What’s in a name?
Once upon a time the names on the labels of Australian wines were simply those of the founders. Penfold, Lindeman, Seppelt, Tyrrells, Tulloch, Cullen, McWilliam, Houghton, Kay Bros, Bailey, Morris and many more. Proud to put their hands up and be recognized for their efforts.
These days, a stroll down the shelves shows most of them still going strong, some after more than a century. You will also find quite a few genuine and reassuringly accurate geographical names.
But there are also a bewildering number of new monikers that could have been concocted by research groups in Hollywood.
The number of new vineyards in our country has slowed in the last couple of years, but the big supermarkets keep the new labels coming and the choice is too much for modest consumers to get their heads around.
You can’t make wine the way you make beer or spirits, brewing or distilling whenever you want.
Grape harvests come only once a year. You can’t hurry the seasons. Nature also decides how good a season and harvest you will have. Can’t change Nature. Which is why it takes so many decades to establish a truly great wine brand.
Day to day you are free to drink whatever amuses you at whatever price you are happy to pay. But to savour the extra intensity and enrichment of great wine you must follow those with experience.
Let’s check the pedigree.
The Hill-Smith family whose wines you know mostly under the name of Yalumba have been at work in South Australia since 1849.
One of their number, Michael, in 1988 became the first Australian to succeed in the devilishly difficult Master of Wine examinations. This award started in the 1950s and there are only just over 300 MWs in the world today.
With cousin, Martin Shaw (Roseworthy graduate 1981, winemaker at Petaluma, founder of Flying Winemakers in France, Spain, Chile and NZ), Shaw + Smith was established in the Adelaide Hills in 1989. They also have on board David LeMire MW (yes, another Master of Wine) as Global Sales and Marketing Manager.
What wines are they presenting? Whites first.
With two vineyards totalling 55ha in the Hills at Balhannah and Lenswood, the lads have focussed on four varieties that thrive in their cool climate and altitude.
Each year they take their show on the road around Australia to introduce the latest wines.
One wine, the S + S Sauvignon Blanc, is now in its 27th vintage, and over recent years they have unveiled it with compatible dishes in top yum cha restaurants. This time in Sydney it was at Mr Wong.
This is no ordinary sauvignon blanc. This is class. With pink grapefruit nuances, rich and complex with a real texture in the mouth, smooth and satisfying, a fine mouthful before it slips away with a tingle of fresh acidity. Tasted to perfection with the steamed prawn and lobster dim sum and Peking duck pancakes.
There followed the M3 Chardonnay. “Elegance and restraint” is the stated S+S strategy. It is definitely that, and more. Deep and concentrated with a peachy creaminess that lingers. A very fine example of the newer style of Australian chardonnays.
Warming up a little, we come to the pinot noir. Delicate light and medium- bodied, with aromas and flavours in the cherry red spectrum. Great with the pork belly.
The 2014 Shiraz is again medium-bodied, not a blockbuster from the Barossa. “Balance is more important than power” says Michael. It offers bright and vibrant fruit. This is a sophisticated shiraz. It cuddles up to the Black Pepper Beef.
There are also two special individual vineyard wines which take your palate interest to another level. The Lenswood Chardonnay and the Balhannah Shiraz. They move up a notch or two in price but you are rewarded by the more exacting hand-crafting resulting in greater intensity and complexity.
We sit back and sip them slowly.
To see how the S+S formula can work for you may we suggest you visit www.shawandsmith.com