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By Macphee's, July 18th, 2018

Classic Victorian Shiraz at its finest – Best’s & Craiglee

Iconic Victorian Shiraz on Song

Craiglee 2014 – 97 points

Best’s ‘Bin No.0’ 2016 – 97 points

Classic Craiglee

Pat Carmody’s Stunning 2014 Shiraz

97 points, James Halliday

“From my European vantage point, I’d like everyone I’ve come across who is convinced that history, terroir influence, restraint and longevity are exclusive to European wines to visit the four-floor bluestone winery built soon after the first vines went in here in 1864.”
– Jancis Robinson MW

Max Allen calls Pat Carmody “the most humble winemaker I’ve ever met.” Indeed, Pat is hardly one to be swept up in trend or the destabilising influence of ego, quietly going about his business for the last 40 or so years with a clear eye to reflecting site and history. That’s not to say that he’s been stuck in the past as such, although the original bluestone winery building is certainly a relic, a charming anachronism. And Pat’s unvarnished, laconic manner underpins this sense of being wedded to a different era, somewhat impervious to change. In reality, there is no need for much change at Craiglee, as there isn’t at Wendouree. Put simply, it’s vineyard first, with winemaking firmly in the backseat – simple, traditional and unobtrusive.

Vintage 2014 was a generally warmer vintage, but that’s not especially apparent in this wine, which sings the classic Craiglee tune pitch perfectly. This, indeed, is an area that Pat has tinkered with slightly. There was a time around a decade before this release where the ripeness level had crept up, with 14.5% alcohol being a marker of a warmer season. That didn’t sit totally right with Pat, and, like with the 2014, a ripe but more modest 13.5% is more typical of the top register. This means that a fantastic year like 2014 offers all the classical charm of cool climate Craiglee (a tongue twister that), with that extra measure of intensity and structure. The 2014 is particularly appealing, even in its youth. It needs time, certainly, what with its coiled tannin and savoury cast, but there is such classical presence to this, with red fruits and spice the theme and that underpinning of tannin giving it a compelling architecture that will see it weather the passage of time effortlessly. This really is a great release that’s just starting to hit its straps, but it’s got so many years ahead of it. This is such extraordinary value for a wine that will be majestic over 10, 20, 30+ years – a must for any serious Shiraz cellar.

Craiglee Shiraz 2014: $57

“Has the guile that is at the heart of Craiglee style, the flavours fresh, with more red fruit than black, an omnipresent pinch of spice, and a splash of licorice and forest all combining to seduce the senses before you register the underlying intensity and length of the fruit. Tannins and French oak are also present, but it’s not until the finish and aftertaste that they leave their mark.”
– James Halliday, Wine Companion: 97 Points

“…a majestic Shiraz…”

Best’s ‘Bin No.0’ Shiraz 2016

97 points, Huon Hooke

“This is a majestic shiraz… A top vintage of this famous wine.”
– Huon Hooke, The Real Review: 97 points

Year in year out, Best’s ‘Bin No.0’ is high up on our list of must buys, but the 2016 release is really something to behold, a great vintage for one of Victoria’s best Shirazes. As many would know, 2016 was a warmer year, but with the vines beautifully set up from the year prior, the season was supremely pitched to produce brilliant Shiraz. The other key factor is the absence of a ‘Thomson Family’ release in 2016 – deemed just not quite up to that lofty grade. While this is not so great if you’re a collector of one of the country’s greatest wines (and Halliday’s Wine of the Year in his 2017 guide), it provided a dramatic upside for those with not such deep pockets, or quick enough reflexes to snap up that truly scarce gem – unlike the 7,000-9,000 cases of Grange that are made each vintage (yep, you heard right). Precious juice from the 15 rows of 1868 vines was allocated to the ‘Bin No.0’ in 2016, providing it with even more depth, character and gravitas than usual. In many respects, it harks back to when the ‘Bin No.0’ was the top of the tree for Best’s, with the resources of all of the oldest material on the property. The result of this is a wine of incredible stature and intensity – layered, complex and detailed, with all the classic Best’s fragrance but also an impressive measure of depth and purring power. Well, the tough-marking Huon Hooke says it best: “This is a majestic shiraz… A top vintage of this famous wine.”

