a powerhouse of Australian Clare Valley Shiraz…

one of the big boys of Aussie Shiraz, The Armagh is ranked up there with Australia's top 21 wines
one of the big boys of Aussie Shiraz, The Armagh is ranked up there with Australia’s top 21 wines

The Armagh Shiraz is a hugely concentrated, deeply impressive wine, one which leaves you in no doubt as to why it’s worth a 3-figure sum.

Proudly old school, Jim Barry’s flagship wine cruised (or maybe that’s bruised) its way into Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines 2014/15.

Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz 2008 – Clare Valley £123.35 (or £105 if buying 3+)

 This year 2010 Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz is nothing short of sensational. It deserves a whole page devoted to this wine alone, but unfortunately The Armagh outranks it and so it gets top billing. Before I turn to The Armagh, I must urge you to taste 2010 The McRae Wood (£30) though. Without doubt the finest wine under this label I have ever seen this is a brilliant wine and one which will age for ten to twenty years such is its phenomenal engineering and awe-inspiring raw materials. Last year’s Roadshow desert island wine was 2007 The Armagh. I have never seen so many people so grateful for the opportunity to taste this iconic wine. 2007 was the anomaly vintage – smooth, herbal, relaxed and tame. Little did these people know that I had lulled them into a false sense of security last year before unleashing the fire-burnished 2008 vintage on them this year. This is a wine plucked from the magma of a smoking volcano. It is hugely powerful with intense cassis fruit and muscles upon muscles. The flavour harpoons your palate and you are unable to escape. What follows is positively daunting – the formidable tannins and lashings of tribal fruit get to work rearranging your olfactory system. This open mouth surgery is the ultimate masochistic treat. In the panoply of The Armaghs this is a big one, so if you can handle this then you can handle anything and I take my hat off to you. If you can’t cope then wave the white flag and the Moscato brigade will scrape you up off the floor and dump you somewhere out of the way. If you just simply feel dizzy, share the bottle with someone else you selfish bugger.

So what’s the only wine in the world to mature in 100 litre “Octave” barrels?

American & French oak octave barrels (that's 100 litres rather than the normal 225 litres) play a pivotal role in this old vine Shiraz
American & French oak octave barrels (that’s 100 litres rather than the normal 225 litres) play a pivotal role in this old vine Shiraz

And how come you don’t get splinters when you taste it? Yalumba’s The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz carries it off because that oak gets careful seasoning for 3-5 years before being put to use.

“perfect fruit, oak and tannin balance” according to Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines 2014/15.

Phenomenal wine for £12.59 a glass

Yalumba The Octavius Shiraz 2008 – Barossa Valley £57.90 (or £50.35 if buying 3+)

 It’s great to finish off this section with two heroic 2008s. The Octavius is a super-premium wine in every way. The aroma breaks like a huge wave over your head and you are left reeling. One sip snaps you back to attention and a second leaves you paralysed with a goonish grin on your chops. The oak used for the ‘octaves’ (100 litre barrels) in which this wine matures is seasoned at Yalumba’s own cooperage for between three and five years and this gives it super-powers. The ultra-mellow oak notes from French, Hungarian and American forests are imparted into this wine subtly and in spite of the tiny size of these barrels, this wine is in perfect fruit, oak and tannin balance. This is a 59% Barossa, 41% Eden Valley sourced wine and the cooler Eden fruit has tempered the excesses of the hot 2008 vintage and brought an uncanny degree of calm and poise to this behemoth.

top vines, top vintage, top winemaker = great Australian Shiraz – top that

the Barossa's treasure trove of old bush vines, wild & unruly, are part of the key to Charlie Melton's stunning wines
the Barossa’s treasure trove of old bush vines, wild & unruly, are part of the key to Charlie Melton’s stunning wines

Featured in Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines 2014/15, Voices of Angels is another of those entries where Jukes sneaks in a few for good measure (we’ve still some ’13 Rose of Virginia too by the way).

Take a sip, let its sensual effect wash over you; and pinch yourself – it’s a trifling £7.88 a glass.

