Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 21

21 12 2018

By Peter Vetsch

I will admit it, Advent team:  I am nearing the end of my blogging rope.  The culmination of the calendar, Christmas shopping, pre-holiday work deadlines and child sport activities has me completely drained, so as half-bottle Advent peaks to its climax, I am beginning to wear down.  Nevertheless, we aren’t about to stop with the end so near.  We fight with words and persevere.


So out of the wrapping paper tonight comes…ANOTHER Pinot?  That oddly makes three in five days, after Monday’s Day 17 Ken Wright Oregon masterpiece and Wednesday’s Day 19 Cristom Oregon encore.  This one is…not from Oregon, I guess?  That’s not entirely fair.  If I had pulled this from the calendar on Day 4, or in the midst of the weird run of 2013s, I suspect I would have been pretty psyched about it.  The 2016 Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir from Adelaide Hills is a $50+ bottle retail, from an exciting new-wave producer known for quality.

The winery was founded in 1989 by Michael Hill Smith and his cousin Martin Shaw, both of whom were impeccably credentialed for the venture:  Smith was initially part of the family ownership of Yalumba before being bought out in 1986, and is also a Cordon Bleu-trained chef and Australia’s first-ever Master of Wine, while Shaw was himself a well-known wine consultant who was sought after by many producers needing winemaking assistance.  They grounded their venture in the chilly Adelaide Hills, which is in central-southern Australia near Barossa but 4 degrees cooler on average during the day and a whopping 8 degrees cooler at night, allowing for longer, gentler ripening and the preservation of precious grape acidity.  Grapes have been planted here for two centuries, but it wasn’t until my lifetime that viticulture really came alive on a global scale (not that I can take any credit).  “Higher, colder, wetter” is how Shaw + Smith summarize their Mount Lofty Ranges subregion as compared to nearby Barossa; while only a half hour from coastal Adelaide, it is at 700 metres above sea level…things go up in a hurry.


Smith + Shaw now have 55 hectares of their own vineyards that are mostly focused on Sauvignon Blanc (of all things), Chardonnay, Shiraz and Riesling, but some small plots of Pinot sneak in and get the cool-climate treatment as well.  Grapes are handpicked and are fermented partly in whole-bunch form (stems rule) and spend 15 days macerating on skins.  All aging takes place in large old French oak barrels and does not transfer any flavour to the resulting wines.


Stelvin Rating:  5.5/10 (Hard to see in the pic, but the raised writing is a nice touch.)

This is very unlike the other two Pinots from this last full week of Advent, a fact that becomes apparent as soon as you see the wine emerge from the bottle:  it is a notably transparent, almost watery, ruby colour, brittle and delicate.  Tart red fruit (Ocean Spray cranberry juice, rhubarb, underripe cherry), purple flowers and emery board/grip tape aromas dominate the nose, but I am immediately distracted by what happens when you try to taste.  You almost can’t let this wine sit on your tongue for any period of time due to the level of compressed energy inside of it; it is physically unpleasant to allow this coiled spring to be still.  Once set free, this Pinot is deft and agile, light-bodied to the point of thinness, only just barely ripe and exhibiting all of the characteristics that go along with this sharp, biting, slightly bitter, slightly sour profile, intentionally walking the line between refreshment and discomfort.  Stems and stalks, pomegranates and rosewater and pickle juice and anger, this is almost too severe to be enjoyed but falls just shy of that line.  I need a nap.

88 points



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