COVID-19 has transformed almost every aspect of life around the world and, for its part, the wine industry has had to make profound changes.
That was manifested for me last week at the 2020 launch of the $230-a-bottle Grant Burge 2016 Meshach Shiraz and seven other premium Barossa reds. The event took place online, with Burge chief winemaker Craig Stansborough presiding via Zoom over a tasting by wine writers safely ensconced in our homes and offices.
Bottles of the key releases, the Meshach, the $115 2016 Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon and $48 2018 Filsell Shiraz were sent in advance to the 17 participants, who were asked to decant, taste and exchange Zoom comments on each wine.
I've sampled every Meshach since the 1991 vintage and I have vivid memories of the 1997 Sydney launch of the 1993 conducted by Grant Burge. He served a gaggle of wine writers with the 1991 Meshach along with same-vintage Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace, Brokenwood Graveyard and two top-rank French Rhone reds, the Guigal Cote-Rotie Cotes Brunes et Blondes and the Chapoutier Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne.
From an experimental 1988 version, Grant developed Meshach as a flagship red aimed at ranking with Grange and Hill of Grace. The hugely muscular early wines copped criticism for being overloaded with American oak, but over time they have become more refined, multi-faceted and with well-judged largely French oak.
As my review indicates, the new-release 2016 is an outstanding Barossa shiraz.
Craig Stansborough says 2016 was great red vintage and the Meshach is "dense and elegant, with dominating aromatics of cinnamon, cloves, dark chocolate, black pepper and mulberry". He points out that the 2016 Shadrach was awarded the Barossa Wine Show trophy for the best cab sav in both 2018 and 2019.
The five other wines in the 2020 releases are the $100 2017 Nebu Cabernet-Shiraz and 2019 Abednego Shiraz-Grenache-Mourvedre and the $48 2018 Balthasar Shiraz, 2018 Holy Trinity Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre and 2018 Corryton Park Cabernet Sauvignon.
After beginning his wine career as a cellar hand in 1983, Craig joined the Burge company as cellar door manager in 1993, then rising to assistant winemaker and in 2006 to chief winemaker.
The Grant Burge business, founded in 1988 by Grant and wife Helen, was bought in 2015 by Accolade Wines which has maintained the biblical names of the flagship Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego reds.
This is a tradition Grant began to honour Meshach Burge, his great grandfather.
Accolade is controlled by the US Washington DC-based Carlyle private equity firm after a $A1 billion deal in 2018.
Beguiling Barossa red
WITH 14.4% alcohol, dense dark purple hues and beguiling cassis and cinnamon aromas, the Grant Burge 2016 Meshach Shiraz has intense plum front-palate flavour. The middle palate shows Maraschino cherry, licorice, Turkish delight chocolate, cloves and vanillin oak and a ferric tannin finish. At grantburgewines.com.au and shops. PRICE: $230. DRINK WITH: beef burgundy. AGEING: 15 years. RATING: 5.5 stars
A splendid Shadrach
THE 14.4%-alcohol Grant Burge 2016 Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon is the first 100% Barossa cabernet sauvignon Shadrach. It's bright garnet and features berry pastille and rosemary scents. The front palate has rich, ripe blackberry flavour, the middle palate mulberry, mint chocolate, spice and mocha oak and a finish of dusty tannins. PRICE: $115. DRINK WITH: duck a l'orange. AGEING: 12 years. RATING: 5 stars
GRAPES from century-old Barossa vines produced this berry fruit-driven, 14.4%-alcohol Grant Burge 2018 Filsell Shiraz.It displays brick red hues, fruitcake aromas and powerful blackcurrant front-palate flavour. Cranberry, capers, coffee cream chocolate and cedary oak harmonise on the middle palate and the finish shows chalky tannins. PRICE: $48. DRINK WITH: rack of lamb. AGEING: 10 years. RATING: 4.5 stars