A great-value southern-hemisphere alternative to Côte Rôtie, made by Tim Lovett, above.
From AU$22.99, $22, £19.49
Find this wine (in Australia)
Margaret River in Western Australia may be famous for Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon/Semillon blends and, increasingly, Chardonnay, but its hidden secret is how good some of the Shiraz is. And this one is staggering value.
In fact this particular example really should be called Syrah. It is so much more like a red from the Northern Rhône than one from Barossa Valley. I first got excited by Leeuwin’s Syrah when I tasted my way through their current releases on my last visit to Margaret River in 2017 and encountered the Leeuwin Estate, Art Series Shiraz 2014. I pointed out then that it should be called Syrah not Shiraz, but perhaps the sales team at the Horgan family’s famous wine estate thinks Shiraz is more marketable. (I’d still say Syrah is more indicative of the style, and there is no shortage of examples of fine Australian reds labelled Syrah.)
I see Tam was equally bewitched by the Leeuwin Estate, Art Series Shiraz 2017 during a Zoom tasting last year, describing it as ‘AMAZING’ for the money. Leeuwin’s Art Series – with its iconic Chardonnay – is their top range but this Siblings blend is a step down in reputation and price, supposedly their ‘entry-level’ Syrah. I came across it at a tasting of Leeuwin’s current releases hosted by senior winemaker Tim Lovett and Simone Furlong (née Horgan). I could hardly believe that a wine of such quality was available for such a relatively modest price.
The winter before the grapes were picked in the second half of April 2019 was pretty brutal, and Tim Lovett’s notes about this wine recall nasty cold, wet and windy conditions for pruning. But summer was mild and kind and 52 mm (2 in) of rain in late January was just the ticket for preparing the dry-farmed vines for harvest.
The grapes for this wine came from selected parcels of Shiraz in Leeuwin’s Peppy Park vineyard which is 16 km (10 miles) further south and inland than the vineyards surrounding the winery. According to Lovett, ‘this site has cooler night-time temperatures and the influence of the Southern Ocean, which play a pivotal role in the varietal expression of Leeuwin Estate Shiraz. The soils are lateritic gravel within sandy clay loam over decomposed Precambrian gneiss. From this vineyard site we observe more spice and pepper with moderate weight translating to a gently textured mid palate on the wine and structural tannin frame.’
The grapes were sorted, cold-soaked, and fermented, with some whole bunches, in a mix of closed and open fermenters. The wine then went into barrels of varying ages (20% new) for malolactic conversion and the components were then blended and aged in cooperage which includes demi-muids for a further eight months.
But how does it taste? As I say, really remarkably like a fine northern Rhône Syrah. Tim Lovett has many friends in the Rhône and confessed at the London tasting that they benchmark the wine against Rhône rather than Australian wines. They buy more of the oak from two Rhône-based coopers, supplemented by a little from Burgundian coopers.
Here’s my tasting note on this wine that is just 13.5% alcohol and I suggest is already delicious but should drink well over the next six years.
Deep crimson. Ripe red fruit plus black pepper. Polished tannins – not that far from a fine Côte Rôtie! Richard Hemming MW (who famously adores northern Rhône Syrah) would love this… So clean and fresh. VGV 17/20
Leeuwin Estate’s wines, including this lovely one, are imported into the UK by Flint, which are currently offering this wine at £19.49 on their Stannary Wine e-commerce site. They are also selling at £19 the 2018 to which Tam gave an enthusiastic score of 16.5/20. It sounds a little plumper than this 2019.
The US importer is Old Bridge Cellars who have sent this list of US retailers and maintain that the average retail price is just $22. They also point out that the 2018 is still available at wine.com.
The Liquor Store, Brooklyn, NY
Imperial Vintner, New York, NY
Archive Wine & Spirits, New York, NY
Marketview Liquor, Rochester, NY
Liquor Depot, Oneonta, NY
Wine Library, Springfield, NJ
The Bottle Shop, Spring Lake, NJ
Turnpike Spirit Shop, Fairfield, CT
Grapes, Norwalk, CT
Gillette Ridge Wine & Liquor, Bloomfield, CT
Craigville Package Store, Osterville, MA
Winecask, Somerville, MA
Julios Liquors, Westborough, MA
Needham Wine & Spirits, Needham, MA
Lees Market, Westport, MA
Shubies Liquors, Marblehead, MA
Unwined, Alexandria, VA
Winejug, Weirton, WV
Red or White Wines, Fairhope, AL
Utah alcohol monopoly
PJs Wine and Spirits, Longmont, CO
Superior Liquor Market, Louisville, CO
Old Town Wine Cellar, Yuma, AZ
Vinum 55, Chandler, AZ
Liquorama, Upland, CA
Shoppers Corner, Santa Cruz, CA
And of course the wine is widely available in Australia where it was released last June.