Heroes of the Barossa | Tasting Review | July 2019

This tasting was aptly named the “Heroes of the Barossa”. Stu Blackwell and Craig Stansborough are indeed two of the Barossa’s most respected winemakers.

Stuart Blackwell’s winemaking career spans more than four decades, first joining St Hallett in 1972. In 1975 Stuart spent 7 years in Africa, establishing a winery in Zimbabwe (known then as Rhodesia) and met his wife Faith. He returned to St Hallett in 1984 and during this time he has overseen a shift to table wine and has established St Hallett as one of the Barossa’s most iconic producers of Shiraz and Riesling. He was recognised as ‘Barossa Winemaker of the year’ by his peers in 2003 and became a Baron of the Barossa in the same year.

Craig Stansborough is Barossan born and bred – Craig grew up with the wine industry around him. He started as a cellar hand with B Seppelt & Son in 1983, firstly at Chateau Tanunda and then later at Seppeltsfield. Craig joined Grant Burge Wines in 1993 as Cellar Manager and was soon promoted to Assistant Winemaker in 1994, Winemaker in 1995 and Senior Winemaker in 1997, with his meteoric rise within the company being due to his ‘enormous talents, leadership, inquisitive mind, and his unrelenting passion for winemaking’.

Whilst St Hallett and Grant Burge were family owned wineries, in the last couple of years they have been acquired by the Accolade wine group (also Hardy, Mud House, Waipara Hills, Petaluma..) which is in turn owned by the Carlyle Group, an American private equity investment corporation. Both Craig and Stuart say the international machinations of corporate ownership has no bearing on how they approach winemaking decisions and they have a completely free hand.

St Hallett was established by the Linder Family in 1944 mainly for fortified production. The arrival of Stuart in the 1970s saw the focus move to mainly Shiraz and as we saw at the tasting, they have some excellent wines in their range, culminating in the Old Block.

Grant Burge Wines established more recently in 1988 by Grant & Helen Burge, utilizing the family’s long history of grape growing in the region. Craig has quite an international palate and his finessed approach shows in the wines – definitely Barossan but with added layers of subtlety.

As expected, this was an excellent tasting with both the wines and the presenters starring.

St Hallett Gamekeepers SGT 2018

What a wonderful wine this is. Always consistently good, this would be the best we’ve seen under this label. Darkly coloured with juicy, fleshy fruit flavours. A blend of Grenache (53%), Shiraz (38%) and a small amount of Touriga Nacional. Whilst the Grenache and Shiraz are common varieties in the Barossa, Touriga is not as much so. It is a Portuguese variety mainly used in fortified wines and St Hallett have made good use of it in this blend, adding a ‘rose petal’ aromatic quality. Oak plays a background part in this wine – it is all about juicy freshness.

Grant Burge Holy Trinity GSM 2014

Produced from 50 -120 yo old vines, this release is a blend of 38% Grenache, 37% Shiraz and 25% Mourvèdre. Craig is a great fan of the old style wax lined concrete fermenters he uses for this wine, leaving the wine on skins for an extended period (almost like making a Pinot Noir). After fermentation, the wine is aged in larger format older French oak puncheons and Foudres. The result is a wine that is mellow, silken and fine. Dark plum, subtle spice and a hint of meatiness. It is beautifully integrated.

St Hallett Faith Shiraz 2017

This label has been at the core of the St Hallett range for many years and named after Stuarts wife, Faith. It represents the Classic Barossan style and Stuart says it is often used in the Master of Wine exams (including this year) for that reason. Fruit is selected from a variety of sites throughout the Barossa. Aged in a mix of new and older French and American oak for 18 months. Classic Barossan flavours – red tending to darker fruits.

Grant Burge Barossa Ink Shiraz 2017

Craig says this wine has been made in a deliberate style – given a warmer ferment to extract flavour and colour. This is aptly named. The colour is inky purple/black. The palate is plush – smooth and creamy with just enough grittiness on the back palate to give interest. A crowd pleasing style.

St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2015

Although modest, Stuart is obviously very proud to have his name on this label. Originally created to offer an alternative to the Old Block. The fruit is sourced mainly from the Northern Barossa – the Ebenezar district in particular.
This is a big, hearty Shiraz with dark fruits, mocha/ roasted coffee, black olive flavours. There is a real presence on the palate – think ‘thick’.

Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2016

For many years this has been a stalwart of Vino Fino’s Barossa wine range, long recognised for its superb quality, longevity and value. Sourced from a number of Old Vine Vineyards, but mainly Filsell. Power and elegance combined with nicely integrated oak and a delicious plum cocoa character. An excellent wine from an excellent vintage.

St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2013

An iconic Barossa Shiraz, The Old Block lives up to its name, sourcing fruit from low cropping old vines from 80 to well over 100 years old. 60% of the fruit comes from the Barossa Valley and 40% from the cooler Eden Valley. This is a powerhouse of a wine showing a dense core and layers of flavours. Can be enjoyed over the next 20+ years with good cellaring.

Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz 2011

This too is from very old vines, many over 100 years. All from Barossa Valley fruit and aged in a mix of French and American oak. 2011 was a more ‘difficult’ vintage in the Barossa and Craig said they worked hard to make the best possible wine. As is often the case when things are a bit harder, the tough get going …. The 2011 stood out as a wine with maturity and developed characters on its side. Old savoury spice, forest floor, plum fruit flavours with the oak seamlessly integrated.

Grant Burge Aged Tawny

Fortified wines were once the heart of the Barossa wine production. Grant Burge are now one of only a few that have continued. This Tawny has an average age of around 8 years. Raisin, fruitcake, orange caramel flavours. A warm, hearty way to finish a tasting of Barossan reds.