour in the pure, delicate Clonakilla style. It’s impressive now as a vibrant, fruity young wine. But it’ll change in pleasing ways over the next decade – best experienced by cellaring a case and enjoying a bottle every year or two, potentially over decades.

For example, the 16-year-old, 2003 vintage (the first sealed with screw cap), ‘Looks fantastic’ according to Kirk, combining mellow aged character with freshness.

Kirk says 2018 marks the first year his riesling came predominantly from young vines on a cool south-facing slope near the cellar door building. Previous vintages had been sourced from a combination of estate-grown fruit and grapes from nearby Long Rail Gully.

Clonakilla Riesling 2018 is due for release in March.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019

Wine review – Freeman, Hilltops Region, NSW

Freeman Rosso Corvina Rondinella 2017 $20
It’s dusk at Lake Conjola, and on a small jetty the tailor continue to take my friend Mario’s line, if not mine. He’s bagged enough for tomorrow’s brunch, and I think, well no bites for me but I can at least pour a drink. Try this I say. Mario tastes the red wine. Lemon, he declares, bloody delicious, fruity and tangy.

And it is, too, a distinctive dry red wine made from the Italian varieties corvina and rondinella. Brian Freeman grows both on his 175-hectare estate in the Hilltops region, the high country in the vicinity of Young, New South Wales.

These are the varieties behind the medium bodied, savoury dry reds of Bardolino and Valpolicella in Italy’s Veneto region. At their best, both offer a refreshing combination of fruit, savour and tangy finish – not unlike Mario’s impression of the Australian wine.

Freeman says they’re late-ripening varieties, which he harvested in early April (weeks behind other reds) in the benign 2017 vintage.

Fermentation in stainless steel vats captured varietal flavour and 12 months’ maturation in old oak mellowed the naturally savoury tannins.

The resulting wine pulses with vibrant berry flavours, in the clean, fresh Australian style; but there’s a deep, savoury, soy-like element, too, accompanied by the pleasantly tart but soft tannins experienced in the better wines of Bardolino and Valpolicella.

Clearly rondinella and corvina grow successfully in the Hilltops region. And this cleverly made wine, revealing minimal winemaking artifice, allows us to experience their unique flavours and textures at a fair price.

Freeman Rosso 2017, made to enjoy now, is available direct from Freeman Vineyards.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2019

Wine review – gold medal for Cowra’s Windowrie Estate

Windowrie Family Reserve Cowra Shiraz 2016 $35
Windowrie Family Reserve won gold at November’s National Wine Show of Australia. It was one of 113 wines entered in the ‘Shiraz 2016’ class, and one of eight wines to win a gold medal in it. However, several big, expensive names – including Yalumba The Octavius and Seppelt St Peters – escaped the judges’ attention, confirming the democracy of masked tastings if not the reliability of the results.

Windowrie Family Reserve 2016 no doubt stood out to the judges for its delicious fruit character. The wine pulses with ripe, red-berry and spice flavours, supported by juicy, soft tannins – a pleasing combination that means vibrant, fresh drinking and the satisfying structure and finish of a real red.

David and Wizz O’Dea planted their first vines at Windowrie, Cowra, in 1988. They’ve witnessed and stood solid during Cowra’s massive vineyard expansion of the nineties, followed by massive contraction a decade later. They preside now over a large vineyard holding and over time have added a winery and moved steadily up the quality ladder.

In the nineties many critics, myself included, typecast Cowra as a source of mid-priced whites while doubting its potential to make decent red.

Some time back now Jason O’Dea (son of David and Wizz) and winemaker Anthony D’Onise proved otherwise. Windowrie reds, including their Pig in the House label, regularly win medals at wine shows. Taking gold at the National Wine Show is a great achievement.

Windowrie Family Reserve Cowra Shiraz 2016 is available from the Windowrie website.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2018

Savouring magnificence – three beautiful Aussie shirazes: John Duval, Tyrrell’s, Clonakilla

If Australia owns any one wine grape variety, it’s shiraz. We grow around 40,000 hectares of it. Our shiraz vineyards cluster either side of the 4,000 kilometres from east to west coast, through 16 degrees of latitude (from south-eastern Queensland (27 degrees) to southern Tasmania (43 degrees) and from near sea level to 700 or 800 metres above it.

