Shiraz, shiraz, and still more shiraz!

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In addition to the 164 tasting notes of new-release shiraz uploaded this month, there is a 25th anniversary vertical tasting of Turkey Flat Shiraz, 1990 to 2014 (tastings).

Turkey Flat is one of the most consistently good shirazes of the Barossa Valley. It has never been overdone in the oak or alcohol/ripeness departments – the two most prevalent sins of shiraz makers in that region over that period.

Based on a very old block of vines, at the winery on Bethany Road, just outside Tanunda, this wine also incorporates grapes from a second, younger vineyard in the Stonewell sub-region. Planted between 1997 and 2000, this vineyard has been on-stream since the early 2000s and is now providing more than half of the blend. But it varies according to the season. In 2012, the old block was 35% of the blend, in 2010 25%, and in 2011, zero. “The Stonewell block was great in 2011. We would have been struggling without it in 2011,” says winemaker Mark Bulman.

“In warmer years, the Bethany block is favoured; in cooler years, Stonewell is favoured.”

Oak is never overdone, so the fruit is allowed free expression. The proportion of new oak has, however, increased in the last three years, but the time in barrel has decreased. The 2008 (tasting) had 20% new oak; the 2012 had 35%, according to Bulman, while aging time is down to 18 months from 21 months. Also, hogsheads are used more and barriques less, the larger barrels giving gentler oak extraction.

What impressed me most with this 24-year tasting (I haven’t included the note for 2014 as it was not yet bottled) was the consistency, especially in the difficult vintages. The 1990 (tasting) and ’95 (tasting) both had terminal problems, but every other wine was good.

The 2011 (tasting) – although a more peppery iteration of Barossa shiraz – is a real success for such a wet summer, while the 2000 (tasting) and ’03 (tasting) are very presentable wines from lesser vintages. The 1999 (tasting) surprised by being a superb wine, fresher than the admittedly more powerful ’98 (tasting) which is from a more fancied year. That said, the great Barossa vintages of 1996, 2002, ’04, ’06, ‘08, followed by the best wines Turkey Flat has made to date – 2010 (tasting) and ’12 (tasting) – were the outstanding wines of the tasting.

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