2021 Spinifex Lola Pete Schell is crafting a slew of exciting, avant-garde whites from the Barossa and Eden Valleys these days, yet his ‘cherry cola’ blend is the original, and some would say the most multi-layered white. At three-quarters of the blend, Semillon again takes centre stage in this year’s Lola, joined by Clairette, Ugni Blanc and Vermentino. The Semillon—a grape that has been grown in the Barossa Valley since the 1850s—is sourced from three old-vine vineyards (65, 75 and 95 years old) located in Ebenezer, the foothills near Bethany and the valley floor close to the Para River. The Clairette is cropped from an elevated site in Rowland Flat on the eastern side of the Valley. This late-ripening grape, with excellent acid retention, provides additional freshness. Ugni Blanc and Vermentino contribute texture, even more freshness and a lick of salinity. All parcels were hand-harvested, and the bunches were chilled before crushing and maceration on skins for six hours before pressing. All fermentations were wild in a combination of old French oak barriques, puncheons and stainless steel. Components were then matured on lees for eight months before blending and bottling. Schell’s extensive attention in the vineyards and a light touch in the shed have given us another exceptional release of this unconventional white. It’s a deliciously fresh and textured white blend, flush with stone fruits, citrus, salinity, spice, and some lovely hay and talc notes lending complexity. It’s fleshy with a nice phenolic tension, bracing acidity and a long, savoury finish—one of the Barossa’s most original white wines, and one of its best. \n 2017 Spinifex Late Release Riesling Pete Shell is the gift that keeps on giving. This is the first vintage of Spinifex’s flagship Rostein Riesling, released six years after the vintage. Spinifex’s two-acre Rostein vineyard is home to two parcels of seriously old Riesling, one planted in 1945 and the other in 1957. These parcels produce minuscule yields for Riesling—a paltry 0.8 tonnes per acre is the norm—resulting in wines of atypical concentration and power. The fruit comes predominantly from the oldest vines (1945, indeed some of Australia’s oldest Riesling vines!), facing east and sitting at almost 500 metres elevation. The dry-grown vines sit on sandy loam over quartz and gravel soils. The fruit was hand-picked in three passes over a week. The wine was then fermented naturally and aged on lees for 11 months in 1,000-litre neutral oak and was even allowed to go through partial malo. It was then bottled unfiltered after 14 months. In other words: this is anything but your garden variety SA Riesling. 2017 was a cool, lean and citrus-forward year for Riesling in the Eden Valley, so Pete decided to hold the wine back for a few years in bottle, allowing the acidities to mellow and integrate and the fruit to flesh and round out. Et voila. This is a unique, wonderfully textured, layered bottle-aged Rizza of delicious, mouthwatering intensity, texture, and length. There are some lovely developing characters, adding layers of complexity to more classic refreshing notes of citrus, florals, lime, cream and honey. Then there’s a smoky wisp and a saline tang on the long, slightly grippy close. Fans of aged Riesling will not be disappointed. Or rather, fans of great Australian Riesling full stop will not be disappointed. \n 2021 Thomas Wines Sweetwater Shiraz We’re not far off from offering this Hunter icon’s new suite of Semillon and top Hunter Shiraz bottlings. Yet Andrew Thomas’ portfolio of wines is a many-splendoured thing and includes some great choices at the value end of the spectrum. If you are new to this producer’s reds, they are pitched in the ‘Hunter Burgundy’ style, that is, perfumed, supple and balanced—medium instead of full. This highly praised vineyard is located at Sweetwater Ridge in the northern Belford sub-region of the Lower Hunter Valley. The vines were planted in 1998 on soils of red\/brown loam over limestone, giving a distinctive floral lift to its wines. The grapes were destemmed but not crushed, and whole berry fermentation kicked off after a two-day cold soak. After ten days on skins, the wine was pressed off to a selection of new, one, two and three-year-old French hogsheads for 15 months of maturation. Only then are the best barrels selected for blending and bottling, and the wines marry for a further 11 months in a bottle before release. This is a silky and seductive Shiraz, flush with dark, brooding fruits, pepper spice, wet steel and a touch of anise. It’s juicy and mouthcoating with lovely spiced plum sweetness, a velvety mid-palate and a supple, layered and lengthy close. It’s a classy follow-up to 2020 and offers terrific value. \n 2022 Murdoch Hill Rosé Given Michael Downer’s superstar status with red and white wines, it might be easy to overlook his charismatic Rosé. This year’s release takes in 50% Sangiovese from Forreston at about 360m above sea level. Downer notes that this clone is particularly well-suited for rosé thanks to its pale, fleshy and juicy personality. The balance of the release is made up of Merlot and a white miscellany to bring complexity and depth of flavour. All components are pressed straight off skins and, after 24 hours, sent to old barrique and foudre for wild fermentation. The wine is then kept on lees for a few months before bottling. It opens with attractive aromas of fresh summer berries, watermelon rind and flesh, some sweet spice and a lovely savoury lees character playing in support. The palate is full of red-fruited juiciness and fleshy texture with a touch of grip, all neatly focussed by racy acidity and an enticing watermelon-drenched finish. A proper Rosé, this, and one with more character and charm than all the anaemic Provençal lookalikes you could shake a stick at.