2012 Ochota Barrels Shellac Vineyard Syrah
Barossa Valley, Australia
Take everything that you know about Australian 'Shiraz' and throw it out the window. Wipe Yellowtail's sappy sludge off the map and be prepared for a revelation. This Ochota Barrels Syrah is a game changer, without a flaw to be had. It is one of the best Syrahs I've ever had and one of the best wines I've tasted this year... possibly ever.
I knew nothing about it until I pulled it out of the mystery case I ordered from Garagiste. Ochota Barrels is a small winery relatively new to the Australian wine scene. The founders, Taras and Amber Ochota, traveled the wine world until they gained enough experience to start their own winery. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary as far as that part of story goes. The wines they've managed to produce, however, are uncommonly and strikingly delicious. Here's everything you need to know about their operation:
Grenache, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, premium old vineyard sites, wild yeasts, no additives, unfined, unfiltered, hand-labeled, hand-numbered... about as hand-crafted as it gets. The only thing added to Ochota's wines are sulfites. For this Syrah and many of their other red wines, Taras chooses to pick the grapes earlier than normal so they retain their natural acidity and whole cluster fermentation is partially completed for all reds with extended maceration periods (time on the skins).
The Shellac Vineyard is 40 years-old and neighbors some of the most famous vineyards in the region. I couldn't find any specifics on the vineyard practices but Ochota's website and other interviews said that they source grapes from conventional, organic, and biodynamic vineyards, with a preference toward the latter two.
This wine is a stunner. It was a gem from the start, in near complete harmony. The color is a deep garnet with a hint of purple. It has an incredible nose, with layers of pure fresh black fruit, pepper, oak, a hint of smoke, and attractive savory and green/herbal notes. Ripe but fresh, well-integrated, and absolutely intoxicating.
The palate is fresh and vibrant while simultaneously rich and elegant. A rare feat. Nice backbone of minerality with well-integrated oak and juicy, mouthwatering black and blue fruit. The tannins are flawless. Despite the finish being extremely long and focused, it does not leave the palate exhausted. I stashed away a glass for the following day before everyone's contemplative sips turned to guzzling. By day 2, the wine had mellowed but, on the whole, was even better.
Delicious and different than any other Australian Syrah I've had. The friends I drank this with unanimously agreed that this was outstanding. Though I only paid about $22 for this bottle, I would consider paying $60 (despite never having paid anywhere near that for a single bottle and having no plans to do so anytime soon). This bottle receives the crown for the first wine rated as Exceptional on the blog. Sadly, the Aussies drink the majority of the best juice produced in their fine country. I can't blame them.
Read more about Ochota Barrels on their website.