The Australian


These are wines that you can drink by the bottle, the last glass tasting every bit as great as the first.



The Weekend Australian
June 10-11 2006

Spinifex flat-out best arrival by James Halliday

Each year I choose 10 new wineries which I loosely describe as the “best of the best” - by region, variety, value and so forth.

This time one new winery stood out from its fellows by the sheer quality of its wines. Spinifex has been quietly making small quantities of predominantly red wine since 2001 but these did not pass my lips until this year, when I tasted the first of the 2005 releases and the most important of 2004.

Simply because of the way I handle incoming information and products, I usually taste the wines first and read or glean the story second. Without hesitation I scored all five red wines between 94 and 96 points, and having revisited some of the sample bottles since, I realise I should have been more generous.

The almost inevitable bad news is that total production is only 1500 cases spread over eight wines, demand exacerbated by the value-for-money ratio, with prices ranging from $25 to $44 per bottle retail.

They have spent a lot of time in France, Peter Schell working two vintages in the Languedoc, one in Provence and one in Bordeaux. The odd one out is Bordeaux: all the other places feature the so-called Mediterranean varieties of mataro/mourvedre, grenache, cinsaut/cinsault and shiraz/syrah, the latter more common a little further north in the Rhone Valley.

These are the four grapes used to craft the Spinifex range, helped here and there by 5 per cent viognier. The vineyards that provide the Spinifex range are between 60 and 140 years old, dry grown and yielding between 0.8 and 1.3 tonnes per acre (0.4ha). Spinifex share-farms two small vineyards but buys most of its grapes.

Schell spent four years as the winemaker at Turkey Flat, which has one of the oldest, if not the oldest, plantings of shiraz in Australia, dating from 1847. So, appropriate responses to old-vine grapes have been effectively built into this winemaking. I have always admired the elegance and restraint of the Turkey Flat Shiraz, and these qualities are the cornerstones of the Spinifex wines. These are wines that you can drink by the bottle, the last glass tasting every bit as great as the first.


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