Are Aussie producers doing enough in the sub-£20 category? Read the debate from the June 2017 issue of Decanter magazine...

A divisive panel tasting of value Australian Shiraz between £7.99 and £20, that praised drinkable, balanced wines but criticised many average, dilute ones that did not try hard enough in this value price bracket.

The scores:

91 wines tasted

Exceptional – 0
Outstanding – 0
Highly Recommended – 21
Recommended – 54
Commended – 12
Fair – 4
Poor – 0
Faulty – 0

The judges:

Alex Hunt MW; Roger Jones; Anthony Rose


Click here to view the tasting notes and scores for all 91 Australian value Shiraz


The judges all found ‘succulence, regional interest and varietal identity’ in the top wines, as well as much less over-extraction than there might have been five years ago.

That there were no wines averaging above 94 points from this tasting was irrelevant, said two of our experts, as in this price category you’d not be getting the finest wines in the market that warranted such scores.

But Roger Jones was vocal in his disappointment. ‘The £10 to £20 category should not be an excuse to make average wines. Swartland in South Africa and Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand make Shiraz in a different league to the wine we tasted, priced at the same level.’

‘We had 10% of old-school, ripe Aussie Shiraz at one end, 10% of that cool-climate, peppery Rhône style at the other and then in between the two a bunch of confused wines: they were aromatically old-school but with the pedal taken off the winemaking. You can’t just dial down certain aspects of a wine and hope that what’s dilute will be perceived as finesse’.


Continue reading below


The six highest scoring wines from the value Australian Shiraz panel tasting:

Henry's Drive, Padthaway, Shiraz, South Australia, 2012

Henry's Drive, Padthaway, Shiraz, South Australia, 2012

Refreshing and fabulous for a 2012, this wine is showing meaty olive-infused aromas combined with sweet coconut and vanilla tones. There is a nice elision between savoury and fruit notes. Loganberries and bilberries in an Eton mess, with no harshness to this old school Shiraz.

Points 94
Kelly's, Central Victoria, Last Wish, Victoria, 2014

Kelly's, Central Victoria, Last Wish, Victoria, 2014

Starting off with a fiery nose, this Shiraz has a savoury, warmer climate feel. Blueberries ooze from the nose and rocky notes offset the fruit richness. It is luscious and bright with a lingering, evolving palate. A very accomplished wine.

Points 93
Bird In Hand, Mount Lofty Ranges, Shiraz, 2014

Bird In Hand, Mount Lofty Ranges, Shiraz, 2014

An inky, gravy-scented nose unfolds onto sweet charred coconut oak. It is intense but controlled, where bright minty mulberries intermingle with wild herbs. It evolves beautifully on the palate to leave a delicate tingling mouthfeel that goes on and on.

Points 92
Mount Pleasant, Hunter Valley, Philip Shiraz, 2014

Mount Pleasant, Hunter Valley, Philip Shiraz, 2014

A youthful nose that is on the savoury side, keeping its cards close to its chest. Soft leather runs through the fluid, gently extracted palate with a touch of lead pencil shavings and an underlying creamy texture.

Points 92
Trentham Estate, Heathcote, Family Reserve Shiraz, 2010

Trentham Estate, Heathcote, Family Reserve Shiraz, 2010

With the oak spice and savoury, undergrowth evolution, this nose is more Burgundian than expected. The palate asserts its Shiraz-ness more, with mulberry and pepper notes, and the attractive leathery finish that often emerges with bottle age.

Points 92
Walter Clappis, McLaren Vale, The Hedonist, 2015

Walter Clappis, McLaren Vale, The Hedonist, 2015

With a crunchy smoky note and a fabulous meaty texture, this is not a classic McLaren Vale Shiraz but it's an intriguing wine, with real poise, balance and length. It is crying out for Italian food, and is well worth trying.

Points 92

To read Decanter’s full Panel Tasting reports, subscribe to Decanter magazine – available in print and digital


Three main styles

Broadly speaking, there are three main styles:

The traditional hot-climate inland region and Barossa style with powerful, super-ripe fruit and high alcohol

The more restrained, spicy reds of the milder regions like McLaren Vale and Clare Valley and slightly cooler Yarra,
Heathcote and Coonawarra

The perfumed, peppery intensity and blackberry elegance of Mount Barker in the west, Adelaide Hills, Canberra and the Grampians, verging on white pepper and stalky in ultra-cool zones.

Regional performance

McLaren Vale was the biggest disappointment, with the largest proportion of ‘bland, unremarkable’ wines, while Clare Valley stood out as the leading sub-region, showing a distinct, elegant style. The disappointingly few Hunter Valley and Orange wines also impressed, as did those from Margaret River and Victoria.

Trends

The latest trends reflect the objectives of creating both more refreshingly drinkable Shiraz and wines that express their origins. In the vineyard, green harvesting, hand-picking based on flavour ripeness and sorting are key, while selective machine harvesting technology could be a game changer.

In the cellar, whole-bunch and whole-berry, small-batch fermentation in open fermenters is on the increase, along with hand-plunging, as is blending with other varieties like Grenache and Mourvedre.

One of the biggest changes giving greater aromatic restraint, superior texture and length of flavour is the ongoing conversion of American to French oak combined with using different sizes and ages of barrel.

Conclusions

‘Australia isn’t trouncing the Rhône for value any more either,’ explained Hunt. He said that at under £20 there are St-Josephs and Crozes-Hermitages ‘offering more nuance and harmony than the majority of the line-up here’.

Jones said: ‘Australia invented Shiraz as a commercial term, and 10 years ago that’s what everyone was drinking. There are amazing Shirazes at £60 to £80, but the quality isn’t there at under £20 and that’s a shame.’

Rose disagreed: ‘We know there are wines with greater character, intensity, expression and interest, but is it fair to ask these producers to sell them for £20 or less?’


Related content: