On the Trail

The Artisan of Barossa

Ryan Woodhouse

I was at a seminar in San Francisco a while back and a panel of Australian winemakers (including John Duval) were arguing about the use of Syrah vs. Shiraz. Some said they used Syrah to denote that they were making a cooler climate style, with more restraint like one would typically associate with French expressions of Syrah. Duval interjected saying "we're from Australia, we make f—king Shiraz. Just because I call it Shiraz doesn't mean it has to be some over-ripe fruit bomb; Shiraz can be just as elegant and perfumed as Syrah. What name you use shouldn't dictate the style you make or vice versa." His comments really struck a chord with me and I see this attitude in his wines. They are authentic expressions of the land they come from but also prove that balance and poise can be found even in the warmer growing regions of the world.

As proof of that authenticity, I'd recommend checking out the 2013 John Duval "Plexus", a Shiraz blend. I really enjoyed this latest release. John is a Barossa legend in the wine game, having worked at Penfolds for so many years.  I have always admired the purity and balance in his wines, and the elegance he brought the to the exemplary Grange releases, but this 2013 Plexus is something else. It's beautifully fresh and energetic with fine, but persistent tannins teasing the black and blue fruits long on the palate. Asian spices and a whiff of floral violets add a nice accent. Finishes dry and tight with elegant focus and restraint for such a powerful wine. In a blind tasting I may well have picked this as hailing from a cooler climate than Barossa, it has such poise and energy—much like John himself.

-Ryan Woodhouse