The 121 Settlers Old Vine Shiraz is sourced from a single site at the cooler southern extremity of Barossa, in St. Jakobi, abutting the western ridge of the Lyndoch sub-zone. Here, a conflation of red clay and loam promotes earlier ripening, a mitigating factor against inclement weather and the growing risk of early season frosts that Climate Change has foisted upon us. As importantly these dense soils imbue the wines with a firm tannic carriage, ensuring passage to greater complexity in the cellar, while serving as a structural harness for typically exuberant Barossan fruit.
The average age of the vines is in excess of 35 years, with gnarled octogenarian survivors among them. Yields are inherently low as the established root systems reach deep below the soil’s substrata in search of water and the requisite nutrients drawn through it. Yet the fruit that is produced is immaculate: vibrant, concentrated and firmly stamped with the regional postcode of generosity.
The winemaking is dutifully sensitive, chaperoning the fruit from vineyard to bottle with minimal intrusion: gravity feeds, gentle pigeage and 16-18 months in used, rather than new, oak. The result is one of dark fruit allusions from plum to blackberry, underlain by a potpourri of spice including black pepper, clove and star anise, all melded to a pungent thread of mineral. The oak is apparent, but only as an adjunct to propel the finish long. As with many Barossan greats, the fruit weight allows for early appeal, albeit, this is a wine that will easily cellar for 15 years onwards.
Colonel William Light, the South Australian colony’s Surveyor-General, named the Barossa in 1837 after the site of an English victory over the French in the Spanish Peninsular War. In the mid-1800’s Silesian and English immigrants settled in the area. The Barossa itself comprises two distinct sub-regions: Eden Valley and the warmer Barossa Valley floor at 270m.The Barossa Valley enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate characterised by hot dry summers and relatively low rainfall. Cool sea breezes from the Gulf of St Vincent modify the temperature, however hot northerly winds can occasionally dominate creating considerable vine stress. Many older established vineyards are dry-grown, but supplementary irrigation is also extensively used. The valley is comprised of rich brown soils and alluvial sands. A long history of uninterrupted viticulture in the area means the Barossa valley is home to Australia’s largest concentration of old-vine Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre with many over 100 years old. Although most famous for Shiraz, the Barossa can also produce fragrant and deliciously fruity Grenache blends and beautifully rich, chocolatey Cabernet Sauvignons.