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2010 Penny's Hill Skeleton Key Shiraz
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- Cellar 5 - 6 years (2017-2018)
- ABV 14.5%
- Closure: Screw Cap
Champagne from Paris, Rheingau from Frankfurt, Ribera del Duero from Madrid. If you're into touring vineyards these are often quoted amongst the most desirable one day round trips you could possibly imagine - each promising post card scenery, regional delicacies and some of the world's great wines. In Australia we have two equivalents - Melbourne to the Yarra Valley, and to the South of Adelaide, where you'll find McLaren Vale (and Langhorne Creek), arguably the Southern Hemisphere's top pick if you've got just one day to indulge your passion. If you visit enough producers, you'll find sound interpretations of almost every type of varietal made in Australia, but the draw card here is ripe and succulent Shiraz; one of its most accomplished young exponents is Ben Riggs. McLaren Vale probably wouldn't have even been on a shortlist of wine tourism thirty years ago, unless you were into high alcohol Grenache or fortifieds. But for big producers, McLaren Vale has traditionally been considered the ‘Mid Palate’ of Australia, a destination for winemakers, its quintessence obscured to the layman by being blended, perhaps most famously, into Penfolds 389 (no, it's not solely from the Barossa). Ben Riggs, who now calls McLaren Vale home recalls, "When I first moved here in 1988, Hardy’s were the only major company in the district and didn’t have one single product with McLaren Vale written on the label". With the advent of cold fermentations and the emergence of more serious 'boutique' producers, McLaren Vale has reinvented itself. "I think what we’ve done in the last twenty years is the small companies have driven the success". If its international reputation doesn't threaten to overtake the Barossa just yet, the scene on the ground is another story. "If you talk about the value of a district" says Riggs, "Barossa compared to McLaren Vale, the average price of fruit in McLaren Vale is always much higher than Barossa Valley, so obviously there is a demand for the product, it’s just our marketing hasn’t been as good as the Barossa." It's a self-depreciating remark given that McLaren Vale's new generation have not been shy to push experimentation in several directions, not the least with clever and attractive, (and occasionally polarising) labels like "Dead Arm', 'Mollydooker' and 'Bobby Dazzler'. Like them or not, rarely is the off-beat packaging dull. Such creative labels have assisted in providing an effective 'memory hook' for consumers. Penny's Hill proprietors, Tony and Susie Parkinson, have been at the forefront of promoting the 'new' McLaren Vale. Down to earth and market-savvy, from the outset, their entire enterprise has been planned with meticulous detail. The slightly elevated vineyard site is cooler than the valley floor, extending the ripening period and contributing refinement and ‘freshness’ to the wine. Vine rows are oriented East-West (in most Australian vineyards, the preferred orientation is North - South), which also contributes to the spicy/peppery quality of their Shiraz'.
This is the third release of the 'Skeleton Key', sourced from the estate's original plantings. It boasts massive fruit concentration combined with a beautifully balancing natural acidity. In short - an unadulterated and definitive McLaren Vale Shiraz from a visionary who has never once doubted the district. When asked how are Shiraz wines from McLaren Vale epitomised, Riggs believes ‘The Middle Palate of Australia’ describes it very well. (One finds an analogy with the blending of Merlot to flesh out the mid palate of Cabernet in Bordeaux). "McLaren Vale wines are lovely, soft, juicy, plush yet with a freshness of fruit." he says. "They have that thing about a glass of wine that makes you feel like another mouthful. A big, rich, powerful red wine can still have this feature that will invite you back for more, just like a nine percent alcohol German Riesling that’s very delicate can invite you back for more, and I think that comes from balance, from filling the holes, from adding the length. That’s what I strive for."
The making of this wine saw free run juice as well as some pressings complete maturation for up to 22 months in 30% new French and American oak, the balance one year old. Totally opaque inky black colour with very deep black crimson hue showing excellent saturation, it yields a superb, lifted bouquet of ripe blackberry, dark plum and liquorice followed by hints of dark chocolate and spicy vanillin oak. Waves of fruit smother the palate with sumptuous flavours of ripe blackberry, black plum, dark chocolate and liquorice with the underlying spicy vanillin oak repeating. Magnificent concentration and depth combine with velvet smooth tannins, creating a bodacious, mouthfilling experience. Exceptionally long ripe blackberry, liquorice, dark plum & spice aftertaste.
Cellar 5-6 years (2017-2018)