The Australian Financial Review


An exciting Provencale expression of grenache, cinsault, mataro and shiraz...

The Australian Financial Review

The unlikely art of tasting by Tim White

The hardest part of wine-tasting is putting your personal preferences aside

When I’m faced with a blind line-up of two dozen sweet-tasting, alcohol-filled shiraz muthas from, say, McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley or Heathcote, I try to keep my emotions in check and simply assess for fruit intensity and balance, all the time looking for balanced componentry rather than obvious features.

Sometimes, though, I am surprised, elated even, when everything comes together. When I first tasted the ‘04 wines of Spinifex from the Barossa Valley I did a little jig around my tasting table.

There were balanced, rich reds, filled with fruit power and structure, and miles away from the over-the-top Aussie shiraz styles, washed out by a wave of alcohol, which have become the norm over the past decade.

For me, though, the impressive thing about them is that they are deliciously balanced. The ‘04 Indigene is an impeccable blend of mataro (mourvèdre) and shiraz, while the ‘04 Esprit, a mix of grenache, shiraz, mataro and cinsault, is one of those wines that stimulates every part of your body. And it gets ever better if you leave some overnight to open up.

It didn’t come as a shock to learn that one of the things husband and wife team Peter Schell and Magali Gely value most highly is drinkability.

As Peter puts it: “We don’t leave our fruit to overripen. If all you get when you taste the grapes is a big plummy explosion, then it’s too late, at least for the styles that we want to make. We like to have spice and make more beverage wines.”

Schell goes to a lot of trouble to source fruit for his vines, usually from small, old blocks dotted around the Barossa Valley. “I look around for days and days sometimes,” he told me. “In most cases the really good stuff takes a couple of years to get hold of.”

I, for one, am glad they’ve persisted. Spinifex wines are fine beverage, drinking wines light years away from the freaks being created by many of its near neighbours. Not only of the highest quality in objective terms, but I really like ‘em. Love ‘em even.


>> back to reviews 2006