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Brilliant organics in the Riverland


Whitey loves the new Tom’s Drop Berri Shiraz – a work of passion that proves you can wallow in supple luxury well below 15 per cent alcohol and a long way below $30.

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Tom’s Drop Premium Shiraz 2015
($24; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Contrary to a paranoia peculiar to some of the biggest-irrigating Mallee cults, I love to love what the Riverland can do when it turns off the water and tries.

Check this slice of Christmas cake from Berri. It reminds me of some of that stinkin Shiraz from around Greenock in the Barossa. Like best. This one’s grown and made by that irrepressible trier Michael O’Donohoe, who names it after his grandfather Tom.

That’s Tom on the label with his six brothers on the goldfields in 1896. They put bore water through that still to make it safe to drink and retailed it to keep their rival diggers alive while they bankrolled their own prospect. Which is the best excuse I’ve ever heard for running a still of that size on a goldfield.

“We use it only to make water, your honour.”

No room for water in this wine. This sicko blossom of a thing really is as rich and hearty as fruitcake full of raisins and currants. It’s fresher and less nutty than the Italian panforte I often savour in grand Shiraz: this is straight through into the plush bedchamber of thoroughbred Shiraz monarchy. It’s really swoony in the way it spins me out to recollections of great fruit puddings and plum cakes gutsed discumbent in many favoured places. It has the most gradual rind, cinnamon and nutmeg seasoning and then in a late epiphany I get a lash of fresh blackstrap licorice.

It’s never porty. I mean 13.5 alcohols is dreamland ideal but hardly commonplace in Murray-Darling reds. Neither are vineyards like this too thick on the ground: organic since 1986 and so licensed since 1991. Michael uses only a dribble of water to keep his polycultural vineyard below the magic “two-tonnes-to-the-acre” you find dry-grown on mighty Barossa bush vines.

It’s really strappy-in-the-craic Shiraz that finds you amusing as it soothes the laughing gear with a fine unctuous syrup. Then the satin acid shimmer and luxurious velvet tannin crew march in like the Vatican Guard and demand to know what you’re doing in there.

In fact, the wine seems so honestly refined and perfected its unlikelihood carries a certain covert air.

“I’m only cleaning this dirty water, your Grace.”

Refreshing, alive, delightful: both satisfying and tantalising, Tom’s Drop is a work of passion that flat out proves you can save a great deal of precious river water and wallow in supple luxury well below 15 per cent alcohol. And a long way below $30, if only Michael would make his pricing more clear on the website.

It just goes to show what can be done in the Riverland. I recall Penfolds reds Max Schubert made from Riverland vines, and the brilliant Bullamakanka, which Karl Seppelt made to ridicule the Spanish, as really worthwhile under-priced reds in the ’70s. Delicious wonders like Brian Barry’s Berri Estates Jimmy Watson Trophy-winning Cabernet Shiraz 1972 …

This living lovely takes me there. There’s not been much else since.

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