Best Australian Shiraz for less than $100 (Kaesler)
The wine store shelves displaying Australian Shiraz are a notoriously busy space. After all, Shiraz remains the biggest selling red varietal in Australia, and for years has been the workhorse in driving sales for many domestic vigneron vintners. It’s a grape that produces regionally distinct styles of wine depending on the climate, terroir and elevation and can offer great value at its varying price points. From the $10 quaffers to the eye watering price tags of Henschke’s Hill of Grace or the Chris Ringland 3 Rivers Shiraz, there’s plenty of options for the savvy consumer at all points on the spectrum.
For most of us, a special occasion calls for a little bit of indulgence, but unless you’re sailing into town on your super-yacht or landing in your private jet, $100 seems to be the magic number that sets the ceiling on what we’re prepared to spend. So when Shiraz is the preferred drop, it begs the question, what are the best options when parting with no more than a single “Jolly Green Giant”?
Trying to define the “sub-$100” category is a bit like trying to scoop out a pond with a spaghetti strainer due to the wide range of prices that different retailers sell at when it’s not a “specials week”. Even one of my favourites, the Clonakilla Viognier has now been pushed up to about $110 within most outlets, so it no longer makes the cut. However, there are still many superb options in the $50 to $100 price range. And it’s fair to say that the quality on offer to Australian wine consumers is far better at the price point than you’ll find with many of the imported examples of the style – especially when it comes to syrah from the Rhone Valley in France.
Amongst the Australian contenders for the best in sub $100 Shiraz category, these would have to be some of my favs:
- Peter Lehmann Stonewall Shiraz – about $80
- D’Arenberg “The Dead Arm” – about $60
- Two Hands “Bella’s Garden” Shiraz – about $65
- Taylors St Andrews Shiraz – about $65
- Penfolds Bin 150 Shiraz – $80
- Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz – about $70
- Bremerton Old Adam Shiraz – $60
- Jasper Hill “Georgia’s Paddock” Shiraz – $90
- Yarra Yering Underhill Shiraz – $85
- Howard Park Leston Shiraz – $55
- Kilikanoon “Oracle” Shiraz – $80
- Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz – $80
- Clarendon Hills “Liandra Syrah” – $80
Still popular with the consumers are the big, bold and jammy styles of South Australian Shiraz that are rich and brooding and typically quite high in alcohol. Whilst these styles might not tickle everyone’s fancy, there’s no doubt that they remain amongst the most popular on Australian wine buyer’s shopping lists.
If that’s the type of Shiraz that makes you emulate Pavlov’s dog, it would be difficult to go past the Kaesler Old Vine Shiraz. The current vintage is 2018 and has a recommended retail price of about $90 – yet I’m sure you can get it cheaper. The fruit for this mouth-filling monster comes from the Old Vine Vineyard which is found right next door to the iconic “Old Bastard” block – a vineyard planted in 1893 which produces the fruit for Kaesler’s flagship red that sells at $260 a bottle.
The Old Vine Vineyard was planted in 1961, so it’s no baby. According to winemaker, Reid Bosward, the 2018 vintage is one of the best he’s seen in all his years of winemaking. And if Reid says that, you can bet it’s true. Reid is one of the “Barons of the Barossa” since being bestowed that honour in 2014 due to his contribution to the Barossa Valley. He is an Australian icon in his own right – having made wine for more than 25 years all over the world including the Hunter Valley, Bordeaux, South Africa and Spain. Reid and his business partners purchased the Kaesler Estate in 2000 and since then he has continued to build a stellar reputation for producing some of the juiciest, yet longest-living Shiraz that you’ll find in the region.
The 2018 Old Vine Shiraz is dark ruby red and somewhat brooding in the glass. On the nose you’ll pick up hints of stewed mulberry and vanilla bean, with perhaps a touch of oakiness. A whiff soon leads to a sip, and instinctively, a gulp once delightful fruit characters pervade the mid-palate and transition in to layers of cassis, currants and plum. Whilst at the moment the red, blue and black fruits have their sweetness dulled a little by timber, there’s no doubt that the obvious tannins will settle with time and reward the patient cellar keeper. In its youth, I reckon there’s a lot of grace and elegance about the current vintage Old Vine Shiraz as the power of the Barossa fruit is corralled somewhat by the influence of French Oak and granular tannins. But perhaps best of all, it packs a finish longer than Don McLean’s rendition of American Pie and will surely only get better in time!
Australian Shiraz is quite clearly amongst the best in the world. Spending up to $100 for a bottle of red might seem a little excessive, but it’s fair to say that the quality of the Australian Shiraz at that price point is far better than you’d get for spending the same amount on one from the Rhone Valley or Sonoma Coast. The New World is spoilt for choice and value and to my taste buds, the Kaesler Old Vine Shiraz is up there with the very best of them.