Despite having two MW’s on the team plus a highly regarded Australian winemaker, their early steps into selecting vineyards, buying grapes, choosing oak, deciding how to make the wine all felt like they were chancing their arm a little. They had to learn fast but perhaps the first lesson they learned was that however experienced, however serene they looked on the outside, all winemakers face a different set of problems every harvest and all winemakers need a Cunning Plan. Many years on, this wine reminds us that however much we have learned, there is always more to learn. Unashamedly Australian, this contemporary McLaren Vale Shiraz draws on incredible fruit grown at low yields (2.5t per acre) coupled with the Thistledown approach of picking on the way up rather than the way down. This results in fruit arriving in the winery in great condition, full of flavor and energy. Fermented using whole berries rather than crushed fruit, there is a focus on the vibrant cassis and wild cherry aromas which are enhanced by the wild fermentation. 10 months in 300l French oak adds spicy complexity but never dominates. The texture is lush, yet lithe and beautifully balanced.
Great depth of ripe plum, blueberry and blackberry fruit flavors. As usual for this region, a distinctive trace of bitter chocolate weaves its way through the fruit core. A full bodied wine with a succulent palate, lively spices and fine velvety tannins.
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96 pts Top 100 James Halliday – A full-bodied shiraz that reflects cunning winemaking. Whole berry fermentation has put a rich gloss on the palate without overloading the tannin structure. The predominantly black berry fruit is shot through with licorice, spice and an airbrush of dark chocolate. Drink to 2039, screwcap, 14.5% alc
93 pts Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com – smoothly delivered shiraz that has deep, fleshy and seductive appeal. The fresh blackberry, plum and mulberry aromas are nicely dosed with oak spice and deliver such soft, smooth style on the palate. Really effortless drinkability. Drink now. Screw cap.
92 pts Gary Walsh, The Wine Front – I tend to think of Thistledown as being Grenache specialists, but they turn out some pretty stylish Shiraz too. Floral with black fruit, chocolate and something like dried beef. A good dose of McLaren Shiraz here offering flavour with some restraint, a good amount of chewy texture, some spice and fruitcake on a solid finish. Tidy.
BRONZE MEDAL Royal Adelaide Wine Show 2020
Right across South Australia, the 2019 vintage will be remembered as a very challenging one. Very dry conditions persisted throughout the growing season while some areas also had to contend with frost, hail and wind – all of which reduced the crop but helped increase concentration and quality.
The fruit for this wine comes from the Moray Park vineyard in the McLaren Flat sub-region. Low yielding and ultra-intense, they handle the fruit really gently to capture the delicious berry fruit character. Winemaking is simple and old school with The Cunning Plan. Take perfectly balanced fruit, picked by hand, gently crush to preserve whole berries and allow to cold soak for 4 days, prior to a wild fermentation. Following the ferment, pressed off to 300 L French hogsheads, of which 15% are new, where the wine ages for 10 months, prior to being bottling unfined and unfiltered.