Sunday, May 22, 2022

Hugh Hamilton Black Sheep Shiraz Saperavi

Hugh Hamilton Dark-Arts Black-Ops South-Australia Shiraz Saperavi 2017

For our family gathering for my birthday bbq, we also opened this South Australia McLaren Vale Shiraz. I found this interesting blend at Binny's, Chicagoland's big box beverage super store and picked up a couple bottles to try. It proved to provide good QPR - Quality Price Ratio with its $22 pricepoint. There were 1,200 cases producer of which only 180 were imported.

This is from Hugh Hamilton Wine, a family owned producer for six generations spanning 180 years. Current owners Hugh Hamilton and his daughter Mary Hamilton are the 5th and 6th generation of the Australian Hamilton wine dynasty that stretches back over 180 years. In 1837 Hugh’s great great grandfather Richard emigrated to the new colony of South Australia and planted Australia’s first wine grapes starting perhaps South Australia’s first wine dynasty that continues to this day.

Before emigrating to South Australia, Hugh’s great, great grandfather Richard was a tailor on the high streets of Dover, England. He was also known to be engaged in smuggling contraband Bordeaux from France. Hamiltons speculate his dark secret caught up with him because Richard, with his wife Anne and eight children packed up and left the country, emigrating to Australia where they settled on 80 acres of remote rural land. There he planted what may have been the region's first wine grapes. 

Hence, the Hamilton brand plays on the sordid past of a 'black sheep' character. 

I've written often in these pages about the Australian sense of humor and some of their whimsical branding and labels (Mollydooker). This label is one of those whimsical fun play on words labels: "As with all families one is a Black Sheep and (co-owner-producer) Hugh is it. Hugh Hamilton wines are far from ordinary. Hugh has a clear vision about the way he sees wines and he produces accordingly. Hugh’s legacy continues as Mary is now the CEO of the family winery and brings insight, energy and enormous talent to this exciting winery." 

The Black Sheep branding carries over to their Wine Club, the Black Sheep Club, where they offer special and limited production labels, "and our premium range of eclectic wines designed by the family themselves to be of an outstanding quality".

Today, Hugh and Mary produce a own unique trio of wines, a Grenache, a Shiraz and a Pedro Ximenez in honour of their forebear, Richard Hamilton along with this interesting Red Blend, 60% Shiraz and 40% Saperavi. I admit I had never heard of our encountered this varietal before and knew nothing of it. 

The Saperavi grape roots (pun intended) trace back to Georgia where the name translates literally "paint, dye, give color". It is a hardy variety able to handle extremely cold weather and thus is popular for growing in cold climate inland regions.

It is the most predominant varietal in Georgia and is also found grown throughout the region east of Europe in Russia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan. It is the basis for the region's most popular wines. It has also been imported and is grown in the Niagara and Finger Lakes regions of New York State and the Erie region of Northeast Ohio. 
Seperavi produces an extractive wine with a characteristic bouquet, a harmonious taste, and pleasant astringency. Saperavi grapes produce very deep red wines that are suitable for extended aging. It has the potential to produce high alcohol levels, and is often blended with lighter varieties. 
Hamilton vineyards are on the north-eastern fringe of the broader McLaren Vale region in the Blewitt Springs sub-region. There the higher elevation and distance inland from the sea have a cooler climate and later-ripening than the main region, hence the use of Separvi is found in conjunction with Shiraz. 
The Hugh Hamilton ‘Black Sheep’ vineyards are planted mainly to Shiraz, Grenache, Saperavi and some Cabernet, each of which is divided into smaller sub-blocks according to the patchwork of soils. Many of the vines are what Hamilton calls ‘Old’ Shiraz, differentiated from the ‘Ancient’, with vineyards dating back well over 60 years old. The Cabernet date back as much as 25 years.

Hugh Hamilton Dark-Arts Black-Ops South-Australia Shiraz Saperavi 2017

This is sourced from the Church Vineyard which stands east of the winery surrounding on three sides the old Bethany Chapel for which it is named. It is planted to Shiraz, Saperavi, Merlot and Sangiovese. The soil is alluvial as the vineyard is an ancient creek bed  with a deep, winter-only creek in a distinct very shallow gully which cuts across the Merlot and Shiraz vineyards; and at the western end has a band of soil which is shallow and tough, with bits of quartz and scattered ironstone. The rows run east/west, which provides maximum shade from the sun during heatwave conditions.

Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast both rated this label 88 points. 
Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, muscular, rich blackberry and black plum fruits are accented with herbal notes of black olive, bell pepper, black pepper and hints of spice and mint with a full firm lingering finish. 
RM 89 points. 



Deci-significant Old Man's Birthday Wine

Deci-significant Old Man's Birthday Wine

For my deci-significant birthyear birthday celebration, I pulled from the cellar this aged vintage aptly-named top rated super premium Barossa Valley Shiraz for the occasion. 

This is the flagship wine of Kaesler, one of the traditional old vine family names of the Barossa Valley, South Australia with vineyards dating back to 1893. 

The first owners of the Kaesler vineyards were Silesian pioneers who came to the Barossa Valley in the 1840s and took up 96 acres in 1891. By 1893 they had planted the entire acreage with Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro (Mourvedre) and White Hermitage vines. Some of the gnarled dry-grown Shiraz still remain and provide the backbone of a family of intense wines.

The Kaesler family first purchased several blocks 1893 and operated the property until 1986. In those early days, much of the fruit was sold to Seppeltsfield for port and sherry production.

By 1917 with grape sales flagging, various blocks were pulled up and replanted to orchards including apricot, peach and plums. The remaining vines mostly consisted of red and fortified varieties, some Grenache added in the 1930’s and more Shiraz planted in the 60’s and 70’s. These plantings account for the celebrated aged Shiraz produce to today.

In 1944 the family holdings were divided between the three Kaesler brothers, two selling off their properties, but Arthur Kaesler (the youngest brother) held on to the home block converting orchards back to vineyard and maintaining its old vines. Kaesler sold the property in 1986 to private owners who continued to sell the fruit to local wineries including Penfolds, Seppelt and Orlando. 

At the time, the Kaesler vineyards consisted of over 70% red wine vines, all 40 years of age or more.  

Winemaker Reid ‘Boz’ Bosward heard of the remarkable qualities of this special vineyard when he managed to get his hands on some of the grapes and produce a special batch of the first Old Bastard Shiraz in 1998. 

In 1999, Bosward seized the opportunity to become the head of the new Kaesler family property when he and his partners bought Kaesler, becoming the third owners of the property. Teaming with Swiss banker Edourd Peters, they formed a syndicate and purchased and consolidated two of the three original historic old vine Kaesler Blocks, and Old Bastard was born.

The revered 2.5 acre (12 row) vineyard consists of 125 year old vines that sit just outside the back door of the winery, Kaesler Cellar Door; an old brick horse stable now is a private tasting room, an old cow shed now the Kaesler Kitchen restaurant, and Ernst Kaesler’s old house, now the Kaesler Cottages B&B.

One of the most famous patches of Shiraz vines in the Barossa, sourced from a unique clone of French Rhone Valley Shiraz (now extinct in France) they produce a unique flavour characteristics and distinctive profile that makes the Old Bastard what it is.  It has become recognized as one of Australia’s most highly regarded Shiraz wines, consistently rated as one of the Barossa’s benchmark Shiraz wines and is highly sought after by wine collectors around the world.

Consistent wine making since 1998, focusing on meticulous vineyard management and using the highest quality Burgundian oak for 12 to 19 months depending on the character of the vintage, Kaesler Shiraz is bottled “au naturel”, with no fining and filtration. The result is fruit driven to the core, elegant with density and richness, savoury muscular tannins and underlying oak.

Kaesler "Old Bastard" Barossa Valley South Australia Shiraz 2005  

The whimsical label features a distinctive Ralph Steadman caricature.  
My records show we also drank the 2001 vintage of this label for my birthday back in 2004 and then again at our OTBN event in 2013 (Open That Bottle Night,)
This '05 release was awarded 98 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 95 points by Wine Enthusiast and WS Forum, 94 points from Wine Spectator.
Dark inky purple, full bodied, round, full throttled, tight, ultra-concentrated thick forward raisiny spicy blackberry and blueberry fruits with with notes of bacon fat, bramble, game, licorice, pepper, cedar and spice with firm long lasting tannins on the finish. 

RM 93 points.