Exploring the Charm and Complexity of Cool Climate Shiraz with K1 by Geoff Hardy

Exploring the Charm and Complexity of Cool Climate Shiraz with K1 by Geoff Hardy

Big, ripe, and juicy Australian shiraz are wines that are as popular abroad as our famous native marsupials like the koala and kangaroo. In the United Kingdom, South Australian shiraz is the biggest selling Australian varietal, while in the United States, they buy the low end sweet and sugary shiraz from “south-eastern Australia” like it’s going out of fashion. And most of them think it’s pretty good stuff! And I get it – it’s palate pleasing, easy to drink, abundantly available and not expensive. But I can’t help but feel that the tide is turning. And that as our collective palates become more sophisticated – the over-ripe and jammy styles of our industry’s most prolifically grown varietal will eventually give way to a more sophisticated and elegant version of the grape.

According to the Wine Australia Annual Vintage Report 2022, Shiraz was still the dominant wine grape grown in our country with a crush of 433 305 tonnes. That puts it well ahead of Chardonnay (358 007 tonnes), but it represents a decrease of 19% on the 2021 numbers. Overall, the 2022 vintage was down by 17% on the previous year but I can’t help but wonder whether maybe, just maybe, we are about to see the start of a slide by shiraz in the popularity stakes? Of course, there could be plenty of simple explanations for the lower shiraz crop – like seasonal conditions, growers changing direction since the Chinese tariff war, and capacity limitations due to a labour shortage. So, it will be interesting to see what the 2023 vintage brings.

Cool climate shiraz may not have the big mouth feel and full body of its warm climate cousins, but it can be complex, stylish, and expressive of terroir. And Australia is blessed with some ideal sites for making the style where elevation or coastal influences bless the vineyard with warm days but cool nights. Think places like the Grampians and Pyrenees in Victoria, the mountains around Canberra and even the Clare Valley in South Australia. But when it comes to regions making cool climate wines that can match motors with those of the traditional home of the grape, France’s Rhone Valley, I reckon we need look no further than the Adelaide Hills.

The Adelaide Hills region is centred around the Mount Lofty Ranges and sits at an elevation of around 600-650 metres above sea level. And it’s ideal climate and geology is no secret given that the district is now home to over 90 wine labels and 50 cellar doors! If cool climate shiraz is your thing, there’s plenty of great specimen to choose from. I’m a big fan of the Bird In Hand Nest Egg Shiraz, the Longview Yakka, and the Hahndorf Hill Shiraz – wines of charisma and charm that ooze red fruit but seduce with spice and structure.

Recently I spent some time sampling the wares of Wines by Geoff Hardy thanks to a visit to Queensland by winemaker and brand ambassador, Shane Harris. Shane is a Queenslander by birth but these days calls Kuitpo in the Adelaide Hills, home.  He’s a Bundaberg boy that Queensland should be keen to claim as their own given that he holds the rare honour of being the only Australian to be named Winestate’s Winemaker of the year on three separate occasions. Having tasted my way through a bunch of the K1 wines, it didn’t take long for my taste buds to gravitate towards the K1 Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2018 as the star of the side. Don’t get me wrong; the Middle Hill Shiraz is exceptional value at only $25 a bottle, but the single vineyard shiraz is simply superb.

Dark and brooding in the glass, and youthful purple edges hint at the vibrance of fruit that grace the palate with the first fateful sip. Swish, swirl, and sip and despite the bound-up tightness, you’ll encounter hints of clove and pepper before a cascade of red fruits dominate the middle. Raspberries, plums, and even dark cherries cut a textural rug through layers of spice, acid and oak before a savoury wave subdues the red-fruit complexity across a long and lingering conclusion. I challenge you to try it and not fall in love! At $45 a bottle, its exceptional value, so if f you haven’t yet discovered the pleasure of cool climate shiraz, the K1 is a pretty good place to start!

As published in Courier Mail.


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