IT'S always a pleasure to receive wine for review from Andrew Thomas and I got a special kick out of tasting Thommo's nine new 2017 reds last week.
That enjoyment came from a truly superb $85 flagship 2017 Kiss Shiraz and the belief that the 2017 Hunter red vintage is arguably better than the great 2014.
Another bonus is two newcomers to the Thomas portfolio, the $45 Belford Shiraz and the $35 The Cote Shiraz.
The lineup also includes the 2017 Synergy Shiraz ($25), Two of a Kind Shiraz ($25), DJV Shiraz ($35), Sweetwater Shiraz ($35), Elenay Shiraz ($55) and The Dam Block Shiraz ($45) and all nine are at thomaswines.com.au and the Pokolbin cellar door.
The Cote shiraz is interesting, coming as it does from a 2.8-hectare vineyard planted in 1971 on the grubbed-out site of the Wilkinson family Cte d'Or vineyard. Cte d'Or, the name borrowed from the home of some of the greatest wines of France's Burgundy Region, was one of the 1866-planted Wilkinson vineyards famous in the annals of Hunter wine.
The present Hunter Cote d'Or, south of the Audrey Wilkinson Oakdale vineyard, has been owned since 2015 by Sydney businessman Peter Wiggs - a long-standing fan of Thomas wines.
Andrew Thomas says he was delighted when Peter first offered Cote d'Or fruit to him in 2016 - a proposal stymied for that vintage when the vineyard was decimated by hail.
The inaugural Thomas Belford Shiraz comes from the RidgeView vineyard planted in 2000 by Sydney dentist Darren Scott and wife Tracey. Andrew says that the vineyard backs onto the property from which he sources the fruit for his Sweetwater shiraz reds. Iris Capital's Sam Arnaout bought the 48-hectare former Duncan Hardie-owned Sweetwater Estate in 2016.
Andrew says both vineyards have similar reddish loam soil over limestone and spotted with ironstone and were both planted about 1998, but the Belford is marginally fuller and in a slightly darker fruit spectrum than the perfumed, red-fruited Sweetwater shiraz.
Andrew has a "hands off" approach to his red winemaking, letting the character of each vineyard shine through. New oak maturation is mostly limited to 25 per cent to 30 per cent, with the DJV shiraz matured entirely in older oak and the Elena shiraz an exception at closer to 50 per cent new oak.
"Fruit is destemmed but not crushed and less adjustments to the fruit ferment, a gentler approach to cap management and less new oak are a few examples of our approach to red winemaking these days," he says.
DEBUT FOR THE COTE
With 14.5 per cent alcohol, this inaugural Andrew Thomas 2017 The Cote Shiraz is bright crimson and has scents of cherries and lavender. Lovely lifted mulberry flavour comes through on the front palate, Satsuma plum, spice, peppermint chocolate and cedary oak integrate on the middle palate and earthy tannins at the finish
DRINK WITH: veal saltimbocca.
AGEING: seven years.
RATING: 5 stars
BRIGHT BELFORD SHIRAZ
THIS other Thomas debut red, the Andrew Thomas 2017 Belford Shiraz glows bright purple in the glass, has 14.5% alcohol and potpourri aromas. Spicy blackcurrant flavour displays on the front of the palate, elements of rhubarb, licorice, cloves and vanillin oak combine on the middle palate and minty tannins show at the finish.
DRINK WITH: rare roast rack of lamb.
AGEING: 12 years.
RATING: 5 stars
WORTHY FLAGSHIP RED
THE Andrew Thomas 2017 Kiss Shiraz is a worthy flagship red. With 14.5% alcohol, it is bright garnet and entices with berry pastille aromas. The front palate shows vibrant cassis flavour and ripe blood plum and spearmint, spice, Turkish delight chocolate and restrained mocha oak meld on the middle palate. The finish has chalky tannins.
DRINK WITH: filet mignon.
AGEING: 15 years.
RATING: 5.5 stars