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2010 Oliver's Taranga Vineyard HJ Reserve Shiraz
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- Cellar 5 - 8 years (2018-2021)
- ABV 15%
- Closure: Stelvin
Those who weren’t drinking wine through the 1980s have probably never reflected on the hard won glory behind stalwart labels of a few decades past. They belonged to Australia’s greatest wine families - the Gramps of Orlando, Penfold Hyland of Penfolds, Benno Seppelt of Seppeltsfield, Hardy’s and others – one by one taken under a corporate tidal wave, along with the faces and personalities, the romance and the vines. While the accoutrements of corporatisation dull the world of wine on many levels, they're not inevitable. Family wine dynasties still exist. Some are even thriving.Oliver’s in McLaren Vale have well over a century of success written in the wine trade. Their HJ Shiraz acknowledges just one chapter - but what a tribute it is. Herbert Oliver (aka HJ), was the inheritor of a bustling and diversified farm when his father passed away in 1970. HJ’s direction turned it in another - exclusively to grapes. With the help of local Aboriginals he had already planted the oldest block of Shiraz currently on the Oliver's property - now 65 years old. Ironically, it was sourced from cuttings from the Oliver’s original vineyard, which back then was already over 80 years old. He uprooted the old vines (perhaps he felt they were too shy bearing) and the family has only recently forgiven him for that. When HJ’s grand daughter, Corrina, convinced him she could make wine, she became the first vigneron in what was a long line of wine growers. Her experiment ended up as the first branded Oliver's wine in 1994. Her cousin, Brioni, joined her as cellar manager - something that the founder, William Oliver, probably never envisaged in 1841 - that the two most important roles in the family business would be held by women. HJ’s old vines now form the foundation for Oliver's flagship wine as well as some of Australia’s most prestigious labels (50% of the harvest is still sold off at top rates and yes, it's made its way into Penfolds Grange - such is the quality here). The berries from HJ's plot develop unusually thick skins, where all the flavour, colour and fine tannin are concentrated. These skins contribute several characteristics - specifically, “They make the resultant wine very powerful, and while there’s plenty of tannin volume, they're so fine and lingering that they really add significantly to the mouthfeel..." explains Corrina. "The vines are naturally quite low cropping, and this adds to the concentration of flavour…We generally do not have to provide irrigation as the vines have roots that run very deep.” After a few seasons of heatwaves and droughts, 2010 was a vintage when the taps could be left off. It was perfect, with a mild growing period, rain at all the right times and no heat shocks. Long, slow ripening resulted in intensely flavoured fruit. Once pressed off skins, half the juice made its way into top grade new French oak hogsheads for thirty months and then only the best performing barrels were selected for the final release. The end result is a beautifully deceptive wine - eminently enjoyable for it’s svelte-like texture, mocha-laced oak and massive opulence right now, yet conversely, one that will potentially be very long lived. After three days open on our tasting bench, the fruit was not only holding but starting to eclipse the oak. It confirmed our initial impression: This is destined to unfold as a Shiraz of Wagnerian proportions with its depth revealed in lengthy transitions. While we suggest 5-8 conservatively, 10 to 15 years should not be out of the question. Whenever you enjoy it, this is the culmination of one family's efforts - contemplate what special bond is necessary to harness two, three, even six generations through personal tragedy, World Wars and economic depression. Perhaps the answer is impossible to articulate. It can only be experienced.
A walk on the wild side when compared to its corporate cousin, their common provenence only underlines what a remarkably undervalued wine this is.
Tasting note: Magnificent super saturated colour displaying an impenetrable inky black core with a very deep black dark red hue. Showing fabulous intensity, liquorice, dark chocolate and black plum aromas leap out of the glass in flamboyant fashion with overtones of vanillin oak and mocha. Decadently rich and gloriously concentrated flavours of dark chocolate and succulent ripe blackberry and liquorice explode on the palate followed by mocha, vanillin oak and spice. Dense and opulently textured with a polished silky smooth tannin structure. Exceptional power with very long dark chocolate, liquorice, ripe blackberry and mocha vanillin oak aftertaste. An utterly unfettered, grass roots expression of what HJ's vines are capable of. Decant for early drinking or enjoy over the next 5-8 years.