I have a backlog of almost 20 wines I’ve tasted but for which I haven’t written a post. It’s a good problem to have, in that I’m not stuck writing about whatever is in my glass on a given night. Instead I can decide to pick a new variety or region, or revisit something familiar. Sometimes though, I just have to write about the wine I’ve most recently tasted, and tonight it’s the Hahndorf Hill Winery Shiraz 2007.
As both Shiraz and the Adelaide Hills are familiar topics in this blog, this post will focus more the producer. First though, I must disclose that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the owners on several occasions and they’ve been supportive of my efforts here. That said, If I can avoid it, I don’t bother writing about a wine I didn’t enjoy, and if I didn’t like this one I’d be writing about something else.
But before I get to that, first a word about Hahndorf. It’s a somewhat touristy town about 25km southeast of Adelaide in the Hills, and it draws in a fair number of visitors by making the most of its Prussian roots. German themed shops and restaurants dot its main street, though there are plenty of cellar doors and cafes that would be at home in any town in the Hills.
Hahndorf Hill Winery has been run by Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson since they purchased the property in 2002. They arrived in Australia in 1997 from South Africa, where Jacobs had been an intensive care doctor before founding Mulderbosch Vineyards in Stellenbosch, and Dobson had been a journalist. I first visited their cellar door in 2006 on my first trip to Australia and can still remember being greeted by a very friendly dog or two as I drove up.
On a subsequent visit, as I was learning a bit more about wine, I was struck by some unfamiliar grapes in their range. In addition to the ubiquitous Shiraz, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as the increasingly popular Pinot Grigio, were Blaufränkisch (Lemberger) and Trollinger. While popular in Austria and Germany, and therefore fitting in some ways with the proximity to Hahndorf, they were at one point the only plantings of either grape in Australia.
Apparently those vines came with the property, but Jacobs and Dobson turned Blaufränkisch, and the Austrian angle, into a distinct selling point, such that if anyone in Australia had heard of the grape, it was through their promotion. I spoke a bit about the Austria – Australia cross pollination when I reviewed Mac Forbes, and Salomon Undhof / Salomon Estate produces wine in both countries, but Hahndorf Hill Winery went that bit further. In 2006 they imported three Grüner Veltliner clones from Austria, paving the way for a dozen other producers, including K1.
Another facet of Hahndorf Hill Winery worth mentioning is their ChocoVino Experience. Chocolate and wine pairings are very trendy at the moment, with the notion of terroir being broadly appropriated by single origin chocolates. At their cellar door, they’ve put together a selection of amazing chocolates to taste with wines. While I certainly don’t mind chocolates, I generally enjoy them more without wine, but fortunately they offer a chocolate only tasting experience as well.
Long time readers will not be surprised that I was favourably inclined toward Jacobs and Dobson from the moment I realized they were from South Africa, because I never get to talk about South African wine with Australians. The fact that they’ve not only promoted alternative varieties in Australia but also imported Grüner Veltliner clones makes me an absolute fan. If that wasn’t enough, they’re apparently working with Zweigelt, another red Austrian grape, with a rosé expected later this year. However, not having any of their exotic varietals close at hand, and it being red season down here, I’m tasting their Shiraz.
This wine is clear and bright in the glass, with a dark brick red colour that only shows at the rim and in some colouring of the quick legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium intensity. There are notes of red berries, brambles, sweet spice and a bit of liquorice. On the palate it’s dry with medium plus intensity, medium plus acidity, medium body, medium fine tannins, medium plus alcohol, and a medium length. I could taste black pepper, liquorice, blackberry, and red meat from the grill with a bit of char.
This is a very good wine. It is undeniably a Shiraz but in a very cool climate style, with some black fruit but at this point more of the developed characters that can be so delicious. This is a perfect wine to go with a nice slab of beef that’s been on the barbecue for long enough to have some serious carbon around the edges. It’s not a big fruit bomb, and given that it’s drinking so well with secondary characters as a five year old wine, I probably wouldn’t put this down to age for more than another few years. Some red wine producers pride themselves on the years or decades that are required to properly appreciate their work, but for this wine I think it has just the right balance of remaining fruit and developed characteristics that you won’t regret having it right now or soon.