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St Hallett’s new vintage is a chip off the Old Block

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Drinking at home has never been this much fun.

Prestige Barossa winery St Hallett has showcased its annual release of wines for 2020 in a virtual tasting event and revealed three brand-new wines to expand the company’s portfolio of special releases.

New vintages of the winery’s most esteemed wines – the 2016 Old Block Shiraz and the 2018 Blackwell Shiraz – were unveiled at an online wine tasting that, despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, enabled guests to hear St Hallett Senior Winemaker Helen McCarthy explain the origins, background and characteristics of each vintage, and then taste each wine from sample bottles posted earlier.

Brand new releases

The virtual tasting highlighted three new wines that St Hallett is confident will appeal to drinkers and wine collectors alike.

The 2018 Higher Earth Syrah is a first in this style for St Hallett and highlights the different growing conditions of the Eden Valley, an area Helen is passionate about. She pointed out that the area experienced almost perfect weather conditions during 2017, with good winter rain and no frosts, hail or heatwaves, so the 2018 vintage should be "almost perfect".

"The St Hallett 2018 Higher Earth Syrah is made from Eden Valley fruit from four vineyards and matured in French oak," she said during the tasting. "It shows a floral lift with raspberry, blackberry and cherry characters. This Syrah is inviting, bright with underlying pepper spice. It has polished tannins and a smooth, long finish."

Helen McCarthy, Senior Winemaker at St Hallett

It recently scored Gold at the Royal Perth Show, and Helen is confident it will become a firm favourite with many drinkers looking for a stylish wine to drink now and for the next few years. It has an RRP of A$60.

The big and bold 2018 Mighty Ox Shiraz is to be released in 1.5-litre magnums only, and under cork. This wine will appeal to collectors and St Hallett expects to sell most of it in Australia. As its name implies, it is "big and raw, and will definitely drink better in 10 years", Helen said. "It features a defined oak character on grapes from the north-west Barossa Valley."

It will retail for A$210.

The 2015 Planted 1919 Shiraz will be the winery’s most luxurious, refined wine of all, and will be available in very limited numbers from the cellar door and specialist wine retailers – just 360 bottles will be available in Australia and 1,200 globally. It is made only from Barossa vines over 100 years old – specifically the winery’s Eden Valley vineyard planted in 1919.

"The Planted Series is a tribute to the centenarian vines from Barossa and to the growers who have nurtured them," Helen explained. "It is because of their experience as world-class viticulturists that these vines produce exceptional quality. The 2015 vintage release celebrates the Noack family, sixth generation Barossa farmers, who have tended these vines for three decades."

This wine is matured in French oak, about one-third of which is new and the rest one or two years old. It has a "bright and lifted bouquet with lovely floral notes, with hints of white pepper. It features flavours of dark fruit, dark chocolate and dried herbs with a pure fruit line."

This is definitely one to cellar – St Hallett says it will drink well into the 2040s. It has an RRP of A$450.

This year's vintage releases from St Hallett

This 2018 vintage release of the St Hallett 2018 Blackwell Shiraz continues the fine tradition of this wine since 1994, named after St Hallett’s winemaker for over three decades, Stuart Blackwell. Sourced from vineyards in the Moppa Hills, Greenock and Ebenezer, the wine is matured for 12–18 months, and the result is a full-bodied shiraz with blackberry, cherry, chocolate and vanilla characters.

It is a decadent and opulent wine that will age well for 15–20 years, according to Helen. "Although the 2017 vintage was not a strong vintage, balance is key to this 2018 vintage. It’s elegant, masculine, maybe even a bit brutish," she said. "A dry growing season, an occasionally hot summer and a perfect autumn delivered densely flavoured wines."

It has a recommended retail price of A$55.

The 2016 St Hallett Old Block Shiraz was shown for the first time during the tasting, and was undoubtedly the tasting highlight of the event. St Hallett’s signature Shiraz enjoyed a particularly good year climatically, and the ideal conditions gave this vintage an opportunity to be considered one of the great vintages of this wine, Helen said.

This 34th vintage of Old Block is a 51–49 mix of Barossa Valley and Eden Valley grapes. The original vineyard was planted in 1926, but the winery is now sourcing fruit from elsewhere, although all vines are at least 45 years old, with an average age of 96 years. The wine is matured in a mix of old and new French oak after ideal growing conditions in 2015-16.

Helen McCarthy, Senior Winemaker at St Hallett

"The 2016 Old Block is an elegant, seamless, full-bodied wine complete with a silky palate and immaculate oak, with layers of dark cherry, blackberries, anise and white pepper," Helen said.

The just-released Halliday Wine Companion 2021 has judged the 2016 vintage and given it 97 points. St Hallett suggests cellaring this vintage until peak drinking in 2040–50. It has an RRP of A$159.

English born Helen McCarthy joined St Hallett last year as Senior Winemaker after more than 20 years of study and experience with well-established names like Lindeman’s, Seppelts, Wynns and Penfolds. She worked in the Clare Valley, and while at Taylors Wines she was awarded the Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine’s Kemeny’s Medal for Young Winemaker of the Year. She won a scholarship for the Len Evans Tutorial and was involved in the Wine Industry Future Leaders Program. She has also begun her career as a wine judge.

Helen became custodian of Mountadam Vineyards in the Eden Valley in 2015, an area she holds in special regard for its winegrowing potential, until she joined St Hallett in 2019.

These wines will be available in selected wine merchants and the cellar door in November 2020.

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