barossa valley mclaren vale take role call honours in 2009

It was interesting to note both these south australian wine regions take honours for top shirazes in Halliday’s 2009 Wine Companion. Have a squiz at Halliday’s article pasted below:

“The Holy Grail of Diversity by James Halliday Australian June 07, 2008

THE 2008 Third International Shiraz Alliance symposium will be held in South Australia’s Barossa Valley from June 20 to 22. While many of the sessions (and a prologue on June 19) will focus on Barossa shiraz and sub-regional differences, the main tasting for the 300 delegates will include wines from every region in Australia and key overseas areas.

Whether the focus is the sub-regions of the Barossa, the regions of Australia, or other countries, the voice of shiraz will come through with greater clarity than that of any other variety confronted with such a diverse spread of terroir.

While clonal identification through DNA is still around the corner, it seems beyond doubt that much of Australia’s shiraz is a descendant of six cuttings obtained by James Busby from the hill of Hermitage in France’s Rhone Valley in 1831. This is the most impeccable source, the greatest site for syrah — as the variety is always called in France — in the world.

Some would argue that because South Australia, Western Australia, NSW and parts of Victoria have never had the phylloxera grapevine pest, and grafting on to American rootstocks has therefore been avoided, Australia has a unique legacy of purity and strength to its shiraz. It is perhaps for this reason that the Chapoutier family has taken Australian shiraz cuttings back to the Rhone.

Shiraz has readily adapted to virtually every combination of soil and climate, producing wines that speak equally of their varietal parentage and of their place. Only chardonnay comes close to this level of adaptability. All the other main varieties respectively perform best in a handful of specific regions with a clear climatic link. This varietal nexus with terroir is a subject I will return to next week.

The database for my 2009 Wine Companion has one shiraz on 97 points, 39 with 96 points, 99 with 95 points and 239 with 94 points, a record far in excess of any other variety. When the English Masters of Wine came to Australia in 1984, they correctly berated us for not giving more respect and attention to shiraz. They went back to England to preach the shiraz gospel, and winemakers waited for the flood of orders for the variety. Instead, the orders came for chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. It took five years for the British public to begin to respond to the allure of shiraz.

We can but be grateful there is so much shiraz in Australia, with vines 40 to 150 years old. It is true that there are also young vineyards, inevitable once you find that 51 regions have contributed one or more wine scoring 94 points or more.

The roll call of honour starts with the Barossa Valley with 94 wines, followed by McLaren Vale, also in South Australia, with 59, more or less what you would expect given the sheer weight of numbers of winemakers in those regions with shiraz a key part of their armoury, their rich viticultural resources and given that shiraz viognier (best in cooler regions) has a separate database entry.

The emergence of the NSW Hunter Valley with 33 wines was unexpected, although the 2005 vintage was a particularly good one for that region. Then followed Heathcote, Victoria, with 22 wines (with far fewer producers having a high percentage strike rate), Clare Valley in South Australia 16 (fewer than expectations), then the Grampians in Victoria and Adelaide Hills both with 14, and Victoria’s Yarra Valley with 12.

The remainder spanned the super-cool Henty and Macedon Ranges regions of Victoria through to the hot Swan Valley in WA, with just about every gradation of climate and soil imaginable producing a range of aromas, flavours, textures and structures.

It’s a grape for all seasons, and one that will surely be the last to fall if the climate-change doomsayers are proved correct later in the millennium.

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FROM THE REGION: Barossa Valley shiraz 
IN deference to the Shiraz Alliance and to the Barossa’s dominance of it, these are the wines from the Barossa that scored 96 points in the upcoming Wine Companion, arranged in alphabetical order: 2005 Gibson Barossavale Australian Old Vine Collection; 2006 Glaetzer Amon Ra; 2002 Grant Burge Meshach; 2006 Groom; 2005 John Duval Eligo; 2006 John Duval Entity; 2005 Peter Lehmann

The 1885; 2005 Rolf Binder Veritas Hanisch; 2006 Schubert Estate Gooseyard Block; 2006 St Hallett Blackwell; 2005 Torbreck The Factor; 2004 Torbreck RunRig; 2004 Trevor Jones Reserve Wild Witch; and 2006 Turkey Flat.” By James Halliday Australian June 07, 2008