>WBW#30 – the verdict


WBW this month was right up my alley. Living in Victoria, Australia, I am surrounded by more shiraz wineries than I know what to do with. Luckily, I had just stocked up on two of my favourites just before WBW#30 was announced.

A girls’ night in at Glenda’s house was just the venue for our tasting. We had three bottles to hand:

Paulett’s Polish Valley Shiraz 2001 (Clare Valley, South Australia) – one of Noela’s favourite drops
Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz 2003 (Grampians, Victoria)
Candlebark Hill Shiraz 2005 (Macedon Ranges, Victoria) – my favourite

We started with the Mount Langi. This is the affordable shiraz in the winery’s range, and it is a classic shiraz, all berries and pepper (other tasting notes refer to coffee flavours but I didn’t get that). The grapes for the Cliff Edge wines are selected from local small producers with younger vines, who do things by hand. While 2003 was a late vintage in that region, Mount Langi Ghiran was one of the last to harvest, and it shows.

The result is a smooth, classic Shiraz with the signature spiciness/pepperiness so often found in Grampians wines.

Our second bottle was the Paulett’s Polish Valley Shiraz 2001. It followed on well from the Mount Langi, and the few extra years in bottle were apparent: a really smooth red. Lots of fruit flavours, less spicy than the Mount Langi but more loaded with tannins. I liked it.

Our final bottle was my local hero, the Candlebark Hill Shiraz 2005. I love this little winery in the Macedon Ranges – it is one of the closest wineries to our house, and I buy direct from the winery owner, David, at Victoria Market. They say that the Macedon Ranges is at the “sharp end” of cool-climate viticulture, but it turns out the soils of the northern Macedon Ranges is perfect for cool-climate shiraz. And Candlebark Hill is a classic example.

I brought some of this wine home to Ireland last year. My brother opened his two bottles on Christmas Day, and subsequently told me it was the best wine he had ever tasted (and he has drunk his share of shiraz). This wine is rich, full-bodied, and almost assaults your taste buds from the first mouthful. After the highly-regarded 2001 Paulett’s one might have expected to miss the nuances, but Noela’s first sip stopped her in her tracks. The Candlebark Hill shiraz may not be long past bottle-shock, but it displays an unexpected maturity and roundness of flavour that is hard to beat. It’s what brings me back to this boutique winery again and again: they have not let me down for six or seven years now.

They make pretty delicious muscats and tokays too, but that’s for another WBW…

Next evening we continued our WBW weekend (as it was turning out to be) at our local Thai restaurant with our mates Sam and Amanda. Sam had brought along another favourite of mine, Pepperjack Shiraz. Pepperjack is a stalwart of the Barossa Valley area in South Australia, taking its grapes from fairly old vines in the Barossa and Eden valleys. It is another firm favourite of mine. It is a beautiful ruby red in colour and never fails to impress. Another classic shiraz with plenty of plummy fruits and spices, and maybe a touch of liquorice. Pepperjack is consistent and elegant and will always have a place on my wine rack.

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