August 13, 2008

Fireblock "Old Vines" Shiraz 2005

Clare Valley / Australia
Shiraz (Syrah) / $20.00

Some readers have e-mailed me asking why I have been on such an Australian wine kick lately. The answer is simple...I like Australian wine. Not only do I like the Australian style, but it is one of the few countries remaining with wines that I still consider a value.

I tasted over 120 wines with John Larchet, owner of "The Australian Premium Wine Collection" last month during a two day tasting. I got to spend the entire weekend with John and was thrilled to be able to taste his wines.

John emphasised his love for wines that are highly aromatic. He told me he felt that when a wine smells great, there is a high probability that it will taste great too. All of the wines he imports have one thing in common. They are balanced. There is not excessive acidity, tannin, alcohol or oak. He likes to say his wines are smooth and easy drinking, with "no arms or legs" sticking out to ruin the experience. I found his wines extraordinary. All of them seemed to suit my palate.

When tasting so many wines over a short period of time, you develop a shorthand while making notes. None of the shorthand is standardized. It becomes a private language that would make sense only to the taster. When reviewing my notes for the Fireblock "Old Vines" Shiraz, the first thing I read was in all capital letters.
"HOME RUN". In my shorthand, it is the highest complement I can pay a wine.

"HOME RUN" designates a wine that is easy to drink, has great structure, is flavorful and is considered a good value based upon price. The Fireblock "Old Vines" touched all bases.

The wine pours a dark purple. Immediately you can smell the aroma of black and red fruit, violet, smoke and spice. The wine is lush in the mouth with just enough weight to saturate the palate. The black fruit is ripe, a bit spicy with balanced tannins and long finish. This wine has French Rhone characteristics. The wine is beautifully balanced, elegant and easy drinking...

Fireblock is produced in the Clare Valley in South Australia. Bill and Noel Ireland are former wine retailers from Sydney and are the owners of the Fireblock Label. They are also partners in another wine venture in the Margaret River area called Flinders Bay. Their passion for wine is reflected in the product they produce.

The parcel of land that is now the Fireblock vineyard runs along an old rail line. Initially the land was uncultivated and used to prevent fire along the rail lines. The old steam trains used to spew soot and cinder that could set wildfires along the tracks if ground was planted. Happily, the demise of steam locomotives now allows for much more efficient, and tasty, use of the land.

This wine is still undiscovered in the United States. Although widely available through wholesalers, it is not stocked in many local wine stores. Make an effort to request this one. It is a wonderful wine, from a wonderful winemaker. Once the retailer knows there is interest in this wine they will start stocking it on a regular basis. Do yourself a favor....ask them to order you some. You won't be disappointed


  1. Great post! I really respect your passion, however I am not, NOT, a fan of Australian wines. Some reds I know are wonderful, just as Chilean or Argentine; yes the Shiraz can of course be remarkable, but the way...too much of everything! It's of course because it's too hot over there and perhaps because people over there like their wine to taste like banana-, or mango- or pineapplejuice or whatever......Give me the Bourgogne anyday! Or even California Chardonnay.
    But it's always nice to learn about wines I normally don't drink. Thank you for that.

  2. Bjorn;

    As always, thanks so much for the comments. Yes, we all have different tastes, and the Aussie's are a bit over the top for some.

    I love the Aussie's for being over the top. They live life to the fullest and are always pushing the boundries. Most importantly, they are never hesitant to share the passion.

    Have you tried the Aussie Dry Rieslings? They are remarkably good, and may be more to your taste. Thanks again! Gerry WineGent

  3. Anonymous21/8/08 14:30

    Thanks Wine Gent! I was looking for a Shiraz to serve for wine club Saturday night, and "Old Vines" sounds like just the ticket. I wonder if my NW Arkansan shops carry it.

  4. Anonymous21/8/08 14:50

    Liz; I hope you can find this great wine. If not, have your local retailer call the wholesaler to see if it can be ordered. You will actually be doing him a favor. All of the wines in this collection are fabulous. Have the retailer come to, or e-mail lme for the distributor in your area. Good Luck! Gerry Dunn WineGent

  5. Gerry,

    I agree that the Australians have perfected mass production (everything run by computers, etc.) and their Shiraz is some of the best in the world (grape adapted well sort of like Malbec in Argentina) but the warm temp.of Australia tend to bring out mellow flavors of Plum (OK) but Shiraz(Syrah) in France (Rhone)which is cooler tends to bring the Spice out which I prefer. To each his own. cheers

  6. Arthur; I think your assessment is right on target. I also see the Aussie's continue to innovate, in many cases improving their final product. As always, personal taste rules the day. There is no arguing that the French do a fine job with Syrah. Thanks so much for the comment on "Fireblock Old Vines" WIneGent


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