Shaw + Smith Single Vineyard Story
People often ask me what makes the Shaw + Smith single vineyard wines different and the answer is pretty simple. Start with a great site that produces wine with character and delivers great flavour. Then understand that the wine must also show the uniqueness of the season and an ability to age for the long haul. This set of criteria sets these wines apart.
As soon as I arrived at Shaw + Smith we started talking about potential single vineyard wines straight away. We were bothered by that ‘reserve’ style of wine where you just get more of everything: more ripeness, more oak, more alcohol, and we thought…that’s absolutely not what this is about. Our single vineyard wines are instead focused on delivering purity, restraint, elegance and that wonderful ability for a wine to open up slowly and reveal itself over time.
We started with the 2013 Balhannah Vineyard Shiraz, from a close-planted block behind the winery, located on the gentle slope of a hill rich in ironstone. We thought about structure, working with whole bunches and how to build tannin without exposing the fruit to too much new oak. We opened this wine recently at our Vintage lunch and it looked excellent next to a Rene Rostaing Cote-Rotie: spice, tannin, structure, intensity and many more years in the tank.
With the superb 2016 expression from this vineyard we included a little more whole bunch, to match the warm conditions, while dialling back the new oak to only about 15%. The whole bunch just works so well with the fruit from this block; lending spice and tannin to the distinctive red and black fruit profile. It’s powerful but also aromatic, spicy, finely textured and remarkably well balanced. Accessible now, but this wine will only improve with age – it has 20 years ahead of it in the cellar, no problem.
Our Lenswood vineyard is the source for both the single vineyard Pinot Noir and the single vineyard Chardonnay. It was a great site to begin with, and thanks to the work that our viticulturist Murray Leake and the team have put in over the last 8 years, we have managed to unlock more of that unique character over time. We’ve only released one Pinot Noir so far – the 2016 – but the 2018 and 2019 wines are safely tucked away and show the incredible promise of this site.
The Lenswood Vineyard Chardonnay from 2017 is a classic expression: coiled, fine, effortlessly long on the palate. It’s quite different to our M3 Chardonnay, for example, which gives you lots of mid-palate weight and flavour, and can be quite open in its youth. This wine is so finely etched, the acidity is lace-like, the floral aromas so lifted and ethereal. It fluently captures the language of a special place at a particular time.
Our single vineyard story continues to evolve as we have bought a new site in the high, cool sub-region Piccadilly, which we will begin planting very soon. With about 11,000 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines planned per hectare, this represents our most ambitious vineyard project yet. It will be a little while before you see a wine from Piccadilly but the potential is mind-blowing.
These wines mean so much to our team, representing a lot of hard work in the vineyard, and finesse in the winery. I hope you enjoy the 2016 Balhannah Vineyard Shiraz and the 2017 Lenswood Vineyard Chardonnay. With small makes each year, we have a Single Vineyard Club, that allows you to receive a guaranteed allocation of these wines from your favourite sites each year. Production will remain very limited so that we can continue to capture the detail, the character and the quality in the bottle. That’s what it’s all about.