This wine and the Thomas Kiss from 2010 are, taken together, a case study in Hunter Shiraz’s current stylistic dilemma. A region with such history must surely think twice before shedding its legacy but, at the same time, even the best wines aren’t static, nor does the context in which they exist stop evolving.
The one thing that emerges most clearly from the glass is Hunter fruit in its turned earth, red berried glory. There’s a rustic suppleness to the character of this region’s reds that consistently engages me and which I find delicious. Good detail and even a hint of savouriness fill out the aroma profile, as does some subtle, seemingly old, vanilla and spice oak.
The palate is defined by its textural acid and medium body. Entry is sprightly and flavoursome, leading to a middle palate that is bright with red fruit and crunchy berry skins. There’s a slight simplicity to the fruit that may be a function of youth – certainly, this has the structure to build for some time in bottle and I suspect the best is yet to come. In terms of flavour profile, this is significantly more savoury than the Kiss, a fact that is quite evident in side-by-side tasting. There’s good flow of flavour through the after palate, although the finish pulls up a little quickly for my liking.
Whether it’s a better wine than the Thomas is perhaps the most interesting question to ask, and on that matter I’m not sure. On the one hand, its style is more to my taste. But we shouldn’t be so unsophisticated as to regard our personal preferences as the sole factor in deciding an object’s worth, and in many respects I believe the Kiss wine is better: better fruit, more complexity, more innovative treatment in the winery, greater daring. It’s the difference between attraction and admiration, I suppose, and it would be a sad world in which we were forced to choose just one or the other. For what it’s worth, and as an advocate of tradition in these matters, I find myself gravitating towards the Kiss after an hour or so of tasting. Go figure.