Heads up: over here, Head Wines – beautiful Barossa
Until Tuesday, I’d tasted Head Wines once and once only. Though I’d read much about them, they were not exported to the UK, but Alex Head kindly sent me samples when I was judging at the Hunter Valley Show in 2015. As you can see from this earlier post, I was beguiled by his beautifully sculpted Barossan reds, so it’s great news that Amathus Wines (who also own retail stores) has just started importing them to the UK.
Since my first taste, Head has twice been a finalist in Australia’s Young Gun Awards and the range seems to have expanded in leaps and bounds. Here are my notes on those latest releases shown by Amathus. From the entry level H Series and mid-range Limited Series of his portfolio, they struck me as pretty classy at £21-27.
Bushfire heads up
Incidentally, but importantly, I tasted them at Tuesday’s Wine Australia Annual Trade Tasting, where the industry was out in force to underline that Australia is very much open for business, despite the bushfires.
According to Wine Australia, only around 1% of Australia’s vineyards are in areas affected by fires, not all vineyards in these areas are fire damaged and it is too early to assess other damage, including possible smoke taint.
In support of those who have suffered loss (whether in the wine industry or not), Wine Australia has collated information about fund-raising wine tastings, dinners and events in the UK and charities offering support here.
An email popped into my inbox today about a fund-raising initiative by Margaret River’s producers (who are unaffected). Details of their auction here, which features some very enticing lots.
Please donate generously. And keep buying Australian wine, especially from the Adelaide Hills, sections of whose vineyards have been hardest hit by fire damage.
Head Wines tasting notes
Head H Series Riesling 2018 (Eden Valley)
A feather-weight 10.9% alcohol, which Head attributes to ‘sugar block’ from heat very early in the growing season. It was cool fermented on some solids, then aged on lees for 5 months with 10% used French oak, which perhaps explains why it doesn’t feel skinny. Doubtless the long cool Indian Summer of 2018 helped too. It has a gentle roundness to the palate. Nice intensity, with slatey minerality, classic lime-driven citrus fruit/acidity and a hint of petrol. The fruit is sourced from 50-70 year old vines from the ‘Stonegarden’ vineyard at 400m in Springton, which Head describes as providing the backbone, whilst he says Pendee Farm gives tropical fruit and Kroehn brings all the lime/citrus. Nicely done and, as befits this tier, very accessible now. 11% RRP£17-18 Amathus Wines
Head H Series ‘Red’ Barossa Valley Shiraz 2018 (Barossa Valley)
Described as “a barrel cull” from up to 15 Barossa vineyards, (80% Eden Valley, 20% Barossa Valley), averaging 35 years old and ranging between 260-500m elevation. A provenance which accounts for its bright, svelte, juicy blackberry palate, cedar spice and fine-leaved tannins. It was aged for around 12 months on fine lees in a mix of mix of 2,250l, 600l, 500l, 300l & 228 French oak vats and barrels, with c. 10% new French oak. Really flies; fruit-centred, but elegant. 14.2% RRP£21 Amathus Wines
Head Limited Series Old Vine Barossa Valley Grenache 2018 (Barossa Valley)
Ahah! I am glad to read the tasting note for this wine and discover that it has 8% Mourvedre. It perhaps explains why I found it so inky and dark on the nose and palate. Darker and more savoury than I expected, with rising, tapering tannins (I find Mourvedre often provides a backbone of spicy tannin, which asserts itself on the finish). A serious proposition, with plenty of structure. Though the tannins are plentiful, they are fine. And whilst it has a dark spectrum of fruit, it is medium-bodied and deftly balanced, with juice (freshness) and lift (violets). Once again, grapes are predominantly (92%) sourced from the Eden Valley (Springton at 420m), with the balance from Koonunga at 240m elevation. The dry grown vines ranged from 131-160-years-old. This wine was (naturally) whole-bunch fermented, with no crushing or temperature control, hand-plunged and foot-trodden. Racked once during elevage of 12 months on lees in 500l & 600l French oak barrels (10% new) and bottled unfined. 14.2% £27 Amathus Wines
Head Limited Series Old Vine Barossa Valley Shiraz 2018 (Eden Valley)
It has been a good month for Shiraz tasting, about which more to follow. With three ticks (top marks) in my booklet, my pick of the bunch of Head’s wines is this Old Vine Shiraz. Exclusively sourced from Eden Valley vineyards, it hails from vines aged between 35-160-years-old, at 380-500m. Not exclusively Shiraz, it features 10% Grenache. This Old Vine cuvee is a sensualist’s feast – earthy and inky, with cedar and spice and a levity to its flamboyant, fragrant, but svelte, red and black berry fruit. Fine tannins, seemingly seamless, but subtly marshalling, carry a long, impeccably balanced finish. Transporting. Just lovely. Fermented with some whole-bunches, racked once during elevage of 12 months on lees in 300l and 500l French oak (20% new). 14.1% RRP£27 Amathus Wines