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Yangarra, King's Wood Shiraz McLaren Vale 2020

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Yangarra King's Wood Shiraz McLaren Vale
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95 points Wine Advocate
"Luscious fruit defines this 2020 King's Wood Shiraz, but it morphs through the middle palate with shades of meat, red licorice, dark chocolate and mulberry—it’s very sweet in character. There is blackberry, raspberry and licorice on the nose, however on day two it feels much softer and lighter, with deli meat, star anise, clove bud, green tea and layers of red apple, eucalypt and crushed granite. Kind of a loose, sandy disposition. Really impressive. Dappled and beautiful."

95 points Australian Wine Companion
"I like this. A wine that embraces a more medium-bodied, compact and restrained archetype, defined by spicy lithe grape tannins as much as McLaren Vale fruit. A southeast-facing site of ironstone. Green olive tapenade, clove, pepper grind and salumi mingle with succulent red cherry, mescal and blue fruit allusions. The tannins, a spindle of spicy, pithy chewiness, attenuated and polymerised by gentle agitation in the right oak (French foudres for 16 months). A strong regional statement. A benchmark, too, for those seeking savouriness over mere amplitude and ripeness. An exercise in fine tannin management."

94 points Decanter
"Introducing 20% whole bunch into the ferment lifts the perfume and brightness of the clean, lean palate, but the real interest here is the svelte tannin profile. It transforms the expected traditional burly Australian Shiraz structure into a something more surprising, supple and elegant. The slender palate weight ensures that the fresh red fruits remain lively and especially vibrant."

Jancis Robinson
"Full screwcapped bottle all of 1,623 g but lighter in subsequent vintages, I believe. Called after the source of the French oak – in ‘ye olden times’ – for their foudre in which this wine was aged. Certified organic.
Transparent crimson. Mmm! Very appealing nose that suggests northern Rhône Syrah with a really superior spine and line, great purity and a little saline touch at the end. Still with a little dry tannin on the end. This wine should run and run. Very fresh without being at all lean. So clean and healthy-tasting. Long. 17.5+/20 points."

