Spectacular shiraz-a-thon

Winemaker Andrew Seppelt checks the vines at Hayes Family Wines (Photo: Hayes Family Wines)

I recently finished a tasting of over 200 shirazes, which I strung out over nine tasting days. As always, there were many highlights.

A feature of today’s wine business is that even boutique winemakers now field numerous different bottlings, where once upon a time they might have fielded just one. This is especially true with Australia’s flagship variety, shiraz. Sometimes, they’re doing individual vineyard bottlings; sometimes single region or subregion bottlings. Sometimes all of the above. Often, there’s just a few hundred bottles – sometimes less than 100 bottles!

A feature of today’s wine business is that even boutique winemakers now field numerous different bottlings.

Instance: a winery I’ve just recently become aware of is the Barossa’s Hayes Family Wines. In my latest shiraz-a-thon, I tasted their current line-up of 2016 and 2017 vintage reds. This was the roll-call – with bottle numbers, where I kept a record.

Every shiraz rated highly, between 92 and 96, and even the AUD $35 regular Barossa shiraz scored extremely well at 95. The other wines also good to very good.

This is the kind of portfolio I’m seeing more and more often. Z Wines (Barossa) and Aphelion (McLaren Vale) are two other small producers that fit this mould. It’s a lot of work to taste them all, but the up-side is that the quality is often eye-opening.

Often larger producers are doing similar: small parcels of single-site selections. Chateau Tanunda has been doing its Terroirs of the Barossa series for some years, and its 2015 Ebenezer and Marananga selections were both very impressive in my tasting.

The question that might have you scratching your head is what hope have they (especially the newest and micro-est boutiques) got obtaining distribution for these tiny-output wines? The answer is that they don’t need distribution, because they’re selling them all direct: through the cellar door, online, or a combination.

It’s a whole new world out there.

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