Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2015
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.
The Adelaide Zone refers to the super zone in South Australia containing the Mount Lofty Ranges Zone (Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Plains and Clare Valley), Fleurieu Zone (Currency Creek, Kangaroo Island, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, and Southern Fleurieu) and Barossa Zone (Barossa Valley and Eden Valley).
The Adelaide Hills region is distinguished and beautiful, offering a cool respite in the summer for Adelaide city dwellers. With vineyards planted fairly high in elevation at 1,500 to 1,800 feet, it is known for its particularly fine, citrus-driven Sauvignon blanc.
However, 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 for blends. Not many wineries were ever permitted to build wineries here, since it is essentially an eastern suburb of the city.
Producers experiment with other cool-climate loving aromatic varieties like Pinot gris, Viognier and Riesling. Charming sparkling wine is also possible, which is made from Pinot noir and Chardonnay. On its north side, lower, west-facing slopes make full-bodied Shiraz.
The Adelaide Plains is a hot region northwest of the Adelaide Hills that produces simpler, value-driven wines.
Marked by an 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.