Vinous Reverie Notes
Jancis Robinson - Wine of the Week
"Bedazzled by choice, Jancis tries to pick a plum from Yangarra's brilliant range of organic wines from Rhône grape varieties. Above, winemaker Peter Fraser with the ironstone soil responsible for today's wine of the week – available from AU$58.95, £53, $89.99.
Yangarra is a widely admired star in the Australian wine firmament. Max devoted an article to Yangarra estate and its charismatic winemaker Peter Fraser as long ago as 2015 and Yangarra keeps popping up in our coverage, in another 23 articles to date. It’s been organic, now certified, since 2008, thanks to the hard work of Fraser and vineyard manager Michael Lane. The estate was bought by Jackson Family Wines in 2001 when the American company’s intention was to produce then-fashionable, reasonably commercial Australian wines for the US market.
But since what Australians always call ‘the GFC’ in 2008, the focus has shifted to making top-quality wines for the Australian market, where 80% of all Yangarra’s wines are sold today. As at all Jackson properties, Fraser seems to be given a high degree of autonomy and specialises in Rhône-inflenced wines (whites as well as reds) in this warm region between Adelaide and the Southern Ocean. He is currently in the throes of a love affair with alternatives to small oak barrels, not just large oak foudres but ceramic eggs and ‘cocciopesto' (a sort of plaster) amphorae. See Julia’s explanation and Max’s 2023 description of these vessels.
Yangarra’s top white, Roux Beauté Roussanne, is now made in large Clayver ceramic eggs. When I met Fraser during his most recent visit to London he explained that they are less porous than oak staves and concrete so ‘they tighten up the wines during nice, cool ferments and increase purity’. He also uses them, with foudres, for his celebrated Grenaches but reported ruefully that their price has zoomed up recently thanks to enthusiastic espousal of them by fashionable Burgundy producer Charles Lachaux.
As we have written many a time, most recently in Australian Grenache on the move, McLaren Vale has been the engine room for the current revolution in Australian Grenache. There was a time when you could hardly give it away. The late Bernard Smart was a great champion of the variety but ended up selling many of his grapes to local Italian families who made wine at home. During the 1980s they went for just AU$50 a ton.
Today, however, Grenache is McLaren Vale’s most expensive variety, selling for AU$4,000–5,000 per ton, whereas Shiraz can be a little as AU$1,200. According to Fraser, ‘Grenache constitutes just 6% of McLaren Vale vines but it’s 60% of the conversation – and only about 2% are really old vines.’ The phenomenon began in 2017 when Turkey Flat Grenache 2016 Barossa Valley won the famous Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy. Yangarra, High Sands Grenache 2016 was James Halliday’s wine of the year in 2020 and another Barossa Grenache, Hentley Farm’s The Old Legend 2021, won last year’s Jimmy Watson. (Fraser, who is a fan of Comando G Gredos Spanish Garnacha, also admires what Alkina is doing with Grenache in Barossa Valley.)
Yangarra produces a suite of Grenaches of which High Sands 2020 (scored 18.5 by Max), from the estate’s oldest (1946) vines, is now the most expensive. The 2021 is priced at AU$300 a bottle in Yangarra’s online shop, presumably partly thanks to the sprinkling of Halliday magic dust. I recently tasted the High Sands 2021, which was still very youthful but obviously destined for great things, alongside a still-glorious High Sands 2011.
Tasting two other Yangarra Grenaches from the 2020 vintage (the 2021s are priced on the winery website at AU$80 a bottle), I was particularly taken by the complexity of the wine from dry-farmed vines planted in 1962 in the Hickinbotham vineyard on the relatively high ground of Clarendon. I described the 2020 bottling as ‘a sort of Châteauneuf foam’. It’s available in the UK for £45 in bond, in the US for $79.99, in Singapore for SG$108 and widely in Australia of course.
The much lighter, ceramic-egg-influenced Ovitelli 2020, from a specific block of ancient wines, is also a fine wine with perhaps a little less on the mid palate, and can be found in the US, Denmark, £47.50 in bond from Lay & Wheeler in the UK and Australia.
No one could be a greater fan of well-made Grenache/Garnacha than me but I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that Yangarra also produce some pretty smart Shiraz (which should perhaps be called Syrah to judge from the two I tasted most recently). I was very impressed by the ambitious Yangarra, Ironheart Shiraz 2019 (sort of their Hermitage) when I tasted it last month. The Ironheart 2019 is available in bond from Lay & Wheeler in the UK for £65 a bottle and in the US from several retailers at around $115.
But from many a possibility from Yangarra’s range, the wine I’ve chosen as this week’s wine of the week is Yangarra, King’s Wood Shiraz 2020 McLaren Vale, which I reckon is the best-value of the Yangarra wines I’ve tasted recently. Doubtless Australians will be riled by my French comparisons and my suggestion that Ironheart is a sort of Hermitage and King’s Wood a sort of Côte Rôtie but these comparisons may be useful for those less familiar with McLaren Vale Shiraz. The brief note about this wine on the Yangarra website is ‘The beautiful old French oak in our foudre vessels helps us make elegant wine by gradually polishing and protecting the brightest, spiciest south-facing Shiraz we grow at Yangarra.’ (Remember that in the southern hemisphere, south-facing is cool.)
Fraser explained by email, ‘King’s Wood Shiraz was first produced in 2017. However it began in 2009 when I started producing a cellar door trial type wine called Small Pot Whole Bunch Shiraz where I was messing with earlier-picked fruit with a percentage of whole-bunch, striving for a more restrained, elegant and structured expression. Over that period, I messed with percentages of whole-bunch and came to an understanding of what levels worked with our Shiraz and the style I was looking for. In cooler years like 2020, it’s closer to 20% and in warm year closer to 35%. There is a block of Shiraz (Block 12) that is the only south-facing one. It consequently produces lovely fruit in the red-blue spectrum, with trademark sage herbal spice. It was in 2017 that this block really shone when matured completely in 25-hl foudre which really seemed to accentuate the characters of the block with a nice level of reduction. I was looking forward to bringing more complexity and restraint in these practices. So it morphed from a trial wine to having its very own label.The foudre regime has gradually increased the amount of Austrian coopers, such as Schneckenleitner and Stockinger. We love the spice and subtlety of these vessels. François Frères and Marc Grenier are the other French cooperages.’
The 2020 vintage was one of the smallest ever (26 hl/ha) thanks to extreme heat in the spring but then settled into a particularly mild growing season. The fruit was hand-picked on 1 March from the 2.3-ha (5.7 acre) Block 12 on an ironstone sandy outcrop. 20% of the fruit was left as whole bunches, 30% were whole berries mechanically sorted and 50% crushed in open fermenters and on skins for 15 days. Fermentation was spontaneous and Fraser’s ‘gentle maceration principle of wetting the cap and only draining and returning when reductive’ was employed with no pressings in the wine which was all matured in 25-hl French oak foudres: 50% new and 50% one and two years old, for 16 months. Bottled in November 2021.
My tasting note on this wine that’s just 13.5% alcohol:
Full screwcapped bottle is all of 1,623 g but I’m told it will be lighter in subsequent vintages. Called after the source of the French oak – in ‘ye olden times’ on the back label – for their foudre in which this wine was aged. Certified organic.
Transparent crimson. Mmm! [This is my favourite tasting note, by the way.] Very appealing nose that suggests northern Rhône Syrah with a really superior spine and line, great purity and a little saline touch at the end. Still with a little dry tannin on the end. This wine should run and run. Very fresh without being at all lean. So clean and healthy-tasting. Long. 17.5+/20 Drink 2024–2034
OK, it’s a very naughty heavy bottle (Jackson Family Wines are in the process of mending their ways), but at least it’s certified organic/biodynamic and not too potent. The wine is available from Lay & Wheeler in the UK for £40 a bottle in bond and £53 duty paid at Fareham Wine Cellar. According to Wine-Searcher, it is $486 for a case of six bottles from Solano Cellars in Berkeley, or $89.99 per bottle from, and is also available in Denmark, New Zealand and of course in Australia.
All these wines are admittedly more expensive than most of our wines of the week but alas, as I pointed out in my recent review of 2023, that’s the current story of wine (and everything else?). I suppose I am also emboldened by two further factors. I’m writing this while still under the influence of the profligacy associated with the festive season, horizons not yet shrunk by the bleakness of January. I was also quite surprised by several comments on my recent selections of wines recommended for the December holidays. Some Financial Times readers complained that my collections of whites/pinks and reds didn’t include enough wines over £50 a bottle. I don’t know to what extent the commenters were showing off their financially comfortable state but I did note there were no such complaints about the collection of fizz/strong/sweet wines.
I will try to find a less expensive wine for my next wine of the week."



South Australia
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