Western Australia Shiraz: La Violetta La Ciornia 2008, a new high
Readers will know that much as I’m a huge fan of Western Australian wines, the Shiraz has yet to really convince. As I reported after last year’s judging at Qantas Wine Show of Western Australia (see here), it can be a bit middle of the road and lacking structure/character for my taste though, oddly enough at the wine show, strapping tannins, big oak and not enough fruit let the side down! So it’s with great pleasure that I can report a watershed moment for me with WA Shiraz, courtesy of La Violetta La Ciornia 2008 from the Ciprian Vineyard in Denmark, Great Southern (pictured, from Mount Lindesay), which I tasted at the Celebrate Western Australia Foundation Day tasting on Thursday.
La Violetta La Ciornia 2008 A little animal, with smoky bacon on the nose and palate, which is balanced by a lovely, sublime even, lift of violets and subtle spice, also the freshness and purity of its well-defined blackberry fruit. Intense not dense, this is a delightfully nuanced, characterful, mid-weight Shiraz with a dash (2%) of Viognier. £30 at Aus Wine Online.
An exciting facet of this wine is that it hails from young vines. To date, most of the WA Shiraz I’ve rated comes from relatively old plantings at say Cape Mentelle or Juniper Estate in Margaret River or Plantagenet in Mount Barker, Great Southern. The Ciprian vineyard was planted as recently as 2000 by John Ciprian of Kalgan River Wines, from whom La Violetta’s Andrew Hoadley buys the fruit.
But there’s something else at work here too. Inspired by working in Piedmont, rather than focusing on extracting rich, ripe fruit and big tannins, Hoadley wanted to make a food-friendly wine which expressed the vineyard (see here for more details). To that end, the fruit was carefully sorted and gently handled (de-stemmed but not crushed, moved by gravity not pumps, hand plunged not pumped over), which explains its lift and delicate intensity. As for nuance, Hoadley created different batches by using four small open top fermenters, each treated differently. Some fruit was cold soaked, a batch was co-fermented with whole bunches of viognier and both wild yeast and inoculated (Rhone and Australian-isolated yeast strains) were used. The wine was then aged for 14 months in new (40%) and seasoned French barriques.
The catch – there’s only a measly amount of this single vineyard, hand crafted wine (3,100 bottles to be precise) and, tragically, no follow on vintage thanks to hail….They say patience is a virtue, so I’ll be looking forward to the 2010! And speaking of patience, if you buy the 2008, UK distributor Brian Oakwell of Aus Wine Online tells me the wine got even more expressive a couple of days after opening and still looked good five days on – a good indication of its ageing potential.