The Barossa Valley in South Australia (north east of Adelaide) is home to some of finest examples of Shiraz to be found in the country and the Grant Burge Winery sits at the heart of the region, both geographically and in the standard baring quality of their wines.
The UK market has been flooded with lower priced Australian wine for so long now Australia’s wines have become emblematic of budget new world wine in general for many consumers. While large parts of the industry have been working hard at correcting this impression, it’s a hard one to shake off, especially as there’s still a metric ton of the poorest examples of their wines imported year on year by our supermarkets.
So I was looking forward to trying the wines of Grant Burge and discovering what real Australian wine was all about as well as getting to taste an overview of Barossa region.
Our host for the evening was Quentin Sadler, wine journalist, educator, enthusiast and all round splendid chap. He is also, as you can see, a member of the brotherhood of magnificent facial hair, so between his neatly trimmed beard and Theo’s signature handle bar moustache, I couldn’t help but feel slightly underdressed in my signature ‘couldn’t be bothered to shave for three days’ stubble!
Enough waffle, lets move on to the wines…
Grant Burge ‘5th Generation’ Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2013 [£10.49]
We started off with this classic White Bordeaux blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from the producers ‘5th Generation’ range of wines. The range is pitched above their entry level table wines and specialist export ranges, but just bellow their range containing exclusively Barossa Valley fruit. So we’re looking at a mix of Barossa Valley fruit and fruit from wider a field, and as such it is a range a wines that’s evocative of Grant Burge’s style and ethos rather than reflective of Barossa Valley itself.
Pale Lemon colour with fresh grapefruit and pineapple aromas that are surprisingly clean for a Semillon blend; the waxy aroma common to Semillon is limited here to a soft lemon peel that comes into it own on the long finish. Where this wine really shines is in its glycerol texture and waxy weight that lend the fresh tropical fruit and melon on the palate an extra depth. The acidity is perfectly pitched, both cutting through the weight of the wine and enhancing the clarity of fruit without ever making a spectacle of itself.
Some oak ageing has been used, but its presence can only be felt in the creamy texture of the wine; It’s lees ageing that’s added the slight yeasty edge that develops over time as the wine breaths in the glass. In fact, if you manage to find the patience while enjoying a glass of this, I recommend letting the first glass develop over time, as this is a wine that slowly unfurls like flower bud.
The blend is 52% Semillon, 44% Sauvignon Blanc… and 4% Riesling, which I’m betting we have to thank for downplaying the weight of the Semillon enough to allow the fruit centre stage and for rounding out the harsh edge of Sauvignon Blanc’s acidity.
Taken all together, this is a well thought out blend, expertly crafted with a level of attention to detail that’s usually reserved for the top of a vineyards range of wines, and for me at least speaks volumes about how Grant Burge approach their wines.
Grant Burge ‘The Vigneron’ Chardonnay 2011 [£13.99]
After that impressive start to the tasting we moved on to Grant Burge’s ‘Vigneron’ rage of wines that showcase 100% Barossa Valley fruit and should hopefully start to showcase the character of the region.
First up was The Vigneron Chardonnay (2011) and straight away you notice the darker shade of yellow that traditionally heralds a heavily oaked chardonnay. Not in this case, however, as it’s again lees ageing that accounts for most of this wines development.
Rich complex yeasty goodness compliments the concentrated citrus and stone fruit aromas (nectarine, peach); framed with roasted almonds and toast. This wine is a surprisingly French expression of Chardonnay, think Pouilly-Fuisse but with less overt use of oak and rich stone fruit… in fact cross Pouilly-Fuisse with Chablis and you’ll get the idea.
Creamy Peach and Nectarine fill the palate and are again balanced perfectly with a poised acidity that serves to define and lift the fruit rather than dominate it. Chardonnay sometimes gets a little bogged down in it’s own weight but not here. It’s no surprise to learn that Riesling is once again in the mix, this time 6% to Chardonnays 94% and I’m sure it plays a big part in the vitality of this wine.
The finish is long, nutty and toasty, everything I love about a quality Chardonnay, without over doing it in any regard. This is a versatile wine that has enough depth; texture and concentration of fruit to stand up to weightier food, while still balanced enough appreciate on its own.
