Shaw & Smith Pinot Noir 2016
Even ripening and good growing conditions made 2016 a standout year for Pinot Noir in Lenswood. This vintage is very perfumed with great intensity.
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Shaw + Smith was established in 1989 by the current owners, cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith. Michael had just completed his Master of Wine in the UK, and Martin was running a “flying winemaker” business in Europe when they decided – somewhat on a whim – to make wine together. While a family business, Shaw + Smith is more about a partnership of two cousins with a unified vision and complimentary skills, now joined by a small team of bright talented wine people who are dedicated to taking the business forward. Shaw + Smith aims to make exciting, refined wines exclusively from the Adelaide Hills that rank amongst Australia’s best. They specialize in varieties suited to the cooler climate region, namely Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz. Shaw + Smith owns two vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, at Balhannah and Lenswood, with a total of 136 acres (55 hectares) under vine. The Balhannah vineyard, which surrounds the winery, was planted in 2000 with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz. The soil is free-draining sandy loam over red clay, with underlying quartzite and shale. The average altitude is 1,375 feet (420 meters). The Lenswood vineyard was planted in 1999 primarily with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc. The soil is brown loam over clay, as well as thinner topsoil areas on the ridges with broken shale and stone. The property is undulating with some very steep areas that provide east and west facing orientation and aspect. The property stands at 1,640 feet (500 meters) at its highest. Growing outstanding grapes, working with the best growers, and using minimal intervention to make exciting wines with a strong sense of place is the core philosophy of Shaw + Smith. Stylistically, a slow evolution of the wines over time has occurred. Sauvignon Blanc winemaking has changed little, although the quality of fruit has improved significantly as the plantings have gone higher and cooler. Chardonnay continues to refine and evolve due to access to better vineyards, earlier picking to protect valuable acidity, whole bunch pressing, a preference for wild yeasts, less malolactic, and less battonage. Pinot Noir has improved as the vines have aged, and as they move to more whole-bunch and whole-berry in fermentations. The refinements for Shiraz are ongoing: better vineyards and a move to whole-bunch and whole-berry, along with less reliance on new oak.
A narrow band of hills and valleys east of the city of Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills region is a diverse landscape featuring a variety of microclimates. In general it is moderate with high-altitude areas cooler and wetter compared to its warmer, lower areas.
Piccadilly Valley, the part of Adelaide Hills closest to the city, was first staked out by a grower named Brian Croser, in the 1970s for a cool spot to grow Chardonnay, then uncommon in Australia. Today a good amount of the Chardonnay goes to winemakers outside of the region.
Producers here experiment with other cool-climate loving aromatic varieties like Pinot Gris, Viognier and Riesling. Charming sparkling wine is also possible. On its north side, lower, west-facing slopes make full-bodied Shiraz.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”