Seems I had a similar reaction to last year’s model. I thought it terribly spicy, perhaps more so than usual, yet here I am with the 2008, inhaling a veritable pepper grinder of aroma. Perhaps it’s a function of youth; I confess to having drunk more of this wine with a few years’ age on it than at release. Whatever, it’s nice to be surprised year after year.
The aroma is quite wild, with pepper and spice and a herbal character akin to fragrant aniseed; think Thai basil. It’s also a bit meaty, and I can imagine some people reacting really negatively towards this wine for its forthright, savoury character. I’ve always enjoyed the Hilltops label, though, and this is certainly feeding that enjoyment. As it gets some air, the purple berry fruit aromas are peeking out a bit more, though it remains a spice-dominant aroma profile.
The palate is really well-weighted. On entry, more black pepper and herbs, before some berries start to bubble up through the middle palate. I like the Hilltops Shiraz character; I always think of purple fruit when I taste it, though I’m not sure that’s terribly helpful to anyone but my nagging inner voice. There’s a simplicity to the fruit character, though, that — when combined with moderate intensity of flavour — is a little disappointing. Structurally the wine comes across as almost easygoing, at least until ripe, abundant tannins start to caress the tongue through the after palate. A clean, acceptably long finish.
Delicious wine if you like the style. I just wish it sustained its complexity better through the entire line.