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Tyrrell's Wines: Great Shiraz, Chardonnay, No Screw Caps

The story of Tyrrell's Wines is inextricably linked to the story of wine in Australia. The fifth generation winemakers is producing food-friendly, award-winning, competitive priced wines

By Simone Zarmati Diament

Shiraz, silky, jammy-fruity with enough acidity to make them deliciously complex are a good reason to celebrate Spring, not only because they complement lamb dishes to perfection, but because there are moderately priced and represent excellent value.

The appellation is not unusual: Australia is making better and better Shiraz, at all latitudes. In Hunter Valley, two hours north of Sidney, there is a rich viticultural history with well known vineyards such as Rosemount Estate, Lindemans established since the later part of the 1800's, as well as smaller boutique wineries such as Briar Ridge Vineyard.

The story of Tyrrell's Wines is inextricably linked to the story of wine in Australia. It is a story about pioneers, men and women who transformed the Hunter Valley of NSW, planted grapes there and looked for better ways to make wine.

Today while Tyrrell's, established since 1858 in Australia's premium wine growing regions, is one of the most important, and according to the Wine Report 2005 "one of the greatest wine producers of Australia" it owns vineyards in McLaren Vale, Limestone Coast and Heathcote. Yet its fifth generation of winemakers still calls the Hunter Valley 'home,' and in a country where "about 200 million bottles will be sealed with screwcaps in the calendar year," according to screwcap advocate and Clare wsinemaker Jeffrey Grosset, refuses to give in to the widespread use of screw caps

At the Sydney Wine Show 2005, Tyrrell's wines have been awarded the industries highest accolade and its Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998 was awarded "Best Wine in Australia."

Tyrrell's Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2002 (approximately $30)
Situated approximately 100 kms north of Melbourne, Heathcote is a higher altitude red wine producing regions. Tyrrell's planted their Heathcote vineyard in 1994 at the foot of Mt Camel, at the southern end of the Colbinabbin Range. This narrow strip with its unique soil, gives the wine its rich, yet refined flavours that typifies Heathcote wines - especially shiraz. The vines are relatively low yielding and produce grapes which are commended for their ability to fully ripen, yet still retain excellent levels of natural acidity and fine grained tannins.

Dark red and deep purple in color, the nose shows spice with fruit and the softer vanillin characteristics of both French and American oak barriques. On the palate intense berry fruit flavors are balanced with rich undertones and an elegant and complex structure. The finish is long, and tightly held together by the thread of acidity. This wine is excellent now and up until 2011.

Tyrrell's Moore's Creek Shiraz 2003 ($6.99 at Crown's Liquors in Coral Gables)
Named after Moore's Creek, the spring fed creek that runs from the Brokenback Range through the Hunter Valley Distillery and Penfoldvale vineyards, this elegantly,balanced, medium-bodied, purplish red wine is full of rich, spicy plum and ripe fruit of the varietal and displays a silky fleshy palate with fine grained tannin on the finish. This wine has been designed to enjoy immediately at room temperature and is great with just about every grilled, roasted and spicy dishes.

Tyrrell's Reserve McLare Vale Shiraz 2001 ($20)
Lower yield and god weather produced a ripe concentration of fruit in this wine so particular to its region. Processed on site and fermented in the Hunter Valley, 50% of the wine finishes its fermentation in French and American new oak barriques while the other 50% matures in one year old barrels. After 15 months, both components of this varietal wine are blended and made ready for bottling. The result is aromas of ripe currant, plum and blackberry with spicy cedar complexity. Silky tannins and a long, flavorful finish lead to drinking this wine now, as well as keep it for another 6 or 7 years.

Vat 47 Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2000 (approximately $16.99)
Better Australian chardonnays are still rare. Tyrrell's pioneered Australia's first Chardonnay in 1971 with the Vat 47 Pinot Chardonnay. Today it is internationally acclaimed as the benchmark for Australian Chardonnay. This complex Hunter Valley Reserve wine has a peach or nectarine fruit on nose and is tart yet sweet with ripe lemon and white pepper with an almost French style mineral "flintiness" on the palate, with a lingering fresh acidity that promises to age well. Only three of Tyrrell's own vineyards are ever used for the Vat 47 - The HVD (Hunter Valley Distillery) Vineyard which had the original Penfold Clone planted in 1923. The wine only spends six months in oak, which is approximately half the time that most Australian Chardonnays spend in barrel. Drinking exceptionally well now and through until at least 2008 if cellared properly.

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