Old Aussie Vines, New Tricks

By Robert Parker

In the early 1990s, David Powell of Torbreck Vintners discovered many old and neglected vineyards in Australia's Barossa Valley. While they yield less fruit than newer ones, the old vines produce more concentrated flavors. Powell helped growers nurse those vineyards back to health, and they now produce shiraz and grenache for Torbreck wines. Here are some of the current releases:

2005 Woodcutters Shiraz

93 points.

Blackberry, raspberry, cherry, licorice, and peppery aromas emanate from this full-bodied, opulent, voluptuously textured wine. Boasting superb purity, length, and intensity, this beauty simply delivers more than I expected. Woodcutters radically changes one's opinion of what can be purchased for this low price. It should drink well for seven to eight years. $20

2005 Juveniles

91 points.

This tank-fermented and aged blend of grenache (60%), shiraz (20%), and mataro (20%) is made from 40- to 150-year-old vines. Provençal-like notes of pepper, spice, sweet cherries, and black currants jump from the glass. With superb fruit as well as purity and no hard edges, it can be enjoyed over the next two to four years. $25

2004 The Steading

93 points.

This Châteauneuf-du-Pape-styled offering is a blend (60% grenache, 20% mourvèdre, and 20% shiraz) aged for 22 months in old wood. Its deep plum/ruby color is accompanied by a big, rich bouquet of resinous pine forest scents interwoven with kirsch, blackberries, pepper, and spice. Full-bodied, pure, heady, complex, and nuanced, it should drink well for 7 to 10 years. $35

2004 The Struie

96 points.

This 100% old-vine shiraz is an exotic bouquet of blackberries and other sweet fruits. It is a full-bodied, powerful, rich red with great purity as well as focus, intensity, and a blockbuster finish that lasts nearly a minute. It will be even better with two to three more years of aging in the bottle and should last for two decades. $50

2004 Descendant

98 points.

This oak-aged blend of 92% shiraz and 8% viognier offers up notes of blackberries, ink, sweet truffles, and acacia flowers. There are 1,000 cases of this full-bodied, intense, rich blockbuster. It will drink well for 10 to 15 years. $105

2003 RunRig

99 points.

The grapes for the estate's flagship cuvée come from eight separate Barossa vineyards that range from 94 to 158 years old. This sensational inky, purple-tinged shiraz has a touch of viognier. It exhibits a sweet nose of blackberries, blueberries, lychee nuts, smoked meats, and a hint of apricots. Elegant yet superpowerful, rich, concentrated, and long, it is a tour de force in winemaking and should drink well for 20 or 25 years. $225

Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.

Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit www.eRobertParker.com to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.

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