2018 Barr-Eden Estate Avenue to Gold Shiraz
August. It’s still cold but the days are getting longer. The last few weeks of the year to hibernate before lighter whites, sparkling, and rosé (maybe a hint to upcoming months’ selections) come out with warmer celebrations and gatherings. Before the weather ramps up we thought we’d head to the centre of Australian wine country for one of our most famous exports – South Australian Shiraz. It’s been awhile, and we had never ventured to Barossa or Eden Valley before, and couldn’t decide which to acquire this month’s wine from. We decided to find somewhere right in the middle: Mengler’s Hill.
Barr-Eden is a unique property consisting of 130 acres of natural splendour. Nested on Mengler's Hill, the property rises in elevation from 465m to 545m above sea level and sits across the Eden and Barossa Valleys. The Pohlner family settled Eden Valley in 1858 and established themselves on the property in 1862 when they finished building the original homestead. The property remained in their family until 1997 when it was purchased by Australian wine legend Bob McLean (more on him later). Barr-Eden is unique in the sense it sits amongst the highest vineyards in altitude in Australia and across two world acclaimed wine regions, the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, hence BARR-EDEN.
Gold is just a material
An ode to the vines lovingly planted over an historic goldfield (maybe to the Dire Straits song too?). This month’s wine is the 2018 Avenue to Gold from the Barr-Eden Estate’s “Love over Gold” project. There were only 3000 Litres / 4000 bottles / 330 dozen of this wine produced, and each of you are lucky enough to have one of each of these individually numbered bottles.
The Avenue to Gold 2018 displays vibrant crimson colour. Aromas of Fresh blackberry and juniper which evolve to pipe tobacco, dried sage and rosemary. The wine enters the palate with power and presence carrying liquored blackberry and coal dust flavour at first impression. It turns savoury slowly delivering black peppercorns and umami notes which provide a lovely mouth watering finish. This wine has a very complex finish which touches on both fruit and savoury details. Avenue to Gold’s fine tannins and acidity will bring pleasure in its youth and allow long cellaring.
The Avenue to Gold was gently destemmed and not crushed. Ten Percent whole bunch was retained for textural purposes. It was then transferred to a 5 tonne open topped fermenter where fermentation progressed for 15 days. The ferment was gently pumped over twice per day. The freshly crafted wine was slowly basket pressed with pressings and free run kept separated. The majority of the fruit comes from 43 year old vines, with approximately 10-15% from the 89 year old vineyard for greater intensity and depth of flavour.
The wine was transferred to 45hl concrete tanks where it matured for 12 months to preserve purity of fruit and freshness. The remainder of maturation was in 3 to 5 year old French Oak hogsheads (300 litres) and puncheons (500 Litres) from premium cooperages such as Remond, Cadus and Meyrieux.
Eden vs Barossa
The Barossa and Eden Valleys may border each other and be planted to similar varieties, but there are a few things that make these GIs distinct from one another and subsequently the wines that they produce, they do however share in common their most widely planted variety: Shiraz. The elevation change helps define the Eden Valley, and the cooler climate and increased rainfall that comes with it. 99% of Eden Valley vineyards sit above 280masl, conversely 53% of Barossa Valley vineyards sit below 280masl. EV’s daytime temperatures are 2-3 degrees cooler than BV, and 5-7 degrees cooler at night. This leads to slower ripening, a cooler more savoury flavour and fruit profile, more medium-bodied wine produced, and greater retention of acidity than its neighbour.
"Nicely done these wines, in that they don’t rely on new oak. Seems to be mainly about expressing the vineyard character. Blackberry, blackcurrant, roast beef with sage and rosemary, with a dusting of pepper and spice. It’s fleshy and rich in slightly truffle-laced sweet dark fruit, some blood orange/amaro elements, fine dusty tannin, shitake mushroom and coffee bean umami flavours, and a perfumed and succulent finish of good length."
Gary Walsh | The Wine Front
Bob McLean was a larger than life Barossa wine grower and key promoter of Australian wine abroad. He shared his love of the Barossa wine region through tourism efforts and was pivotal in putting Australian wine into European and British markets. Before his death in April 2015, he gave one last interview just over a week before he passed with some great insight into the property this wine comes from:
“The past three or four months, the vet tells me I’m dying! Over the last three or four years, I’ve been actively building barr-Eden vineyard to become an absolutely unique winemakers’ vineyard. I don’t want to be just a grape grower, growing grapes. It’s designed for the winemakers to come here – to look for quality – to perve on the quality and then fight for it…My whole objective is to build a vineyard that is all about taste. Loved by winemakers because of the quality of the fruit, the terroir: everything about it.”
“In the last couple of months? You know – we all know – I have this wee infliction called a liver. Mine’s not so good right now. So I’m just preparing to make sure that this vineyard is viewed forever – that will be my legacy – to make sure that this vineyard on the mountain is viewed for ever as a winemaker’s vineyard. No matter who controls it.
As an off joke, when I planted it, I planted it as bush vines so you couldn’t get a mechanical harvester into it. You can’t mechanically prune it. There’s no water. It’s all rocks. It’s all dry grown. All got its own roots, all in the old original style. Apart from the Riesling, which is on high posts, like a post for each vine like the Germans do it, it’s what I wanted. The hundred-year-old style. What we farmers started with. Let the climate and the terroir create the wines.”
In March 2014 Joel Mattschoss, a renowned Barossa grape grower was fortunate enough to source a few tonne of this premium fruit and after Bob’s death, through their close friendship, an agreement was formed that Joel, Pierre-Henri Morel and a couple of friends (Michael Twelftree and Tim Hower) would become custodians of the unique property – Love over Gold was born. Pierre had freshly arrived to the Barossa from his native Northern Rhone when Joel first showed him the fruit. He thought the fruit profile was reminiscent of the most uplifted and complex fruit within his home region – the home of Syrah, known in Australia as Shiraz (the word is Australian intellectual property as Bob believes it).
Food and wine, the language of love
Similar to last month, keep the red meat and hearty dishes flowing with the Avenue to Gold. Think steak frites, slow roasted lamb shoulder, or even an oxtail lasagne. For our vegetarian friends all the grilled eggplant or earthy beetroot dominant dishes. If popping in a pinch make sure you enjoy it with some hard cheese – Comte is a favourite around these parts.