Ben Glaetzer called it early. The fruit had barely come of the vine when he raved about one of the best harvests he’d ever seen – and this Baron of the Barossa has seen a few. When we visited Ben last summer, he was the cat that got the cream. He was in the midst of vintage on a baking hot day in the valley, and yet was fair dancing around the tanks as he reflected on the wines we’re now presenting, a huge smile on that unmistakeable Glaetzer dial.
Bishop was the first of these to roll onto sweet ’16, and it’s one to convert the non-believers. No need to genuflect, no need to worship – but do get it in your glass and give the Shiraz-loving congregation something worthy of everlasting praise. Next was Wallace, brave of heart and pure of fruit. Always such an over-achiever, this wine is remarkably composed and complete this year, with effortless flow and length.
And so to the big boys that are getting their day in the sun now. They carry on where the initial releases left off, more than delivering on the promise of this wonderful harvest. Anaperenna: here’s a blend borne of what they might modestly be called “good vine material”. Shiraz vines with a lazy 30 to 100 years under their belt, plus whipper-snapper Cabernet with 130 years on the clock. The wine wears all the concentration and depth you’d expect, but again with extraordinary cohesion and finesse. As for the Amon-Ra, UK critic Matthew Jukes – always a fan – gave it his highest ever score, marvelling at how it seemed “cooler and longer with beautiful balance” and “shimmers with refinement in the glass”. “Elegant, svelte, long in flavour,” is how Mike Bennie of The Wine Front described it. “Like this, even though reserved – beautiful.” Hear that? “Beautiful”.
We say it every year, but it bears repeating. These wines are distinctly, proudly Barossa but their appeal extends way beyond that. Those who champion a sense of place and heritage, those who enjoy clarity, harmony and detail – all can get their fill here. “A wine which will be sure to impress all-comers,” as Jukes puts it. Come one, come all – it’s here!
Despite well below average rainfall and warm conditions during the growing season, the vines remained in healthy balance with increased bunch numbers. Heavy rainfall in late January followed by ongoing mild days and cool nights allowed ideal ripening conditions. The fruit then matured with an early harvest. The resultant 2016 wines are outstanding and feature lifted pure red fruit characteristics, savoury tannins, great depth of flavour and sheer colour intensity. – Ben Glaetzer
2016 Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz Grenache RRP $23
A blend of 78% Shiraz and 22% Grenache from 50- to 80-year-old Shiraz vines and Grenache plantings of between 50 and 110 years of age. Yields are 3.5 tonnes per hectare. Old-vine Barossa Grenache has a liveliness and structure that does not benefit from oak maturation, so oak contact was minimised for the Grenache component to preserve the purity and character of the fruit. The Shiraz was matured for 16 months in 2- and 3-year-old oak hogshead barrels (80% French and 20% American).
Deep garnet. Hints of redcurrant, clove and spice. Fresh juiciness combines with supple tannin and pronounced flavours of licorice and mulberry. A wine to enjoy in its youth that will also develop additional complexity over 6 to 8 years of cellaring. – Ben Glaetzer
2016 Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz RRP $36
100% Shiraz, cropped at 3 tonnes per hectare. Vines aged 35-120 years old. Fermented in 1- and 2-tonne open fermenters, hand-plunged two to three times daily. Extended maceration was employed to enable good tannin development, so the wine is soft and approachable early. Maturation on lees for 16 months in new (40%) and 2- to 3-year-old oak hogsheads (90% French, 10% American).
Vibrant purple. Hints of cut plum, dried spice and dark chocolate. Mid palate freshness with flavours of blackcurrant and mocha. Finely tuned tannins provide structure and length. Great drinking now but this wine will also benefit from 10—12 years of careful cellaring. – Ben Glaetzer
2016 Glaetzer Anaperenna RRP $55
84% Shiraz and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Shiraz vines are between 30 and 100 years old, the Cabernet between 30 and 130. Yields are 2.5 tonnes per hectare. Fermented in 1- and 2-tonne open fermenters, hand-plunged 3 times daily. Matured for 16 months in 100% new oak hogshead barrels (92% French and 8% American, on lees to maintain fruit profile and animation. Bottled unfiltered to ensure minimal interference with the wine’s natural characteristics.
Deep garnet with bright purple hues. Lovely herbal lift with notes of blackberry, anise and spice box. Tightly wound, layered spice complements deep, dark fruit elements. Supple tannins contribute to palate length with well integrated seamless acidity. A wine that will mature extremely well with long term cellaring up to 20 years. – Ben Glaetzer
2016 Glaetzer Shiraz Amon-Ra RRP $100
Exceptional old vine fruit was sourced from the famed Ebenezer sub district at the northern tip of the Barossa Valley. Vine age 50—130 years old. Yield 2 tonnes per hectare. Fermented in 1-and 2-tonne open fermenters, hand-plunged 3 times daily. Matured for 16 months in 100% new oak hogshead barrels (95% French and 5% American). Matured on lees and bottled unfiltered.
This is a wine of outstanding refinement. Ben readily admits that the early vintages of Amon-Ra were supposed to shock international wine commentators with their scale and impact. They certainly achieved their aim, but Ben knew that Amon-Ra really needed ratcheting back and this vintage shows the results of his gradual finessing and adding of detail. Cooler and longer with beautiful balance, this is a wine which will be sure to impress all-comers as opposed to just lovers of massive Barrosan reds. Using 95% new French and 5% new American oak hogsheads this wine has swallowed this carpentry whole and it shimmers with refinement in the glass. It justifiably gains my highest ever score for this label. 19/20 Matthew Jukes, matthewjukes.com
From a blind tasting of some 60-odd Barossa shiraz, it felt like 2016 was a great year for more structured, slightly more reserved shiraz styles. The highest scoring quadrant (on average) were from wines from 2016. Anyway, Amon Ra is a good premium wine yardstick for Barossa fans. Here’s a good release. Spicy, peppery stuff over black currants, choc-liquorice, clovey oak. Palate is silky with succulent tannins but has some bright acidity underlying. Quite tight in its style, elegant, svelte, long in flavour, destined for long sleeps in cellars. Blackberries, pepper, dusty tannins, sinewy feel though there’s a dense concentration of fruit-oak slurry underlying. Like this, even though reserved – beautiful. 94 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front February 2018