I am fairly picky when it comes to Australian Shiraz, as a good friend of mine knows only too well. I look for wines with freshness to offset the richness of the fruit and I am no fan of styles that are shrouded in new oak – I prefer the fruit to shine through and to speak of its origins. Perhaps it was a brave call to recommend I taste the wines from an estate I have never heard of – perhaps it was inspired.
Enter stage left – the Eisenstone range in the 2021 vintage. These Barossa Shiraz impressed greatly, ticking all the boxes. Stephen Cook, the winemaker and ‘Eisenstone’ creator as he terms himself, sources ‘special parcels of grapes from a number of recognised sub-regions that vary in climate and soil type and bring out differences in the variety (Shiraz).’ He focuses exclusively on vineyards in the western ranges of the Barossa, where he believes he finds greater depth of flavour and greater ageing ability. Anyone familiar with Barossa Shiraz will recognise some of the names of the sub-regions from which he sources his fruit; Koonunga, Greenock, Ebenezer and Seppeltsfield amongst them. His wines are divided into two ranges: the SR (Sub-Region Range) and the SV (Single Vineyard Range) – the latter coming from a specific vineyard within the sub-region.
Having tasted across the range, I have to say I really admire the approach – the sub-regions reveal distinct yet subtle differences, and the single-vineyards build greater intensity, age-ability and distinction. Origins are crucial to Stephen’s approach and recognising them rather than blending them certainly lifts the interest and individuality of the output. I’ll confess my knowledge of Barossa is more general than specific, but tasting a range like this, where the winemaking remains consistent but the origin changes, has certainly encouraged me to take a more detailed look.
I will undoubtedly be offering more than one wine from this estate in the coming months, but for starters, take a look the 2021 Eisenstone Koonunga Shiraz SR807. Stephen tells us that Koonunga region is varied – at the north-west of the valley there are a series of undulating hills and creek depressions. The soils bordering the creeks are deeper brown with red loam, these were apparently favoured by early settlers as they retained winter moisture, and it is here where the majority of older vineyards and vines are found. My thoughts on tasting the 2021 chime with Stephen’s observation that Koonunga, while in keeping with the style that is typical of Barossa Shiraz, tends to produce wines towards the more elegant end of that spectrum with more lifted aromatics – those comments could easily have been lifted from my tasting note as you will see below.
It is one thing to appreciate the philosophy behind a range of wines and it is another if you see how that philosophy plays out in the wines themselves. That is exactly my impression of the Eisenstone range – carefully sourced and selected fruit, and a less-is-more approach to winemaking where extraction is complete but not heavy handed, and oak use is tempered. The different nuances shine through as a result.
You can read my note from this week along with the note and score from Huon Hooke, who is one of the most well-regarded of all authorities on Australian wine. He wrote the Good Australian Wine Guide for many years and has contributed to many different publications. He continues to write for Decanter and has his own review site, the Real Review.
2021 Eisenstone, Shiraz, ‘Koonunga SR807’
£240 per 6 bottle case in bond
96 points, Huon Hooke (The Real Review)
Deep red-purple colour with a graphite, ironstone and char-oak bouquet, traces of dark chocolate, the palate concentrated and driving, powerful and very long with great line and length. Tannins are fleshy and dense , making a significanty impact together with a high extract mouth-feel. Impressive balance: a serious and delicious shiraz. Drinking 2023-2036
My note :
Deep in the glass, the nose on the Koonunga SR807 reveals wonderfully ripe berry fruit, sweetly ripe but perfectly judged, with a lifted slightly floral accent as well as a subtle touch of toast and vanillin from the barrel. Exuberant and mouthfilling, this possesses a glorious velvety texture – the tannins are perfectly ripe and veiled by the copious blackberry fruit. Spicey nuances emerge with a little air as does a gravelly mineral note. Undeniably Barossa, nothing is overplayed in this impressively crafted Shiraz; the freshness and that lifted, subtle floral note that carries across the palate make it a hugely compelling example and frankly this is where the range begins! Wonderfully pure and something of a snip. (SL) Drink 2024-2033.
The Eisenstone wines are currently being shipped and will be available from October. We will be offering a single vineyard Shiraz in due course – so watch this space. In terms of value I think this is a stand out, particularly when wines I used to follow are now upwards of £500 per 6!
Please let us know of your interest.
All the best,