James Suckling Tasting Report

James Suckling Tasting Report:

Looking for Balanced Reds in Barossa Valley


I haven’t released until now a small Rhone-style red tasting I did in Australia’s Barossa Valley following judging at the Barossa Wine Show last fall. As written in a blog then, I came to Barossa as a personal dare more than anything else. Ian Hongel, a friend and senior winemaker of Peter Lehmann Wines, said that his region was making many balanced and complex wines now compared to the big, jammy and mostly undrinkable wines that many of us grew to associate with the Barossan the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As I wrote in a column for Asia Tatler magazines, these overdone wines are becoming less and less apparent in the Barossa Valley wine world. And they have lost favor in most parts of the world. There’s a new classic for Australian wines emerging from here that everyone should discover and enjoy. The benchmark Barossa Valley shiraz shows a typicity and style that can be compared to the best syrahs of France. Some even resemble Burgundy with their delicacy and freshness. Click here for a copy of the story from the site.

With all this and more in mind, I asked my friend and wine writer Mike Bennie to help me put together a small tasting of popular Barossa Valley reds made mostly from shiraz and grenache, but also blends that he thought were refined and balanced. And here is what I tasted blind over a couple of days. I found some fabulous wines particularly from Penfolds, Head, Spinifex and Massena.

Sure, there were some jammy and overdone wines as expected. And I understand how some people like this Port-like character. I couldn’t give these wines rating of 90 or more points.

But I was happy to find many harmonious, delicious wines that make me thirsty just thinking about them. They have all the succulent, savory and intense flavor and richness of a great, classic style Rhone red. They were definitely @realaussiewines.