Best’s Bin ‘No.0’ Shiraz 2016: $80

“This is a majestic shiraz, powerful and dense, well-structured for ageing yet with amazingly complex detail and charm for such a youngster, with star anise, pepper and assorted spice aromas. It has great concentration and persistence. A top vintage of this famous wine.”
– Huon Hooke, The Real Review: 97 points

In case you missed last weeks offer…

A McLaren Vale Revelation

Truly Extraordinary Wines from the Master

2017 S.C. Pannell ‘Smart’ & ‘Old MacDonald’ Grenache

“Steve radiates intensity, and extended experience has resulted in wines of the highest quality right from the first vintage… The future for the Pannells is limitless, the icon status of the label already established.”
– James Halliday, Wine Companion

We never miss a chance to taste Steve Pannell’s wines, especially with the man himself. Though, we must say that this last visit – and we tasted with him twice over two days – left us somewhat more impressed than usual. What really bowled us over this time round was a pair of old vine Grenache – so strikingly bright and fragrant, so detailed, just so, so interesting. We’re not being hyperbolic in that heading, they really were a revelation. These are not your typical raspberry-infused Grenache, nor are they the darkly brooding, meaty and often super-ripe numbers that we are so used to. No, they are lucid expressions of site and vintage, almost Grenache with a nod to Nebbiolo, but also unmistakably Grenache. Both wines are characterised by a fragrant riot of red fruits – cranberry, redcurrant, wild berries – rosehip, pomegranate, rosewater and a brush of wild spice and woody herbs. The ‘Smart’ (a former Clarendon Hills parcel) is paler and more effusively fragrant, and intensely charming for it, while the ‘Old McDonald’ sits a little deeper in the glass, with more layers and an earthy growl rumbling in the background. Both have similarities and marked differences, both are wonderful in their own ways and eye-openingly good. Make no mistake, these are some of the finest wines we’ve seen all year, will see all year.

S.C. Pannell ‘Smart’ Grenache 2017: $55

“From a 62 year old vineyard in the Clarendon sub-region of McLaren Vale. I’ve not met Steve Pannell, but I’d volunteer that he’s one of the best winemakers in the country. Have been to his beautiful cellar door a few times. I keep a low profile, all things considered. A finer boned, musky and spicy expression of Grenache here. It’s medium bodied, almost strict in structure, with firm dry tannin, pitch-perfect acidity giving energy, fresh raspberry and something like black tea, or that elusive ‘mineral’ thing, a pleasant perfumed herb character as a counterpoint, and a crisp and very long finish, closing with gustatory tannin and subtle bitterness. Wow.”
– Gary Walsh, The Wine Front: 96 Points

S.C. Pannell ‘Old McDonald’ Grenache 2017: $55

“If Old McDonald had a farm, it was probably in the Tintara winery sometime in the last century (wine people joke, I guess), but now, this beautiful wine comes from 75 year old bush vines. There’s no question that Grenache is the flagship grape of the McLaren Vale. It continues to rise as it becomes more sensitively grown, and as importantly, vinified. It’s pretty, kind of rosy in perfume, a little bit juicy, but also dry and beautifully structured. There’s fine insistent tannin giving it shape and texture, almost to Nebbiolo character with its gentle brick dust grip, red fruit and cherry, a layer of spice, new leather and scrub herb, and a long cool, composed finish. Flat out beautiful. Succulence with a serious nature. Bravo.”
– Gary Walsh, The Wine Front: 96 Points

Other current offers…

2018 Young Gun of Wine Winner – Rob Mack, Aphelion

“…one of the most exciting current projects in Australian wine.”
– Mike Bennie

“His poetic suite of grenache wines show a set of very unique expressions that are as fascinating as they are delicious. A thoughtful rendition that shows the right grape grown in the right place and delivered with insightful, respectful and attentive winemaking.”
– Nick Stock

Aphelion ‘The Verdant’ Grenache 2017: $32
– Very Limited!