We’ve grown shiraz successfully for over 200 years and, in several regions, vines planted in the mid-to-late nineteenth century still produce beautiful fruit.

A diversity of climates, soils plus viticultural and winemaking approaches produces an equivalent diversity of shiraz styles, ranging from fragrant, light to medium styles in cooler areas to thunder-in-the brain blockbusters from hot areas.

At a recent Chateau Shanahan masked tasting we compared three of these contrasting styles – two from warm climates (Barossa and Hunter valleys) and one from the cooler Canberra district. I selected each specifically for individuality and perceived leadership in its style.

The experienced tasting group saw nothing but three glasses in front of them. Their brief: in front of you are three Australian wines of the same variety but from three different vintages and three different regions. What is the variety? What are the style differences? What regions could they be from? Are these as good as Aussie shiraz gets?

The group has been tasting wine systematically for more than 20 years. They quickly nailed the variety, albeit with a couple of false starts, no doubt caused by the amazing style variations.

With only the senses as a guide, the group looked for clues: surely wine number one’s deep colour and strong flavours pointed to a warm area. Yes, indeed.

Wine two – now that’s an enigma: the colour’s pale to medium and it’s medium bodied, but it’s also savoury and strong with tight tannins. Put this in the too-hard basket for a moment. Well, no, said one taster, I think the lighter colour and body suggest a cool climate. Wrong, but good reasoning and not the first time someone’s seen this particular wine this way.

Wine three’s medium depth and vivid colour pointed to youth (this must be the youngest of the three), and its fragrant, floral, spicy aroma and medium body said ‘cool climate’. Yes, indeed.

So after a few minutes, we had wine one in a warm climate, wine three in a cool climate and wine two unresolved. We explored the options for number two, and found ourselves in the Hunter Valley. What other hot area grows shiraz with cool-climate characteristics? Nowhere else.

We’d not yet nailed the other two wines to specific regions. But the same guy who’d suggested cool climate for the Hunter wine, said I think number three’s Clonakilla Canberra Shiraz Viognier. Spot on. It’s a distinctive wine, long familiar to our Canberra-based tasting group.

After mentally exploring Australian warm climate shiraz styles, we eventually placed wine number one in the Barossa – and it must be said the sheer dimension and beauty of the wine surprised several of the tasters.

Discussion then moved to what remarkably beautiful and unique wines we had in front of us. Food being served, we relaxed and savoured the magnificence in our glasses.

Our conclusion: the three easily sit among Australia’s very top shirazes. Although a comparative newcomer, our favourite wine of the night, John Duval Eligo 2015, rightfully claims a longer pedigree than the label alone suggests.

John Duval worked for Penfolds for decades and in the mid eighties succeeded Don Ditter as chief winemaker, a role he retained until 2002. Responsible for making all of Penfolds reds, including Grange, Duval also created Penfolds RWT, a wine that still stands as one of the greatest of all Barossa shirazes.

Duval’s deep knowledge of Barossa vineyards and exceptional winemaking skills produced the wine that topped our little tasting.

John Duval Wines Eligo The Barossa Shiraz 2015 $100–$120

Vineyards: John Duval writes, ‘Eligo represents the best of my 2015 vintage and is sourced from some excellent vineyards in the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley regions’. (The more elevated, cooler Eden Valley adjoins the Barossa Valley’s eastern boundary. The two regions together form the greater Barossa Zone).

Winemaking: Fermentation with submerged cap in small stainless steel tanks. Some batches on skin up to two weeks. Maturation, 20 months in French oak hogsheads (300-litres) – 55% new, the rest two, three and four-year old.

Tasting note: Deep red–black colour with crimson rim; full, ripe, plummy varietal aroma with spicy, charry oak; full, ripe palate with intense black-cherry like fruit flavours deeply meshed with sympathetic oak and persistent, fine tannins; a wine of rare dimension – intense, ripe and firm, but elegant and refined. This was the group favourite.

Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Hunter Shiraz 2016 $85–$92

Vineyards: Pokolbin, lower Hunter Valley: 1892 Eight-Acres block,1968 Contours block, 1968 Weinkellar east block. Average vine age 66 years. All vineyards dry grown in similar soils: red volcanic clay over limestone.

Winemaking: All fruit handpicked, de-stemmed but not crushed; fermentation in open-top stainless steel vats. Maturation in new French oak 2,700-litre casks until April 2017.

Tasting note: Pale to medium colour, with youthful crimson rim; wedged between the Duval and Clonakilla wines, Vat 9 showed contrasting savoury, earthy characters on a taut, comparatively austere palate, with an underlying core of sweet fruit. The group rated this second of the three shirazes. Paradoxically the group drank more of the Vat 9 than of either of the other two wines. Was it really the favourite? Or were we simply probing its idiosyncrasies?

Clonakilla Canberra District Shiraz Viognier 2017 $108–$115

Vineyards: Clonakilla Euroka Park and T&L vineyards, Murrumbateman, New South Wales. (The Canberra District includes vineyards in both the Australian Capital Territory and neighbouring NSW).

Grape varieties:Mostly shiraz, co-fermented with the white variety viognier (about 6% of the total).

Winemaking: Fermentation in open vats (20–30 per cent whole bunches, the rest de-stemmed and pumped to the fermenter, resulting in a mix of crushed and whole berries); cold soaking for several days as a spontaneous fermentation begins. Plunging machines break up the caps of skins and grapes three times a day at peak ferment, then daily as the ferment slows down. The 2017 remained on skins for three weeks post-ferment before being pressed off into 225-litre French oak barriques, one third new, for 12 months’ maturation.

Tasting note: Medium, vibrant crimson colour; fragrant, floral and vibrant aroma and a matching deep, spicy, luscious palate; a wine of supple elegance, with a fine, persistent tannic structure and notable length. The group loved this wine, but on the night paid more attention to the Duval and Tyrrell wines.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2018

Wine review – the Penfolds collection 2018


Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2018 $40
Maturation:Three months, stainless steel.
Pale, green-tinted straw colour; pure, citrus-like riesling aroma, precisely mirrored on an intense, powerful but very finely-textured palate, backed by assertive acid. An invigorating drink now in its fruity youth, Bin 51 also has potential to gain rich secondary flavours and texture with cellaring.

Bin 311 Chardonnay 2017 $50
Regions:Adelaide Hills (South Australia), Tasmania, Tumbarumba (New South Wales).
Maturation:Eight months, French oak, 25% new.
Previously sourced from Tumbarumba, NSW, a reborn Bin 311 now contains fruit from three regions from three states. The wine combines spicy oak and barrel-ferment character with varietal grapefruit- and nectarine-like flavours. If you were a fan of the old Bin 311, be aware this is a more restrained, delicate style than the punchier old all-Tumbarumba version.

Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2017 $125
Maturation:Eight months, French oak, 40% new.
Since when does a white upstage Penfolds’ reds? Reserve Bin A Chardonnay grabbed my attention more than any other wine at this year’s release tasting. Though it’s not better than the best reds in an absolute sense, it offers amazing richness and dimension, albeit in far more robust style the Bin 311 and Yattarna chardonnays flanking it: pale straw-lemon colour; funky aroma combining barrel-ferment characters in amalgam with nectarine-like varietal fruit aroma; delicious palate featuring fruit, barrel-ferment and nutty barrel-maturation flavour. It’s a very big, generous style but still elegant and refined. It’s a wonder to drink now and I suspect will evolve well for another ten years or so. This is very special indeed. Wow. We note its cellar mate, the Cellar Door Reserve 2017 won several trophies at the recent National Wine Show of Australia.

Bin 144 Yattarna Chardonnay 2016 $175
Regions:Tasmania, Henty (Victoria), Adelaide Hills (South Australia), Tumbarumba (New South Wales).

