Thorn-Clarke | Tasting Review | May 2019

The first wines released under the Thorn-Clarke label was in 2001, but the family history of wine growing in the Barossa goes back 6 generations. Thorn-Clarke was created by the marriage of David Clarke and Cheryl Clarke (nee Thorn). The Thorn family having been growing grapes in the Barossa for 6 generations with the home vineyard Milton Park near Angaston having some of the oldest vines in the Barossa, going back to the 1850s.  Today the family are one of the largest growers in the Barossa with 270ha across four sites – St Kitts & Truro in the Northern Barossa, Kabininge on the Valley floor near Tunanda, Mt Crawford, Eden Valley and the ‘home’ vineyard, Millton, near Angaston.

Tonight’s tasting looked at the value range, Sandpiper, moving to the Shotfire and William Randell wines, finishing with the superb and relatively rare “Ron”. We were all very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the wines and given the price points, also the value. The Shotfire wines especially, stand-up to wines much higher in price.

Thorn Clarke’s sales/marketing Chris Walsh was an excellent presenter.

Sandpiper Riesling 2014

From the Eden Valley vineyard. Starting to show some aged characters with sherberty lemon, Roses lime marmalade on toast flavours. Fresh and dry.

Sandpiper Merlot 2017

A good deep colour in the glass – in fact all the reds were darkly coloured; they just got more intense as we went through the ranges. Barossa may not be famous for its Merlot, but this is a very good commercial example.

Sandpiper Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Being from a cooler Barosssan vintage, this has some classical Cabernet fruit flavours of blackcurrant, thyme, mint and cassis. As with all three Sandpiper reds, this has a ripe softness, whilst retaining good weight and structure for current drinking

Sandpiper Shiraz 2017

Almost black colour with upfront juicy doris plum fruit flavours. Plump and juicy and although quite soft on the palate it has some slightly dusty tannins to give a bit of strength through the back palate.

Shotfire Quartage 2016

Immediately in the glass it is apparent that there’s something a bit more serious going on here.  A blend of Bordeaux varieties 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. This vintage was notable for the higher than usual percentage of Cabernet Franc, adding a lifted, floral (violets) character. Inky dark this has depth, richness and generosity on the palate. A big ball of flavour coated by fine oak tannins. You get a lot of wine for your money here.

Shotfire Shiraz 2016

Like the Quartage, this is dark and opulent. Aged in 100% American oak (40% new) this is undeniably an old school Barossan Shiraz with dark fruits, tarry, coffee, gamey flavours.

William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

And then stepping it up again with the William Randell range. Impenetrable inky dark colour. The theme of plush, full flavouredness continues. Wonderful aromatics then the palate is super balanced. There is the structure and depth for the wine to develop in a cellar for years but it is so approachable now (always a sign of class).

William Randell Shiraz 2016

Big, dense and powerful. The American oak is on show, but there is just so much ripe fruit intensity that it is soaked into the whole wine. Plum fruits, spice, liquorice, coconutty oak, mocha…. Opulent and luxurious.

Ron Thorn Shiraz 2015

A single vineyard Shiraz from the St Kitts vineyard at the Northern edge of Barossa. Only produced in the best vintages this one of those ‘iron fist in velvet glove’ wines. Aged in 100% new American oak, yet this is not overtly recognisable on the palate. Big, dense, powerhouse, layers of flavours.