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Small production gems from the Barossa Valley, Australia 

David and Hannah Thomas run a wine shop in Hampshire called The Cellar Door. David, who’s an Aussie winemaker by training, also imports an exclusive range of small production wines from the Barossa, and he sent me some to try. In short, I was deeply impressed: they are each authentic expressions of Barossa ‘terroir’ (if you don’t mind using that term) brimming with character and a sense of place. My favourites were the stunning Spinifex Indigene, and also possibly the best Aussie Riesling I’ve ever had, from Tin Shed. Here are my notes on the wines, with contact details for The Cellar Door given at the end, should you want to lay your hands on any. I should add that I have no connection with the Cellar Door, nor do I earn any commission from them, etc. 

see also: a more recent tasting of these Barossa Valley garage wines

Tin Shed Wines
Tin Shed is the work of viticulturalist Andrew Wardlaw (ex Henschke) and restaurateur Peter Clarke, and has been going since 1998. It’s a ‘natural’ approach here, with wild yeast fermentation and minimal new oak influence

Tin Shed Wild Bunch Riesling 2002 Eden Valley
Hand picked from sixty year old vines in the Eden Valley, whole bunch pressed and naturally fermented. This has an incredible nose: full, limey and fresh with great balance. The liminess isn’t over powering, and there’s some minerality here too, together with a touch of herbiness. The palate is concentrated and broad with minerally, lemony fruit. Quite brilliant – a profound effort. Very good/excellent 92

Tin Shed Three Vines 2001 Barossa
A blend of Mourvèdre, Shiraz and Grenache, from 80 year old wines, fermented with wild yeasts and aged in seasoned hogsheads. Quite an intense nose of berry and blackcurrant fruit with chocolatey notes and some green-olive savouriness. The palate is concentrated and quite savoury with powerful fruit flavours together with some green herbal flavours. Lots of flavour but I’m detecting just a hint of greenness here that stops it short of greatness. It would be interesting to see how this ages. Very good+ 89

Tin Shed Single Wire Shiraz 2001 Barossa
Low yielding 90 year old vines from the Eden Valley make up 80% of the blend. With an opaque purple-red colour, this is a wine of huge concentration. It shows an intense nose of berry and black fruits with a taut spicy edge and some background tarriness, together with a bit of chocolatey character. The palate is massively concentrated with firm, spicy tannins and high acidity (there’s a lemony, almost salty tang on the finish). It’s tight and primary at the moment but there’s everything here suggesting a promising future and a potentially higher rating. Very good/excellent 92

Massena Vineyards
Jaysen Collins (general manager at Turkey Flat) and Dan Standish (associate winemaker at Torbreck) established Massena in 2000. The story behind the 11th Hour Shiraz is that the 60 year old vines from Greenock responsible for this wine were ready to be uprooted because of low yields. Jaysen and Dan persuaded the owner to retain some of these vines, and have blended grapes from them with a small parcel of Koonunga Hill Shiraz.

Massena ‘The eleventh hour’ Shiraz 2001 Barossa
Ripe yet savoury spicy berry fruit nose, with some tarry, smoky notes and plenty of complexity. Good concentration on the palate with a distinctive tarry, spicy edge. Very intense with firm but smooth tannins and prominent but well integrated oak. Bold, with so much intensity it is difficult to pull the components apart – typically Barossan in style. Very good/excellent 92

The Schwarz Wine Company
Jason Schwarz has strong family connections with the Barossa wine scene, and his father is a grape grower with over a hundred acres of vines. The Nitschke Block was planted in 1967 and contains 4 acres of Shiraz vines: Jason has persuaded his father to allow him to use a tonne of this fruit, and the result is a small quantity (1000 bottles) of this intense, full flavoured wine.

Schwarz Wine Company Nitschke Block Shiraz 2001 Barossa Valley
Distinctive nose is ripe sweet and herby with intense blackcurrant fruit and a creamy edge. There are hints of mint and coconut. The concentrated palate is very ripe and sweet, with a soft, rich texture, and summer pudding fruit. This is a big, soft, almost porty style with rich fruit and a suggestion of some lifted acidity. Brilliant in its style. Very good/excellent 90

Small Gully Wines
Small Gully began life as a partnership between Stephen Black and Robert Bader called B and B wines, with first vintage in 2000. This became Small Gully when a farm implement shed situated in a small gully on Roennfeldt Road was leased and some winery equipment was purchased in 2001.

Small Gully Wines Shiraz 2000 Barossa Valley
Produced from 30–40 year old vines from the Stockwell & Ebenezer areas. The Shiraz was taken off skins at 3 Baume to finish fermentation in new and seasoned American oak hogsheads (60% new, 40% seasoned), for greater oak integration. This is an intense, rich spicy wine with lots of rich, sweet fruit and a vanillin, coconutty edge from the American oak. After a while the coconut recedes and it is more tarry and liquoricey. I love the spicy intensity of the ripe fruit. It will be interesting to see what age does to this. Very good+ 89

Small Gully Wines Ringbark Red Shiraz/Cabernet 2000 South Australia
A blend of Clare Cabernet with Barossa Shiraz. Forward, rich spicy nose with some sweet fruit. Some tarriness and a hint of coconut, too. The midweight palate has a spicy edge and some warming, rich fruit. I’m not massively keen on the coconut character this is currently showing, but it is potentially ageworthy. Very good+ 88

Domaine Jardin/Spinifex
Spinifex is the baby of Magali Gely and Peter Schell, and was started as recently as 2001. Peter has made wine in Burgundy, Switzerland, Provence, the Languedoc, Bordeaux, New Zealand and Australia. The wines are made from old, low yielding vineyards in the Barossa and Eden Valleys. The focus of winemaking is to produce harmonious, richly textured wines with complex ripe fruit flavours. They’re succeeding, it seems.

Spinifex Esprit 2001 Barossa
A blend of Shiraz, Mataro, Grenache and a little bit of Cinsault. Striking nose showing vivid raspberry fruit: very pure and appealing. The palate shows more of the same fresh berry fruit together with a subtle spiciness. The alcohol is quite evident but the acid balance is good. Quite delicious with its lovely fruit character. Very good/excellent 90

Spinifex Indigene 2001 Barossa
60% Mataro and 40% very old vine Shiraz. The ferment was plunged by hand in old milk vats three times a day, pressed around 3 Baume and then finished in French and American oak barrels. Deep coloured. Forward nose of sweet raspberry and plum fruit with lovely spicy complexity, but it’s still nicely savoury and not at all over the top. The palate is rich and concentrated, showing nice balance: good depth of fruit well supported by spicy structure and smooth tannins. The Mourvèdre character is evident. It’s rare to find a wine this concentrated but which is still in balance. This is a spectacular effort. Excellent 95

Contact details
The Cellar Door, No.9 Winchester Street, Overton, Hampshire, RG25 3HR
Tel: 01256 770 397 Fax: 01256 770 944
E-mail: info@thecellardoor.co.uk 
Website: www.thecellardoor.co.uk

wines tasted August 2003

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