Grant Burge ‘The Vigneron’ Shiraz 2012 [£13.95]
If there is one grape variety the Barossa Valley is know for around the world its Shiraz… big, hulking, punch you in face and stroke you better… Shiraz. Barossa Valley Shiraz is not exactly known for its subtlety but neither are best examples the ‘out of control migraine inducers’ the cheaper wines tend to be. The more concentration and intensity a wine has, the more balanced it need to be and thankfully the Grant Burge Shiraz have that in spades.
Deep ruby black full-bodied wine with an intense concentration of black fruit (black current/berry, plum), sweet spice (cinnamon) and pepper aromas. There’s a brooding earthy minerality lying at the heart of this wine that lends an inky charcoal depth to the concentrated black fruit on the palate and a liquorish edge to the long powerful finish.
With wine this intense, acidity is essential or the wine becomes jam. Thankfully there is plenty of acidity on hand to keep all that fruit under control and focused. The tannins are well integrated, providing enough structure lurking just beneath the surface to help this wine adapt to anything a BBQ may through at it. It should age well for a couple of years yet, but I wouldn’t age it for too long, there’s a delicate balance at work here I wouldn’t want to tip too far in any one direction.
Grant Burge ‘Miamba’ Shiraz 2012 [£17.99]
Moving up from the ‘Vigneron’ range of wines we come to Grant Burge’s ‘Vineyard’ range, designed to showcase fruit sourced from individual vineyards and hopefully expressing their unique individuality.
This wine starts out with many of the same aroma characteristics as the previous Shiraz (inky black fruits; Sweet spice; pepper), but there is a step up in its complexity. There is simply more going on with liquorish and toast up front with tobacco leaf… the list goes on.
It’s a shame then, that on the palate everything is so closed. The fruit seems wrapped up tight, the acidity noticeably high and the tannins distinct/young (though not in a Bordeaux way). This could turn out to an incredible wine… it just doesn’t strike me as all that ready yet, it’s still only a couple of years old after all.
I admit I struggle assessing wines made for ageing. I can identify a heap of component parts that should in theory add up to future awesomeness… but will it? No idea… I can say it’s got all the bits it needs and most importantly a good concentration of pure fruit to work with.
This is one where we really needed to try an older vintage to get a glimpse of whatever individual vineyard character it may have.
Grant Burge ‘Daily Road’ Shiraz/Mourvedre 2012 [£16.99]
In contrast to the previous wine, this blend of 79% Shiraz 21% Mourvedre was a revelation! Even after a good hour and a half decanted, this wine continued to open up in the glass and develop character.
Most Shiraz blends also have Grenache in the mix and I’ve never really cottoned on to the purpose of them, other than as a table wine alternative… soft fruity and universally food friendly. So I was surprised to realise that the classic Shiraz black fruit characteristics (Black current/berry, plum), were slowly but surely being joined by a procession of red fruit aromas (Cherry, redcurrant). Whereas other Shiraz blends I have tried over the years blended into a generic melting pot of purple dark fruits, each component here manages to stand side by side, enhancing the best of both.
The concentration and individuality carries through on to the palate and the blend manages to highlight the distinct spicy qualities of Shiraz more clearly than you get as a single variety wine, especially on the huge long finish. Acidity and integrated tannins are on point too.
I was very impressed with this wine but then at this price point I should be!
Grant Burge ‘The Holy Trinity’ GSM 2010 [£27.99]
The last wine of the evening was part of Grant Burge’s ‘Wines of Distinction’ range which would be most vineyards flagship range of fine wines… though there is in truth a range above this of stupidly expensive fine wine for ageing 20+ years if you’re feeling flush… and patient!
Given how impressed I already was with the last wine, this bottle managed to impress me as much again!
38% Grenache, 36% Shiraz & 26% Mourvedre… this wine is a noticeably lighter shade of ruby with a translucency that catches the light and beams it back at you.
Red fruit (Cherry, redcurrant, raspberry, cranberry) leads the aroma but is swiftly joined by black fruits (black currant, plum, black berry), vanilla, white chocolate and sweet spice (cinnamon, nutmeg). All of which appear on the palate with startling clarity and an almost 3D like presence.
Tannins are smoothly integrated and acidity is once again on point, breathing life and vitality into this wine and sustaining a finish of such length I’m not entirely certain its left me!
A great example of a fine wine where every penny is in the glass for you to appreciate; It is costly but wine this good should be, it really is in a class of its own.
Thanks for reading, let me know what you thought.