Shiraz 2017 Nick O’Leary Canberra District, NSW
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Shiraz from the Canberra District is one of the most exciting wines in Australia at the moment and Nick O’Leary is leading in charge!
Sebastian Crowther, Master Sommelier
Shiraz (she-RAHZ) or Syrah as it’s known in it spiritual home of France, is one of the most important grapes on the planet. The most famous and historic examples hail from vineyards of the northern Rhône, in places such as Hermitage and Côte Rôtie. The grape is thought to have arrived in Australia with James Busby in 1832. Today, Australia has the second largest plantings after France and it’s an integral part of the wine landscape.
Although some of the first plantings were in New South Wales, its most certainly South Australian regions like the Barossa Valley that have brought this grape to fame, and while some of these wines can be lovely, I think its Shiraz from other parts of Australia that are making the biggest noise. While some regions of Australia produce Shiraz that is turbocharged; big ripe fruit and flavours with plenty of alcohol to back it up, I much prefer the wines made from cool sites. Here the wines are more medium bodied with perfumed fruits, layers of complexity, spice and bucket loads of drinkability. This is one of those.
Nick’s winery is located in the Hall Valley, in the Murrumbidgee River corridor, just outside the ACT. The Canberra District is a truly continental climate meaning temperature fluctuation between summer and winter can be extreme. This swing in temperatures is also experienced during the growing season from day to night. A key factor in keeping these wines fresh and not to heavy.
Nick O’leary is hot property at the moment, winning trophy’s and gold medals at many of the major wine shows around Australia. He’s certainly one to keep a close eye on in years to come. In my opinion the Canberra District needs more people like Nick. It’s a region bursting with potential that only a few have managed to maximise at this stage. Nick is showing he is capable of doing just this. Starting over a decade ago, Nick has always had a focus on making premium Riesling and Shiraz. Good vineyards and simple winemaking are what he says are the keys to his success.
This wine is a blend from 7 different parcels which are hand harvested and moved into 3 tonne open top fermenters. Nick is very clever in his use of whole bunches, a way of making shiraz that has become quite trendy in recent years. This is fermenting with not only the grapes themselves but with the stems too. When done with ripe fruit & a deft hand, this can provide wonderful layers of spice, savoury complexity, detail and intrigue. Here, he uses 30% of the bunches which is the perfect amount. Some additional spice and depth is added by using 25% new French Barriques with the remainder being aged in old barrels.
One of the great things about Shiraz is the colour that it is capable of having in the glass. This is deep through the core without being opaque, but it’s the vibrant nearly fuchsia rim that’s sticking. One smell and I’m ‘all in’. For lovers of northern Rhône Syrah, this is a must. Red and blue fruits stand tall amongst a matrix of spice, herbs and flowers. This is Shiraz with fragrance, don’t expect punch, but nuance. The palate is no more than medium+ bodied, slippery and elegant. The acidity crisp and refreshing, not something you normally associate with this grape from other parts of the country. A joy to drink. Decant it, 30 minutes before would be ideal and don’t serve it to warm, 16ºC – 18ºC, no more. You have to change your way of thinking when drinking wines like this. Shiraz by label, but stylistically different to many other examples. Treat it like Pinot Noir and you’re on the right track. For this reason, I have suggested you drink this wine from a Burgundy stem rather than Bordeaux, it helps show off the perfumed fruit and spice. Pairing with food is the best option… I’m thinking some hearty protein, Beef shin ragu with creamy polenta!!