At the top of the Australian Shiraz market, there are two dominant names – Henschke and Penfolds. There are, of course, many names worth considering when discussing Australia’s best Shiraz, but what sets the above apart from the rest is the price. Whether it’s a positioning game, a quality review, or just because they built the brands to justify it, Henschke’s Hill Of Grace and Penfold’s Grange (as well as versions like Bin 802 and g4 which mix Grange) have always asked for prices far and above the rest – until now.
Founded in 1891, Rutherglen’s Mount Ophir Estate was once the largest wine production facility in the southern hemisphere. The property was owned by the Burgoyne family, prominent London wine merchants capitalizing on Britain’s thirst for Australian wine. As the desire for fortified wines waned, the winery closed in 1955, leaving the charming estate and the historic significance of Rutherglen to rest. Fortunately, the estate was acquired in 2016 by Angela, Eliza and Nick Brown – of the Brown Brothers dynasty – who have been busy restoring the buildings and winemaking reputation to its former glory.
With Nick at the helm of production, the trio launched their first outing; the 2019 Mount Ophir Estate Shiraz. The wine is made from a single 0.5 hectare block (dating from 1995, planted by then owner Ruth Hennessy) producing a tiny amount of grapes which are then meticulously picked and pressed by hand before being made. ” be transferred to French oak barrels for 19 months. maturation before bottling.
In addition to an incredibly low yield, from which only the best grapes are selected, an unusually long 12-day fermentation period preserves the delicate aromas and fruit flavors as the juice transforms.
âThe fermentation period allows the large, astringent tannins derived from the skin and seeds of the grapes to break down into finer, smoother tannins, providing a silky, more elegant mouth feel,â says Brown.
Low yields and traditional production techniques alone may justify a pretty dime, but when you include the fact that Mount Ophir Estate Shiraz – like vintage champagne – will only be made from the best years, so it won’t compromising on quality, you can begin to see how Brown arrived at the price.
This brings me to the comparison of my Penfold. The Grange chain is uninterrupted – wine has been produced annually since 1951, regardless of conditions, and 5,000 to 7,000 bottles are produced each year with an MSRP of $ 950. With just 700 bottles of 2019 Mount Ophir Estate Shiraz produced and no confirmation of the production date for the next vintage, the $ 500 price tag is ambitious but credible. Additionally, scarcity presents a solid investment opportunity.
Although the Browns have neither denied nor confirmed that their Shiraz was a positioning game, I wonder if they have any hopes that he will face the biggest names in the country over the next 10 years. Is it twice as good to drink as the Best’s Great Western Thomson Family Shiraz at $ 230? I doubt many will crack it in the next 10 years to find out.
Comparison and speculation aside, rekindling such an important name and supporting the Browns’ continued investment in the Rutherglen region, perhaps the reason Australian wine lovers are cellaring a bottle of Mount Ophir Estate Shiraz 2019.