Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
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 large, climatically diverse country producing just about every wine style imaginable, Australia is not just a source of blockbuster Shiraz or inexpensive wine with cute labels, though both can certainly be found here. Australia has a grand winemaking history and some of the oldest vines on the planet, along with a huge range of landscapes and climates; it is impossible to make generalizations about Australian wine. Most regions are concentrated in the south of the country with those inland experiencing warm, dry weather, and those in more coastal areas receiving humid and tropical, or maritime weather patterns. Australia has for several decades been at the forefront of winemaking technology and has widely adopted the use of screwcaps, even for some premium and ultra-premium bottles.
Shiraz is indeed Australia’s most celebrated and widely planted variety, typically producing bold, supple reds with sweet, jammy fruit and performing best in the Barossa and Hunter Valleys. Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Shiraz, and also shines on its own particularly in Coonawarra and Margaret River. Grenache and Mourvèdre (often locally referred to as Mataro) are also popular, both on their own and alongside Shiraz in Rhône blends. Chardonnay is common throughout the country and made in a wide range of styles. Sauvignon Blanc has recently surged in popularity to compete with New Zealand’s distinctive version, and Semillon is often utilized as its blending partner, or in the Hunter Valley, on its own to make complex, age-worthy whites. Riesling thrives in the cool-climate Clare and Eden Valleys. Sticky-sweet fortified wine Rutherglen Muscat is a beloved regional specialty of Victoria. Thanks to the country’s relatively agreeable climate throughout and the openness of its people, experimentation is common and ongoing, and there are a vast array of intriguing varieties to be found.
A crisp, refreshing variety that equally reflects both terroir and varietal character, Sauvignon blanc is responsible for a vast array of wine styles. However, a couple of commonalities always exist—namely, zesty acidity and intense aromatics. The variety is of French provenance, and is most important in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It also shines in New Zealand, California, Australia and parts of northeastern Italy. Chile and South Africa are excellent sources of high-quality, value-priced Sauvignon blanc.
In the Glass
From its homeland In Bordeaux, winemakers prefer to blend it with Sémillon to produce a softer, richer style. In the Loire Valley, it expresses citrus, flint and smoky flavors, especially from in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Marlborough, New Zealand often produces a pungent and racy version, reminiscent of cut grass, gooseberry and grapefruit. California's style is fruit-driven, in either a soft and oak-aged or snappy and fresh version.
The freshness of Sauvignon blanc’s flavor lends it to a range of light, summery dishes including salad, seafood and mild Asian cuisine. Sauvignon Blanc settles in comfortably at the table with notoriously difficult foods like artichokes or asparagus. When combined with Sémillon (and perhaps some oak), it matches well with complex seafood and chicken dishes.
Along with Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon blanc is a proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. That green bell pepper aroma that all three varieties share is no coincidence—it comes from a high concentration of pyrazines (herbaceous aromatic compounds) inherent to each member of the family.