Riesling may be the rockstar varietal of the Clare Valley, but if you ask me, their shiraz is a well above average support act. Blessed with a moderate continental climate, the region enjoys warm days which are generally followed by afternoon breezes and cooler nights. And it’s this wide diurnal temperature range that makes for perfect conditions to produce wines of complexity and sophistication as the nocturnal reprieve from the heat allows slower ripening and results in wines with more elegance than power.
The Clare is undoubtedly amongst the most picturesque of Australian wine districts with meandering creeks lined by eucalypts and punctuated by rows of green leafy trellises. Ranging from Auburn in the south to Stanley Flat to the north, the landscape may be similar throughout, but the soil type certainly isn’t. Depending on the part of the Valley you’re in, the soils can range from red terra rossa topsoil in Watervale, to slate and shale in Polish River and rich alluvial soils in the north where irrigation is rarely required. The variations in the terra firma mean that despite the climate being similar across the area, there can be subregional nuances in wines of the same varietal.
Unlike the shiraz from regions like the Barossa or McLaren Vale, those from the Clare rarely struggle with over-ripeness or excessive jaminess. The cooler nights enable the local winemakers to produce shiraz of medium body and an undeniable elegance. I’ve long been a fan of those produced from the Skillogalee Valley to the western edge of the Clare where the loamy soils with layers of quartz introduce an earthiness to the middle and a flintiness on the finish. But if a fleshy shiraz with pizzazz and balance is your thing, it’s hard not to also admire the Taylors Estate label shiraz.
The Taylors (Estate label) shiraz has long been one of the country’s best-selling wines, both domestically and abroad. The 2018 vintage has recently been released and is showing the quality you’d expect from an exceptional season. The 2018 vintage started off cooler than normal and was dry, frost-free, and without any of the heat waves that can be damaging to outcomes in the winery.
On the nose there is a hint of liquorice and forest floor. Swirl the glass and take a second whiff and the sweetness and spice of the American oak exposure is immediately apparent and soon followed by ripe plums, blackcurrants and a hint of chocolate through the middle. There’s a delightful texture on the palate and a delicate balance between fruit and tannin as the cassis and mint characters appear on the finish. What really makes the Taylors shiraz stand out is that despite the fruit being plump and ripe, the red berries don’t overwhelm the spice, acid and tannin that make for a classically Clare shiraz.
Approachable yet cellar-worthy, fruit forward though restrained, the 2018 vintage of the Taylors Estate label shiraz continues to set the benchmark for red wines at the $20 price point.