Sunshine in a Bottle Robin Lynam raises his glass to two Shiraz offerings from the highly regarded Two Hands winery in the Barossa Valley
outh Australia is pre-eminently Shiraz country. The grape originated in the Northern Rhone, but it was in this highly successful wine region of the southern hemisphere that it began its ascent to its present status as the seventh most extensively cultivated varietal in the world. It was in the Barossa Valley, about an hour’s drive northeast of Adelaide, that Penfolds’ chief winemaker Max Schubert created the first Australian red wine made with the intention that it should mature over decades in the bottle – Grange Hermitage, now called simply Grange. Bordeaux inspired, Grange contains some Cabernet Sauvignon, but is predominantly made from the Syrah Grape. In the 1950s, when Schubert’s first pioneering vintages were made Syrah was associated mostly with the Northern Rhone region called Hermitage, and was accordingly known in some parts of Australia – which for decades to come was to make highly cavalier use of now legally protected French appellation names – as Hermitage. It is now much better known in Australia and around the world as Shiraz – a corruption of the French grape name which has become so internationally recognizable that some French wineries now use the Australian spelling. Many of Australia’s greatest reds are Shiraz based, and the grape is particularly suited to the Barossa Valley, where it was first planted in around 1860, and to McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide. Two Hands wines, founded in 1999, is a relative newcomer to the region, but in a little over a decade has built up an impressive reputation. The enterprise appears to have been founded on an obsession with Shiraz. The original partners Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz started out with the stated intention “to make the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized Shiraz growing regions throughout Australia”. They have since built up a portfolio of wines which express the terroir characteristics of particular regions through the medium of that single grape variety. Twelftree and fellow winemaker Matt Wenk work with grapes from six Australian regions – The Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, McClaren Vale, Padthaway and Heathcote – each of which has its own distinct regional character. Two Hands has also diversified into other red varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec and Mourvedre (which they call Mataro) as well as a range of whites – but Shiraz remains the heart and soul of its core range. The wines are made at Two Hands’ own winery in the Barossa Valley (pictured) . It opened in 2004 and was purpose built to handle relatively small batches of fruit. The individuality and territorial integrity of each of their wines is protected by separate handling at all stages of the winemaking process, from crushing through to oak maturation. These wines are difficult to obtain in Hong Kong, but there are a number of cases in the HK Golfer cellars, and at the end of a recent working day – the necessary range of cheeses to accompany them having been requisitioned – the corks were pulled on a bottle of Two Hands 2007 Zippy’s Block and Two Hands 2007 Barney’s Block, both of which are from the winery’s Single Vineyard Series. Zippy’s Block comes from a vineyard in Marananga in the Barossa Valley, and the 2007 vintage packs a punch at 14.7 per cent alcohol by volume. The
HK Golfer・FEB 2012
wine maker reckons it has about 15 years worth of cellaring potential, and that might be a conservative estimate. Dense and complex, with overtones of chocolate and berry fruits it is drinking very acceptably now but properly cared for would certainly benefit from more time in the bottle. A well structured wine with harmoniously resolved tannins, this matched an assortment of fairly assertive cheeses very well, and would be a suitable partner for beef or lamb. The Barney’s Block vineyard is in McLaren Vale, and the wine is even more powerful at 15.5 per cent alcohol by volume. Tasted side by side with Zippy’s Block, the extra alcohol was hard to miss. This is a wine for sipping and needs food to accompany it. Again it went well with the cheese, but its spicy cedary character suggested that it might also be a suitable partner for a number of spicy Asian dishes. A good wine to take to a Szechuan restaurant. Elegant and powerful, winemaker Matt Wenk recommends drinking this vintage anytime between now and 2030, and it will probably continue to improve for some years to come.
Special Reader Offer HK Golfer is pleased to offer these exceptional wines for sale to wine connoisseur readers at HK$850 per bottle for the Zippy’s Block and HK$850 per bottle for the Barney’s Block – two excellent and satisfyingly individualistic examples of fine South Australian Shiraz – sunshine in a bottle. No minimum order and professional storage available if required. Delivery at cost. Please order by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (852) 3590 4153