First taste: an elegant 2012 Barossa quartet from Kym Teusner
Magnificent Seven or Artisans of Barossa? No matter, Kym Teusner is one of their number. And, good news, Hallowed Ground are now importing his wines, starting with the excellent 2012 vintage. My notes from their recent portfolio tasting below. First, a bit of background.
I caught up with Teusner at the (seven) Artisans of Barossa cellar door on my last visit to the Barossa in 2011. It was a fascinating week, which provided me with a great insight into recent developments in the Barossa, which are focused around the detail and individuality of wines (and summarised in my feature for Imbibe magazine here).
Teusner is at the vanguard of the new guard protecting the Barossa’s old vines. In fact his eponymous venture (actually a partnership with brother-in-law and viticulturist Michael Page) was motivated by the desire to save an old Grenache vineyard which was on the pointed of being grubbed up. That was in 2001.
During a discussion about sugar levels at picking Teusner told me “we’re picking earlier – at 14 baume not 16 for elegance – but any winery goes for it in a good year. You need a minimum alcohol for flavour and tannin ripeness, but with old vineyards you’re blessed because you can get that earlier.” It’s a fundamental for Teusner who believes “the balance between acidity and tannin is more important than anything and more winemakers are catching on because it protects fruit vibrancy.”
Since he started, Teusner’s production has shot up from 135 cases to 35, 000 cases and, suffice to say, younger vines have crept into production. However, fruit vibrancy remains key, which is why he sources fruit from cooler areas – “a little bit of elevation out of floor gets better balance, better tannin ripeness without necessarily high sugar and not as much acid degradation because of more diurnal [temperature fluctuation].”
And also why of Teusner’s 3000 barrels, only 150 are new each year.
Teusner Riebke Shiraz 2012 (Barossa Valley)
Fruit is sourced from 20-30 year old vines mostly in the Northern Barossa (Ebenezer), also the Western Barossa (Marananga), cropped at 1-3t/acre. The wine is aged for 12m in old (3-15 year old) oak. Lovely florality and lift to the fruit on nose and palate. Shows juicy, fleshy cinnamon-dusted plum. With fine tannins and silky, juicy fruit, the finish is long and fluid. Bright and uber-drinkable. 14.5% £19.75 at Noel Young, £21.45 at Swig
Teusner Independent Shiraz Mataro 2012 (Barossa Valley)
Fruit for this 50:50 blend is sourced from across the Barossa; again no new oak here. Mataro vines average 10-15 years; the Shiraz is 30 years old. The Mataro is immediately apparent, lending a deep, firm spicy riff – liquorice not cinnamon – to nose and palate. Going through the Shiraz juicily fleshes out the Mataro’s black liquorice line, but it’s the Mataro which dominates an intense, dark, spicy finish. Very good. 14.5%
Teusner Joshua Grenache Mataro Shiraz 2012 (Barossa Valley)
An unoaked blend of 63% Grenache, 23% Mataro, 14% Shiraz from elevated pockets of the Barossa (Williamstown, Greenock, Marananga, Ebeneezer, with a small amount from Eden Valley). Vines range from 65-130 years old. The old vine provenance lends greater depth and layer – sheer character – to this red, starting with a spicy, earthy nose, with really appetising peppery grunt. Tafetta (textured, yet fine) layers reveal dried herbs, especially lavender, earthy dark chocolate and, funny that, I made no mention of fruit! I was rather more entranced by the savoury complexity/tannin structure of this wine. A powerful yet delicately crafted wine, whose flavours play around the mouth. Excellent. 14.5%
Teusner Avatar Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2012 (Barossa Valley)
The only wine to see new oak (just 10%, the Shiraz component). Interestingly, this blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Mataro, 30% Shiraz hails from the same vines as Joshua (see above). I’ve no idea why but this wine shows more fragrant white pepper (versus Joshua’s black pepper grunt). Great fluidity and energy to its spicy, dark chocolate-edged red and black fruits, with just a hint of warmer, earthy chocolate orange. Very supple of fruit and tannin, which brings a surprising levity to the whole. A beautifully balanced wine, made to drink by the bottle not the glass. Terrific. 14.5% A very reasonable £25.99 at Noel Young