A showdown of sorts this evening between two range-topping Hunter Shirazes from 2010. First up is Andrew Thomas’s Kiss Shiraz.
I recently tasted the Motel Block from this vintage and there’s a definite family resemblance here. The same fullness of flavour, slightly buried regionality of fruit character, slickness of presentation. But everything here is dialled up to 11. This is, make no mistake, the flagship of the range, and there are lashings of oak and ramped up fruit density to remind one of the fact.
The nose is purple-fruited and basically a wall of aroma with, despite its dimensions, plenty of detail and nuance. Oak is certainly a feature, and comes across as a mélange of coffee, vanilla and bubblegum notes. The palate is verging on full bodied and, as with the nose, piles on intense flavour. Flow through the mouth is well-controlled and has a slickness to it that, while impressive, seems a bit polished, as if some of the more interesting rough edges may have been sanded off at some point. I especially admire how the flavour profile is so integrated even at this wine’s very young age. It makes the wine approachable now, even though I’d be setting aside a stash to come together more and build some complexity, as well as shed some of the boisterous intensity of its youth. A thread of slightly raw tannins through the finish isn’t especially distracting and, for me, adds some welcome savouriness to the flavour profile.
This is a beautifully made wine with a very clear stylistic statement to make. Perhaps because it comes so close to reaching its big goals, this raises more questions for me than did the Motel Block around what Hunter Shiraz ought to taste like. To be sure, this is leagues away from the sort of rustic, acid-driven wines that are still cherished by some producers and punters and which, one might argue, are somewhat of a ball and chain on the region’s profile. For drinkers, like me, who love the older style, this certainly throws down the gauntlet. Would I prefer to drink it over less well made wines that take a more traditional approach? Perhaps not. At the same time, I want smart winemakers to keep challenging our ideas around regional style. These things need to evolve, and wines like this are capable of keeping the Hunter alive.