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Two Exceptional New Releases from Australian Shiraz Specialists Sanguine Estate

November 2021

Two Exceptional New Releases from Australian Shiraz Specialists Sanguine Estate

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James Halliday once wrote a line on the topic of Shiraz that has stuck with me. The great critic of Australian wine commented that ‘There are many good judges who see the Heathcote subregion of Bendigo as Australia’s greatest area for Shiraz, notwithstanding the far greater (historic) reputation of the Hunter and Barossa valleys.’ High praise indeed for a region that was not a major reference point at the time he wrote his Wine Atlas of Australia and New Zealand.
 
I have always been interested in Heathcote Shiraz as, in general, they tend to avoid the pitfalls of the variety, namely a thickness, heaviness or stewed fruit accent that can mar Shiraz from numerous Australian regions. I like the more softly expressed fruit I tend to find in Heathcote examples that capture fruits from dark berry to dark red and fragrant red fruits. The fruit character is often attributed to deep red Cambrian soil that runs through the region. The pepper and spice seem much more downplayed in Heathcote too; a subtle back note as opposed to a dominant flavour. The late Gerard Jaboulet, renowned producer of Hermitage La Chapelle, once commented that too much pepper and spice indicated under ripe fruit and a poor year! He stressed that pepper was inherent in the flavour spectrum for Syrah/ Shiraz, but it should be matched by ample depth of fruit and tannin to allow the wine to mature, in time allowing the spice to fade. These comments chime with my own views on this variety – I consider myself a fan of great Northern Rhône and selective fan of great Australian Shiraz. The key to the best Australian examples is two-fold, freshness allied to ripe, generous fruit.
 
When a good friend sent me some samples from a Heathcote estate that I had never heard of before, my expectations weren’t great, but how wrong could I be. I opened the entry level wine expecting to easily dismiss it, only to scratch my head wondering if I had picked out one of the higher-level bottlings by mistake. The producer in question was the curiously named Sanguine Estate, owned and run by the Hunter family. For Tony Hunter’s great grandfather, Pietro d’Orsa, who left Italy in 1868 to make a new life, it was the Victorian Gold Rush that drew him to Australia. As was the case for many in the late nineteenth century, Pietro settled down as a wine producer in a town 100 kilometres to the west of Heathcote. Fast forward 100 years to 1996 when Tony and Lyn Hunter set up their estate, originally with the intention of farming, but Tony’s interest in wine, particularly Heathcote Shiraz, led them to establish a vineyard instead. At this time, they had no knowledge of Tony’s great grandfather and his winemaking background. The story takes another turn, however, when this connection was discovered upon reading a history of Victorian Vignerons, and the family visited the site of Pietro’s vineyard and connected with family they never knew existed, as well as discovering remnant nineteenth century vines from that original vineyard. In honour of Pietro d’Orsa, the family name the reserve Shiraz after their pioneering ancestor.
 
Today the estate covers 55 acres to the north of Heathcote, 50 of which are planted with Shiraz as befits an estate that are widely considered Shiraz specialists.
 
Anyway, enough history, what of the wines? I am pleased to offer below two different Shiraz: firstly the 2019 Progeny Shiraz, essentially the entry level example for the estate, and secondly the 2018 d’Orsa, the headlining Shiraz. Please see my notes below, along with a lofty 95-point score for the 2019 Progeny in the influential Halliday Wine Companion.

  

2019 Shiraz, Progeny, Sanguine Estate
£170 per 12 bottle case in bond
From a separate but neighbouring parcel to the main Sanguine vineyard.
Destemmed, indigenous yeast, aged in French oak barriques for 12 months, with just 15% new oak.
 
This is one of the estate’s entry level Shiraz and, for me, it punched well above its weight. It shows that classic Heathcote sleek profile and restrained, softly expressed fruit. All scented berry fruit on the nose, with small dark fruits giving way to more vibrant, red fruit nuances. That profile continues on the palate, where the creamy, layered style of the region comes to the fore, expressive more than expansive, this is remarkably refined for a Shiraz of this level. Juicy, vibrant and showing fine persistence, there is no need to cellar this example, though it could easily warrant five years in the cellar given the quality and structure on show. Something of a surprise. Drink 2022-2027. (SL)


95 points, Jeni Port, Halliday Wine Companion 2022 
It is clear that we have here a shiraz specialist who pays close attention to style and quality at every price point. Progeny hits above its weight in complexity and fruit vibrancy, all with just a relatively light dusting of oak (9 months in French oak and only 10% new). A serious wine, deep, impenetrable 'Heathcote purple' in hue. Hits high notes of violets, blackberry, briar, bramble and spice. Oak is ne'er to be seen but it’s warm, textural effect on the palate is. A hint of mint gives you a glimpse of the local terroir. Delicious. 14.8% alc. To 2028.


2018 Shiraz, d’Orsa Reserve, Sanguine Estate
£195 per 6 bottle case in bond
 
Made from the Sanguine vineyard, a selection of the 6-8 best barrels of the vintage, mainly sourced from older vines.
Destemmed, indigenous yeast, kept on skins for 12 days, aged in French oak barriques (60% new) for 24 months. 
2018 is regarded as a cooler vintage in Heathcote, which has lent a sense of refinement and poise to the wines. This was my first tasting of d’Orsa and I was struck by how my expectation of this inky, purple Shiraz revealed striking aromas and a generous, yet by no means heady, intensity of fruit. The aromas capture floral touches and juicy, vibrant dark fruits, with just the merest hint of Asian five spice and a hint of toasty oak. On the palate, the intensity of the fruit is striking; juicy, vibrant and expressive. There is a creamy, velvety, almost cushioned texture to this layered, refined, sleek Heathcote Shiraz, which reveals loganberry, blackberry and a lighter raspberry fruit with a certain savoury back note, before finishing with a cool mint lift. While there is undoubtedly the structure to reward a decade or more in bottle, the unforced expression coupled with the clearly cooler accented vintage will allow this to be enjoyed relatively early. An impressive, precise Shiraz that walks the line between refinement and intensity. Drink 2024-2032. (SL)


Please let us know of your interest.
 
All the best,
 
Simon 

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To request a wine, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Atlas team. We can be reached on +44 (0) 20 3017 2299, info@atlasfinewines.com or by submitting the form below. Please note that stock may be limited and is always sold on a 'first come, first serve' basis. 

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Atlas Fine Wines Ltd. 

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T: +44 (0) 20 3017 2299
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