Maturation:Eight months, French oak barriques, 35% new.
It’s a leap of faith to buy Yattarna at $175. Right now it’s supple, elegant, restrained and harmonious – all good and rare qualities. However, the fine fruit doesn’t leap out at present, certainly not in a fleeting tasting, and like other vintages its best drinking probably lies a few years ahead. Put this on your watch list and buy through auction.


Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro 2017 $40
Regions: McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Wrattonbully.
Maturation: Eight months, French oak (10% new) and American oak hogsheads.

Deep red–black colour with crimson rim; the aroma and flavour combine the round, ripe character of shiraz with the distinctive jube-like flavour of mataro (ak mourvedre or monastrell). Where shiraz on its own finishes with soft tannins, this blend shows the pronounced, grippy tannins and savour of mataro, creating an assertive, firm blend.

Bin 8 Shiraz Cabernet 2017 $50
Regions:Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Wrattonbully
Maturation:10 months, French and American oak hogsheads
Bin 8 provides a subtle, elegant and earlier drinking expression of the shiraz–cabernet blend than the far more assertive Bin 389 reviewed below. Ripe, round shiraz provides the first impression before the cabernet makes its presence felt in flavour and elegant structure, underpinned by delicious, supple fruit.

Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2017 $50
Maturation:Nine months, French oak barriques, 30% new.
A fully priced, good if not leading Aussie pinot noir, Bin 23 provides sweet aromas and voluminous sweet fruit, overlaid with herbal and savoury characters. Part of the savour comes from the inclusion of whole bunches in the ferment. Fine tannins give grip and structure to a wine best drunk within a few years of vintage.

Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz 2016 $50
Regions:Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Upper Adelaide, Wrattonbully.
Maturation:12 months, seasoned American oak hogsheads.
Deep colour, vividly crimson at the rim; black-cherry-like fruit with black-olive savour in the aroma and also raspberry-like fruit on a palate cut by firm tannins and accompanied by alcoholic heat. A generous warm-climate shiraz with savour as well as fruit. Fully priced.

Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2016 $60
Maturation:12 months, French oak, 30% new.
Where Bin 28 shows the power and grip of warm climate shiraz, Bin 128 shows the fresh berry character and elegance of Coonawarra’s comparatively cool climate. The colour’s a shade lighter than Bin 28’s, though no less vivid and youthful; sweet, ripe berry flavours fill an enticing aroma; the same pure berry flavours flow to the supple palate, accompanied by spicy oak and subtle herbal characters. This is a sound regional varietal marred ever so slightly by alcoholic heat – which may have been a function of serving temperature on the day. Fully priced.

Bin 138 Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mataro 2016 $60
Grape varieties:72% shiraz, 16% grenache, 12% mataro (also known in Australia as mourvedre).
12 months, seasoned French and American oak.
Dense colour with purple rim; ripe but spicy fruit aroma, with a notable lift from the grenache; juicy, soft, generous palate, round and rich with earthy, spicy and savoury character as well as plum- and cherry-like varietal flavour. The dry finish emphasise the spicy character of these varieties. What a lovely expression of this classic warm-climate regional blend.

Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2016 $100
Region:Marananga, north-western Barossa Valley.
Maturation:12 months, American (25% new) and French (7% new) hogsheads and puncheons.
Dense with crimson rim; great volumes of ripe, black-cherry-like aroma, with an exotic spicy-herbal overlay; exciting, buoyant palate with vivacious fruit, deliciously integrated with oak and tannin. A complete, generous and complex Barossa shiraz. Wow.

Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 $100
Regions:Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully, Padthaway.
Maturation:12 months, French oak (25% new) and American oak hogsheads (9% new).
Deep with purple rim; a subtle but clearly cabernet aroma suggests a wine of modest body; but the powerful palate belies the aroma and combines sweet, supple fruit with chewy, sweet oak flavours, backed by ripe, firm tannins. Bin 407’s proven cellaring ability makes it a sound buy, albeit fully priced.

Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2016 $100
Grape varieties:51% cabernet sauvignon, 49% shiraz.
Regions:Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully.
Maturation:12 months, American oak hogsheads, 37% new.
Deep with purple rim; a striking and appealing aroma combining ripe fruit, soy-like and earthy characters; the initially generous, rounded shiraz-driven palate reflects the aroma and although supple and smooth, strong cabernet tannins assert themselves in the finish. This is a potentially long-lived Bin 389.

St Henri Shiraz 2015 $135
Grape varieties:93% shiraz, 7% cabernet sauvignon.
McLaren Vale, Robe, The Peninsulas, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills, Mt Benson.
Maturation:12 months, large oak vats, more than 50-years old.
Ah St Henri, the shy, elegant Penfolds red never sees a small oak barrel – a mainstay of the general Penfolds style – yet ages for decades and drinks beautifully. It’s a favourite at Chateau Shanahan because it’s always exciting. I rated the 2015 vintage among the top few wines of this year’s release tasting: Deep with crimson rim; pure aroma of ripe, dark berries with a savoury overlay; juicy, fruit-packed palate, supple, sweet and intense; it’s seductive but too young to drink yet with its deep fruit, savour and fine, firm structural tannins. Wow.

Magill Estate Shiraz 2016 $150
Maturation:13 months, new French and American oak.
When Max Schubert designed Magill Estate Shiraz in late 1982, ahead of the first vintage in 1983, he specified the inclusion of fruit from other areas to bolster the estate’s more elegant style. However, it quickly became a single-vineyard wine of medium body. Today’s Magill, however, is a more substantial wine than the earlier vintages and this year’s release is particularly impressive: Deep with crimson rim; spicy, sweet scented and subtle in the Magill style but with Penfolds’ distinctive soy-like overlay; oak and fruit combine pleasingly on the palate, lifted by another Schubert thumbprint, volatile acidity. This is a distinctive wine showing the medium body of fruit from Magill overlaid with skilfully applied winemaker inputs.

Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 $360
Maturation:13 months, new French oak hogsheads.
Bin 169 is to Penfolds cabernet what RWT is to Penfolds shiraz. The wines contrast with the sheer power of Bin 707 and Grange respectively. Elegant, regional fruit and subtle French oak, rather than American oak, play key roles in Bin 169 and RWT. Bin 169 2016 expresses the perfectly ripe varietal flavour of Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon, cloaked in a cedar-like character derived from barrel maturation. Firm tannins underpin the fruit and together they form a strong but elegant palate with considerable cellaring potential.

Bin 798 RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2016 $200
Maturation:12 months, French oak hogsheads, 72% new.
Another great highlight of this year’s release: deep with vivid purple rim; glorious, perfumed Barossa shiraz aroma – bright, buoyant and ripe with generous, supple, sweet, pure, cherry-like varietal flavour. The fruit simply ate all the oak, though it subtly adds depth, structure and spice to a remarkable palate. Wow.

Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 $600
Regions:Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills.
Maturation:20 months, new American oak hogsheads.
We can personally vouch for Bin 707’s very long term cellaring potential. It starts life brooding and tannic. Over decades its aroma develops greater dimension and the palate transforms from sheer power to an elegantly structured unity of oak, fruit and mellow aged flavours. The 2016 vintage: dense colour with purple rim; brooding and deep aroma, revealing ripe varietal flavours mingled with oak and Penfolds’ soy-like savoury character; the palate soars with deep, ripe, varietal fruit, lifted by the sympathetic oak – a wine of substance, power, elegance and with very long-term cellaring potential. Wow.

Grange 2014 $900
Varieties:98% shiraz, 2% cabernet sauvignon.
Regions:Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Magill Estate.
Maturation:20 months in new American oak hogsheads
Dense colour with crimson rim; savoury, complex aroma combing earth, oak, vanilla, soy and spice with a deep, ripe pulse of fruit; powerful palate reflecting the aroma, but with an exotic spicy oak character hovering over the opulent, tannin-packed palate. The spicy oak and inclusion of fruit from the cooler adjoining regions of Coonawarra and Wrattonbully make this slightly different stylistically from earlier warm-climate Granges. It’s a subtle change, as power, firmness and longevity remain the main theme.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2018