Shiraz is the heavy lifter

Shiraz is the heavy lifter

Only three and a half hours drive to the north west of Sydney, lies the wine district of Mudgee, a part of the Central Ranges Zone. It may be a tad chilly there at this wintery time of year, but the cool climate, spring frosts and low rainfall make wines from local vineyards distinctive, if not idiosyncratic.

The moniker, “Mudgee” was bestowed by its Aboriginal inhabitants because of the crater-like topography of that part of the Dividing Range. Literally translated, the name means “Nest in the Hills”, and that’s an apt description given the higher mountains that fence the perimeters and the lower undulating hillsides within. The terrain and its sandy loam soils have long been recognised as well suited to viticulture as the first vines were planted in the area back in 1858. These days, the only notable white varietal grown is chardonnay, but amongst the reds, Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot are the most prolific. Some of the hipster local winemakers are also dabbling with Bordeaux blends, and the results are nothing short of sublime!

The Mudgee region is home to about 35 Cellar Door outlets and there are some big names amongst them – like Robert Oatley Wines and Robert Stein Vineyard. The profile and reputation of the region is growing with each vintage, but if you ask me, I reckon it’s their shiraz that’s doing the heavy lifting in the status raising! Where some wine producing districts make commercially attractive wines through churning out fruit-forward, ripe and heady styles, Mudgee producers are making structure, balance and elegance the cornerstones of their oenological success. And none more so, than Huntington Estate.

Huntington Estate Vineyard

The Huntington Estate vineyard was established 1969 but these days is owned by Tim and Nicky Stevens who are intent on developing modern and signature wines that express the terroir and climate of the locale. And the results are nothing short of astonishing. It probably isn’t surprising that Tim and Nicky are well familiar with the nuances of the region, given that they owned the neighbouring Abercorn vineyard until purchasing Huntington from the retiring owners, Bob and Wendy Roberts in 1996. These Stevens’ family focus is on viticulture and winemaking rather than marketing or flashy trappings and crafting wines that will evolve in complexity with time. Their vines aren’t the oldest in the region, but maintaining low yields from 49-year-old vines is a good starting point from which to create a super-premium red.

Tim Stevens Signature Shiraz 2016

The Tim Stevens Signature Shiraz 2016 has recently been released after spending 18 months in oak (of which 60 % were new American oak barrels) and being bottled in September 2017. On the nose, there are hints of vanilla and spice, but once on the palate, the fruit comes into its own. Wave after wave of blackberry and bramble crash on the front of the palate, while a luscious ripe blueberry and cedar undercurrent tows the fine tannins through a buxom and gratifying finale. Despite the power of the ripe fruit, the Tim Stevens Shiraz oozes elegance, finesse and a cool climate charm. It’s a wine worthy of its lofty $90 price tag! With such obvious tannins and racy acids, the Mudgee style of premium shiraz is sure to withstand years in the cellar. Though it’s drinking well now, I suspect that only the strongest willed of cellar masters will be able to resist! There’s a challenge!

 

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