“The fascinating and worthy Aphelion wines roll around to another release, this time fine tuning the grenache iterations a bit, a whole bunch one, a destemmed one, one that is Grenache with a capital G, per se. This one, as per the name, is 100% whole bunch. The vineyard source is 80 years old and in Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale. This is seriously elegant, sleek, spicy, wonderful in its ‘pinosity’, delicious to drink. Loads of peppery, gently herbal, sour cherry and white strawberry scents, more a perfume than a winey aroma. The palate draws tight and long, you feel the sinew of stem and skins here, certainly the wine feels pent up but that texture is pure luxury even if the wine is sleight. Beautiful in understatement.”
– Mike Bennie, The Wine Front: 94+ points

Mayford Shiraz 2015: $40

“Porepunkah Shiraz, re-defined. Mayford shiraz has been a beautiful thing on many occasions but this release arguably takes the cake. It shifts the conversation slightly. It feels finer, longer, more confident, more Burgundian. Cherries, chocolate, coffee and sweet spices, and ample quantities of each, all come as a seamless whole; there’s no jostling here, the flavours come as a team. There’s a raspberried brightness; a meatiness too. The flavours then all ripple through the tannin like a creek through rapids. We have ourselves something special here.”
– Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front: 96 Points

Pooley Riesling 2017: $31

“Lifted and seamlessly pure nose melding lilting white floral scents with notes of kaffir lime leaf, grapefruit, lime zest and talcy minerals. The palate is lightly textural, with a slip of lees cushioning the beautifully ripe acid that tunnels into the distance, taking the flavours along for the very long ride. This is detailed and layered, yet so poised and so effortless. A great release.”
– MacPhee’s score: 96 points

Pikes ‘The Merle’ Riesling 2017: $45

“…Restrained style, though not without perfume and flavour. Here be lime leaf and lemongrass, that rocky/stony thing that’s there, but doesn’t make sense in terms of real world descriptions. Fine and crunchy, lemon and lime of steely intensity, yet quiet of voice at present, a stony texture, and a precise finish that’s all lime sorbet and rind. An intense stare now, but generosity to come.”
– Gary Walsh, The Wine Front: 95+ points

Sorrenberg Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2017: $34.99

“Out and about in Melbourne yesterday, saw this, bought a bottle, smashed it down, wrote a short note. So good. It’s subdued and winey, smooth and silky, with a fresh gooseberry tang, fennel and citrus, and finishes with a twist of tonic bitterness. Composure. Grace. Drinkabilty. Just superb.”
– Gary Walsh, The Wine Front: 96 points

Trapeze Chardonnay 2015: $20

“Slightly deeper and brighter green-gold than the Punch Lance’s Vineyard Chardonnay, the palate more complex and powerful but less intense and focused. The attention to detail is extraordinary in each wine, and which you prefer is a purely personal decision.”
– James Halliday, Wine Companion 2018: 95 points

Murdoch Hill ‘The Tilbury’ Chardonnay 2016: $40

“Murdoch Hill is setting a very high benchmark, particularly considering the winemaking nous comes from a young talent in Michael Downer. Beautiful, come hither perfume of stone fruit, gentle nougat/halva, mixed citrus peel, faint ozone and seaspray. Cool, refreshing and lean but juicy in the palate. Lovely fresh cut nectarine and light chalky-slate-like mineral characters jostling. Slick exit with a refreshing, brick kiss of lemony coolness. Really good.”
– Mike Bennie, The Wine Front: 94 points

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