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Elderton Command Shiraz 2003
"Big, ripe and generous. This is a plush mouthful of cherry, spice and mineral flavors that rush on the finish, managing to stay in perfect balance. Has depth and grace. Best from 2009 through 2018."
After time spent working in Saudi Arabia, Neil and Lorraine Ashmead, moved to the Barossa in 1979, after Lorraine’s father identified a beautiful home with potential. The Ashmeads believed this would be a great place to raise their family. The homestead, in the heart of the township of Nuriootpa, was surrounded by extremely old Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. At a time where demand for Australian table wine was negligible, the vineyard had become derelict. After years of no interest, the real estate agent eventually offered the Ashmeads the 72 acre vineyard as a bonus, as part of the sale of the homestead. Three years later, after restoring the vineyard, Elderton Wines was born.
The second generation, Cameron and Allister, took the reins of the business in 2003 and today work together to run Elderton Wines, with Lorraine still involved through her role on the Board. Cameron and Allister believe very strongly in continuing the traditions that began a generation earlier, on the Nuriootpa vineyard. Wanting to take the family company to the next level, they together devised a plan to buy great vineyards in other significant sub appellations of the Barossa. Through using sustainable practices, the hope is that the next generation of the Ashmead family have a lot to work with when they are at the helm.
Historically and presently the most important wine-producing region of Australia, the Barossa Valley is set in South Australia, where more than half of the country’s wine is made. Because the climate is very hot and dry, vineyard managers must be careful so that grapes do not become overripe.
The intense heat is ideal for plush, bold reds, particularly Rhône blends featuring Shiraz, Grenache, and Mataro (Mourvèdre). White grapes can produce crisp, fresh wines from Riesling, Chardonnay, and Semillon if they are planted at higher altitudes.
Most of Australia’s largest wine producers are based here and Shiraz plantings date back as far as the 1850s or before. Many of them are dry-farmed and bush-trained, still offering less than one ton per acre of inky, intense, purple juice.
Marked by unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.