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Gentle and reliable Hills Shiraz

Wine

Whitey’s been swimming in three new-release Shiraz wines from the Drogemuller family at Paracombe.

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Despite the wet 2011 year being very, very tricky, Paracombe Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2011 ($23; 14.8% alcohol; screw cap) is typical of the gentle, dead-reliable reds released year-in year-out by the Drogemuller family in their beautiful vineyard and winery complex above the Torrens Gorge at Paracombe.

This is exquisite Shiraz, warm and polished to a silky sheen. As usual with this brand, the wine doesn’t seem quite as strong as that alcohol number infers: its acidity and splinter of spicy French oak balance its plummy opulence nicely.

To get premium high-country fruit like this on the market at $23 is remarkably generous: across the river at Balhannah, Shaw & Smith is selling its 2013 Shiraz at $44. Some would argue that that extra $21 is justified as that particular S&S won the best wine of the show in the Adelaide Hills wine races late last year. But. But. But. I think the Paracombe wine has better form and balance.

That’s always been the Droggie manner: look after your customers.

There’s another Paracombe Shiraz – same vintage; same alcohol; same price – with a free sploosh of Viognier which seems to have brought the tannins into a more crisp focus. Rather than adding ripe apricot jam to what is usually quite ripe jammy Shiraz in most Australian makers’ attempts, Paracombe has got it right: this is what Viognier should be used for.

If picked fresh enough, it has quite bright phenolic tannins which will work the Shiraz phenolics over beautifully. If anything, this clever blend could use another year or two of cellar to be drunk at its optimum.

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Somerville Shiraz 2010 ($69; 16% alcohol; cork) comes from the 1903 vineyard of Jas Somerville, the first bloke to plant vines on the Paracombe plateau.

Seventy years back, when John Davoren was perfecting his St Henri Claret recipe opposite Penfolds Grange at Auldana, he loved using the gentle, rich fruit of these vines. Fifty years later, when Paul Drogemuller attempted to buy the last (barely) surviving patch of the vineyard, the owner refused to part with the ground, so Paul purchased the 500 vines as individual plants, took them back to his vineyard up the hill, and replanted them around his house in 1997.

While Paul and son Ben let this fruit fully ripen to alcohols higher than many nowadays prefer, it’s easy to see how such gentle flavour went so well in the blend of Davoren’s St Henri – it would have provided what Max Schubert purringly called called “a mother wine”. Here you can purr over the mother wine, unblended.

While 16 is a fair few alcohols, this vintage in particular seems so silky and luxuriously balanced you’d never know. Yum. Steak please.

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