Shaw and Smith create a Sauvignon explosion in the Adelaide hills

  • Sharebar
image from smith and shaw

Two guys with little left to prove and plenty to drink are the Adelaide Hills based duo, cousins actually, Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW.Image from shaw and smith wines

First they chose the vineyard site 20 years ago (around 1989), then they established the business from the ground up. It was de rigueur to be a cool climate crusader and their Balhannah main vineyard leapt into prominence quite quickly with the fancy sauvignon blanc that it grew.

Quite frankly there were cooler places to the south in South Australia to plant-Wrattonbully, Coonawarra, Mount Benson, all being the subject of extensive planting rages, mainly red grapes on a broad and massive scale. Sauvignon blanc hardly figured.

The Adelaide Hills did have a sauvignon blanc record-industry greats Geoff Weaver (Geoff Weaver brand) and Tim Knappstein (Riposte) were making cracker drinks.

Yes sauvignon; while the Kiwis were getting their Marlborough juggernaut into action, Shaw + Smith just extended the profile of the Adelaide Hills as a very fine address to have on a sauvignon blanc bottle.

What was inside? A wine which poured pale in the glass but generally smelling riper than the normal supermarket tidal wave, eliminating the cut grass and peapod which gets up critics noses.

So Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (92) 11.95 GBP is one most pleasant sauvignon. This description comes courtesy of some very good vineyard management, and some careful grape selection and wine management.

Martin Shaw is the winemaking part of the team but I cannot help but feel that what I see in the bottle is a team drink, and not a single input. The company also employs a staff winemaker. Behind the wine is equally as much sensory style input and ongoing wine making feedback from Michael Hill Smith, Master of Wine because that is snap shot of the man-a clear and clever thinker.

So after twenty years of Shaw + Smith the Sauvignon Blanc remains an excellent wine and moreso because it has continued to grow in dozens exported around the world.

Shaw + Smith have flirted with pinot noir (an obligatory cool climate grape) and have just recently released one. However a better hero story just has to their Adelaide Hills shiraz. Establishment years tell us that shiraz was not a suitable grape for the region. Why? It’s to difficult to ripen-conditions are seen as too cool in the early 90s.

Fast forward to now, and the rewards of climate change in the cooler spots of the Adelaide Hills become obvious. That dog has gone and shiraz ripens with opulence.

Recently I presided over a world classics masterclass for a charity auction-the shiraz section included two Australian names, one warm region wine, Grant Burge Meshach 2005 (96) and one emerging classic cool region wine, Shaw + Smith 2009 (96).

Meshach is a boomer, aging with class while the Shaw + Smith is the total opposite. Its part of the plot where shiraz has two faces; one is to be age worthy, the other brilliantly and immediately drinkable.

Shiraz grown in the Adelaide Hills is presenting as an easy drop, what tannins there are become tucked away into a silky, slinky palate that just oozes of the fruit flavours. Oak hardly figures. This flavour is quite distinctive-mainly the black fruits spectrum, dark cherry, sour red fruits, just intense examples that carry the wine flavour and texture on to the softest of mouth finishes.

So now shiraz has a mighty presence, this example carefully nurtured to fairly high ripeness to gain this described drinkability.

So two blokes have made a double decade impression of it in Balhannah in the Adelaide Hills, notching up gongs with sauvignon blanc, shiraz and also chardonnay.

Image from Shaw and Smith wines