Tasting Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz

I recently had the chance to taste wine, over dinner, with the Shirvingtons. The namesakes of this Australian Winery were in the United States for the first time in many years showing off their wines. Lucky for me they brought quite a treasure trove of goodies to share. Lynne and Paul Shirvington started down the wine road in 1995. Their aim was for a simpler existence as farmers, and thus they decided that growing grapes would provide the life they were looking for and the challenges they craved. Between 1996 and 2001 they purchases 3 parcels of land. Their vineyard manager Peter Bolte has been with them since 1997 and their winemaker Kim Jackson since 2004. Starting with the 2001 vintage they have made wines that have garnered significant attention and acclaim. I was quite curious to sample their wines as I had not previously done so. It’s generally instructive to do so with the folks responsible and the Shirvingtons were no exception. In addition to founders Peter and Lynne their son Mark was in attendance as well. Their pride in their wines was clear as was their hospitality and charm.

In total we tasted five vintages of Shiraz and four of Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit was sourced from their own vineyards. So the first step in consistency is controlling their source. Of course there is plenty of vintage variation between them. Tasting the wines side by side was an eye opener into their winemaking style and their track record as a producer. So while there was plenty to differentiate the wines I was struck by the positive attributes they have in common. There is a trio of things that most impressed me about the Shirvington wines as a whole.

The first is the balance and restraint both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz showed across each of the vintages. While these are by no means small wines, their heft is quite reasonable. The flavors are mouth-filling, even a bit relentless in their attack at times, but never over the top. Despite alcohol levels well over 15% on almost every offering, not a single one belied any discernable heat. Considering all the disproportionate wine from the world over, that is certainly no small feat.

The second thing that made me really take notice in these wines is their persistence and duration of palate. From the first whiff of the expressive nose through what is an above average finish on each of them, they’re profiles are notably lengthy

Age ability is another other quality about the Shirvington wines that stands out above most others. These wine have the legs to last quite awhile. The oldest wines we tasted were from their second vintage, 2002 and the youngest from 2008. The oldest wines were amazing; particularly in how much fresh fruit they still showed. It would have been very difficult to pick up that the Shiraz was an 8 year old wine. It speaks really well to the small lot, terroir driven approach they employ to make their wines. The older Cabernet was also very good, but showed more of the hallmark signs of an offering with some age on it. It’s hard to say precisely how long these wines will go but at 8 years old now they surely have a couple years more left to go, at the very least. The younger wines which benefited from additional aeration over the course of the evening have the same overall structure and characteristics to indicate that they will have a similar shelf life; perhaps even more as the vines gain age and they learn more and more about them over time.

It’s important to note, as I referenced above, that while there are many qualitative similarities between these wines, the vintage rules they day. The Shirvingtons are keen about making wines that speak very specifically about their place of origin in McLaren Vale. And even that very specific spot has different things to say each year. Weather is of course a huge factor and there have been some vintages affected to different degrees by drought. The Shirvingtons are extremely committed to overall quality; in fact if the fruit isn’t up to their standard they simply won’t make the particular wine that year.

The proof is in the bottle. For me the bottom line is the wine, and it’s clear when it comes to that they’re making all the right decisions. These are world class examples of Australian Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon respectively. Current vintages have a suggested retail price of $66.99 (Shiraz) and $59.99 (Cabernet Sauvignon). Whether you pick some up to knock your friends out today or you want to lay down some wine for the next decade, the Shirvington offerings are selections you should strongly consider.