Charles Melton Voices of Angels Shiraz 2010 – Barossa Valley £36.25 (or £31.50 if buying 3+)

2013 Charlie Melton’s Rose of Virginia will have sold out before this list goes live, I expect, so if you happen to see a bottle, buy it, chill it down and drink it with Ottolenghi’s lamb shawarma recipe – it will change your life. 2012 Charles Melton Nine Popes is another miraculous release and it shouldn’t be touched for a year or two, so perhaps it can be featured in next year’s 100 Best. My chosen wine this year is the haunting 2010 Charles Melton Voices of Angels. Coming from a vineyard in Mount Pleasant, which by my reckoning is just on the Barossan side of the border with the Adelaide Hills, this is a much cooler climate Shiraz than the other wines in Charlie’s remit and for this reason it is a rare beast. 2010 is the perfect vintage and therefore this is a wine with considerable pedigree. The scent of angels kicks it off and the voices come in on the mid-palate. Lithe and honed and without any of the Barossan cured meat notes this is a pepper and fresh, aromatic herb-scented Shiraz with a heavenly, silky palate. The oak regime allows some fruit sweetness to shine through with 70% French and 30% American employed. This celestial body is one of Charlie’s most evocative and sensitive wines to date. I feel that it will become a star wine in due course. Hallelujah.

Australia’s most feted & sought after Shiraz-Viognier wine…

Captain Kirk ponders what to do next with a bunch of grapes
Captain Kirk ponders what to do next with a bunch of grapes

Tucked away in a region with few wineries lies Clonakilla and the Kirk family whose skill with this most rewarding blend verges on the legendary.

Absolutely no surprise to see that Tim Kirk has done it again, effortlessly cruising into Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines 2014/15.

Around £15 a glass for a wine that’ll stick in your memory for a long, long while.Ê

Clonakilla Shiraz-Viognier 2012 – Canberra District £70.10 (or £60.95 if buying 3+)

 Mega-peppery, cool, calm and controlled, this is a classic vintage for Clonakilla and the epic perfume that this wine manages to reward us with every year seems even more mesmerising and pungent than ever. Only a point off perfection, I adore 2012 Clonakilla S/V and if you ever see the 2012 Clonakilla Syrah in your travels you must buy it because it plundered my points bank and brazenly nicked and extra half a point over its sibling wine, too. Tim Kirk and Bryan Martin are aware of just how good the parcels of vines are surrounding the winery. I am fortunate enough to taste a lot of barrels each year with them at Clonakilla, including some of their very small production cuvées, and I can tell you that no matter how much the weather conditions tests them each year their resolve will never be broken and will they keep making truly stellar wines. This winery and its wines has inspired legions of young wine folk to make, collect, drink and share wines like this one – long may they continue to spread the good word.

the Australian Clare Valley Shiraz that broke the rules…

Stephanie Toole eating into her profits again
Stephanie Toole eating into her profits again

2011 was a rubbish vintage for South Australia, Clare Valley Shiraz getting the lowest rating for years (4/10 from Langton’s, 5/10 from James Halliday).

Best to skip it then and wait for the stupendous ’12 & ’13s to arrive, right?

Not if Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines 2014/15 is to be believed. Or Halliday for that matter (93 points, 5 stars).

The “rules” in wine just aren’t that simple. A different vintage for sure, probably not one to put in the cellar for yonks. But if drinking great Australian Shiraz is your game, not one to miss.

Mount Horrocks Shiraz 2011 – Clare Valley £24.10 (or £21.65 if buying 6+)

This year sees a rare rest for Stephanie Toole’s dry Riesling and Cordon Cut Riesling – the 2013 vintage of both wines is sublime and if only I had more space they would have been carded. Not to worry, because it gives me an opportunity to showcase a quite frankly unexpected wine in this year’s 100 Best. I say unexpected because (I am sure that Steph will forgive me) I have never been a massive fan of this wine and it has taken a pretty disastrous vintage for me to notice its allure. So the question is, do I like this wine so much because 2011 was a crappy vintage and if so I should assume that I like less fruit and alcohol in it and more overt leafiness and spice throughout. The answer must be yes, because my tasting note eulogises about angular fruit, uplifting herbal notes, glorious spice and pepper and a slim frame. So while Steph may or may not be underwhelmed with her 2011 reds (I haven’t yet asked her but most winemakers are) I find this wine uncommonly riveting. Just shows you that you cannot, under any circumstances, assume the flavour of a wine without tasting it. That’s why I force myself to chew through 40,000 bottles every year – there are always surprises out there where you least expect them to be.

Australian wine to die for?…

Australia's Hunter Valley throws tough challenges at Shiraz. In this special place, however, it can produce one of the country's best wines
Australia’s Hunter Valley throws tough challenges at Shiraz. In this special place, however, it can produce one of the country’s best wines

Yep, it’s not afraid to show its pedigree in its price tag. But then again, we’re talking about a wine that’s up there with Australia’s very best, among the 21 most valuable and collectible of the lot according to Langton’s.

