Categories: Wine Blogs & Reviews

Cracking the Stelvin on Somerled Shiraz

As a self-confessed wine-wanker, I get a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I hear or see my friends sharing their excitement about a wine, a wine region or even just a grape varietal.  After all, happiness isn’t real until it’s shared, right? So, when a friend visiting Somerled in South Australia was so moved by their wines that she started enthusiastically messaging me while she was still at the cellar door, I sensed that she had found her happy place; and that sharing with me authenticated her exuberance. Nice for you, Cath!

As luck would have it, Cath’s delight lasted longer than Greer Garson’s Oscars acceptance speech and a week or so later she messaged me again to find out if I was in my city office that day so she could drop a little surprise over. Not even the 30 degree heat of late March in Brisbane or the 2 kilometre cross city walk could dull her enthusiasm for her new-found fave, nor, for that matter, her need to share the pleasure she’d found inside a syrah bottle! While grateful to receive the bottle of shiraz with a horse and jockey centre stage on the label, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous about cracking the Stelvin; what if my palate just didn’t warm to the wine in the same way as hers? And what if my subsequent thank you note had to contain a mealy-mouthed note of diplomacy and tact?

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. I’d never visited the Somerled cellar door or, for that matter, had much to do with their wines, but winemaker Rob Moody has a pedigree up there with the blue-bloods of the industry and more experience than most – having made his 50th vintage in 2018!  Rob famously started out as a maths teacher at Norwood State High school and only developed an interest in wine after meeting his wife, Heather, who encouraged the career change. Rob was fortunate to begin his career in wine working under the “father of Grange”, Max Schubert, at Penfolds. Having posted a letter to ask for a job, the story goes that having sent a letter he subsequently received a phone call from the late great himself, and after an awkward conversation was offered a start at Penfolds. By 1971 he was in charge of red ferments for the world-famous Grange vintage and was later put in charge of winemaking for the operation when it later relocated to the Barossa Valley. So Rob’s clearly a bloke who knows a thing or two about making great shiraz!

The Somerled 2017 Shiraz sells at the cellar door for $55 a bottle – though if like my friend Cath, you join as a member, a discount is on offer. Rob Moody learned long ago that patience is a virtue, so the 2017 edition spent two and a half years in French and American oak (both new and used) before being bottled in 2019 and allowed to rest on its side. Despite being based in the Adelaide Hills township of Hahndorf, the fruit is sourced from a number of different sites from across the McLaren Vale – a region that Rob regards as the most suited for making a full-bodied shiraz with both grace and charm.

Having cracked the screw cap and poured a glass, the depth of colour was striking – deep dark and brooding, the ruby hue on the edges aroused the visual and olfactory senses and had them eagerly anticipating the first sip. On the nose there are ample chocolate and cassis characters but give it a swirl and take a sip and centre stage is taken by blackcurrants, ripe plums and a sweet creamy oakiness. Round, structured and full-bodied, the Somerled Shiraz delivers a chocolate coated meatiness through the middle and a jammy smokiness on the finish that lingers through a confectionary laden conclusion. It’s remarkable how such ripeness and depth can have such a harmonious relationship with acid and tannin. I challenge you to stop at just one glass!

When she discovered Somerled, my wine loving friend Cath was undoubtedly more excited than the ninth grade kid whose physics teacher caught COVID; and for good reason – the Somerled 2017 Shiraz is an absolute cracker!

Travis Schultz

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