If you believe Matthew Jukes, in his 100 Best Australian Wines 2014/15, it transcends country too, putting up with the greatest Shiraz wines on the planet.

That said, £17.34 a glass seems like a pretty good deal.

Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz 2011 – Hunter Valley £79.75 (or £69.35 if buying 3+)

 In a bygone era Shiraz from the Hunter Valley was known and labelled as Hunter Burgundy. The wines were smooth, silky, medium-weight, aromatic and quite different to some of the
blockbuster styles we see today from the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. The finest Shiraz in the Hunter today still have silkiness and allure not unlike that of the Pinot Noir variety, but they correctly possess spice and gaminess that can only be found in top quality Shiraz. Graveyard is made by the awesomely talented wine guru Iain Riggs and it is one of Australia’s most feted wines. The awesome control, shimmering beauty and luxuriant texture put this wine among the very finest Shiraz in the world and with only 13% alcohol it truly possesses a ‘Burgundy’ feel on the palate! Unnervingly forward (you can drink it now), it will age and gather even more forest-y and truffle-y notes over the next decade.

Why if there’s 1 Australian Shiraz you should try this year, this is it…

Balhannah vineyard in the Adelaide Hills, where Shaw + Smith produce their fantastic wines
Balhannah vineyard in the Adelaide Hills, where Shaw + Smith produce their fantastic wines

Jukes got in there first, describing this wine as “inspirational… gloriously aromatic… succulent… voluptuous…” (see below for the full gushing write-up).

Then at the 2014 International Wine Challenge it swept the board with 3 Trophies; South Australia Shiraz Trophy, Australian Shiraz Trophy, and the ultimate Australian Red Trophy.

You really should be impressed; it faced stiff competition. Get 3, share with friends, and marvel at the wine in your glass that’s cost just £5.50.

Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2012 – Adelaide Hills £24.50 (or £22 if buying 3+)

 With Shaw and Smith now making wine on the mainland and also Tasmania you might worry that they might have taken their eye off the Adelaide Hills wines given that there has been a
lot of attention paid to the new Tolpuddle brand. They certainly hit the ground running with a fabulous pair of Tassie wines. The 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Chardonnay are indeed delicious and the Chardonnay in particular is a finely crafted thoroughbred with a score that should mean it will win medals ad infinitum. I haven’t forgotten the S&S HQ, however, and there is one wine
in this vintage which is truly inspirational. Once again, I have had my attention diverted by a gloriously aromatic, juicy Shiraz (it really is an emerging theme this year). The fruit is clean
as a whistle. It glimmers and winks in the glass. It is glossy, succulent and voluptuous on the palate but the finish is trim, brittle and refreshing. Now Tasmania, you can’t make a wine like that, or can you?

“the value here is insane”: Australia’s best Cab-Shiraz wine bar none?

Wizards of Oz: this bunch produce some of Australia's best wines, at all levels, year in, year out
Wizards of Oz: this bunch produce some of Australia’s best wines, at all levels, year in, year out

Fair dinkum red, top of its class? It is, but they mean Fine Dry Red all the same.

Australian wine stalwart Yalumba haven’t stood still for the last 150+ years, continually pushing the envelope with some of the country’s best wines leaving their cellars.

No wonder Jukes picked out this gem for his 100 Best Australian Wines 2014/15; at a smidgen over £5 a glass it shows Australian wine in its best light.

Yalumba FDR1A Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2010 – Eden Valley £22.40 (or £20.15 if buying 3+)

This wine won the trophy for best wine between AUD$20-$50 at last year’s The Great Australian Red competition. It is also happens to be my favourite young Yalumba red release of all time. The fruit is so plush and sexy, so welcoming and soothing and so downright delicious I could burst. The Eden Valley reds in 2010 are demonstrative and elegant and even though this is a
rich, full wine it is still lithe and sensitive. The value here is insane. I know other companies would stick a ‘1’ in front of its price tag and still manage to sell out. Robert Hill-Smith maintains his title as the most enigmatic and generous sponsor of the Australian wine business! If you would like to taste a big, rich, slightly scary wine made from the same blend and also from the same company, then look no further than 2006 Yalumba The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz (£50). This hulk of a wine still looks youthful as it trundles along its heady trajectory. With a nod to the past in the form of heady oak and dusty tannins and a foot in the present with its bright, shining fruit this is a real treat for fans of slightly larger red wines