COST: $16-18 each
WHAT: These are two fine examples of wine produced by the leading winemaker in Australia’s best known wine region. Peter Lehmann is a legend in the Barossa region of south Australia. This vintage is his 30th consecutive Shiraz release, so he knows something about the grape and the soil.
Lehmann seems to coax the maximum depth and flavor out of Barossa’s grapes. The Portrait Shiraz has a rich, deep red color with tantalizing aromas of dark fruit. There’s just a hint of oak. With all the vibrant fruit, it’s not a fruit bomb like some Shiraz of a few years ago. The fruit is nicely balanced by firm tannins.
The color comes from fermenting the grapes on skins for seven days. The wine then spent 12 months in French and American hogsheads before bottling. It probably will continue to improve in the bottle for another four to five years.
The Clancy’s Red is a bit more complex and mellower. The dark color fades to garnet along the edges with a delicate nose of raspberry. The flavors are all plum, cherry, red berry and a hint of chocolate. The blend is 39 percent Shiraz, 38 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 23 percent Merlot.
Each varietal is fermented separately before blending. Then it spends 12 months in new and old French and American hogsheads. This might improve a bit with cellaring, but I lean toward drinking it now before it gets much age.
The Barossa wine region is one of the most famous in the world. It has remained untouched by the vine disease Phylloxera, making some of the Barossa Shiraz vines the oldest vines in the world. The region is a little over an hour by car north of Adelaide, South Australia’s capital.
WINERY: The success of Australian wines in the 1970s almost led to their ruin because of overproduction of grapes. When Lehmann saw what was happening, he found some investment partners, established a consortium and built the Peter Lehmann Wines winery in 1979.
The first vintage was processed in 1980, and in 1982 the winery was formally named Peter Lehmann Wines. From then on, its wines have been marketed under the Peter Lehmann Wines label.
Lehmann planned for the winery to grow slowly and steadily and not get caught up in the Aussie wine hysteria. Peter Lehmann Wines also produces an exquisite Layers Red, Layers White and several tiers of wines from the Barossa.
In addition to purchasing grapes from about 185 local independent growers, Peter Lehmann Wines has its own vineyards, which produce about 2 percent of its requirements.
The Hess Family Collection bought 85 percent of the shares of Peter Lehmann Wines in 2003. The Hess Collection was founded by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, who first purchased vineyards on Mount Veeder in 1978.The company owns wineries on four continents. They include Peter Lehmann Wines, Glen Carlou, Bodega Colomé and Estancia Colomé, Amalaya, Artezin Wines, Sequana Wines, MacPhail Family Wines and the Hess Collection in Napa Valley where their showplace winery has a magnificent art collection.
GOES WITH: Teri and I served the Portrait Barossa Shiraz with leftover lamb and baked potatoes. The complex flavors and mellow tannins were perfect with the lamb. This wine would go well with pizza, steak, roast beef, meat-based pasta and sharp cheeses.
I tasted the Clancy’s Red with our men’s cooking team at church while we were cooking pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. We didn’t drink the wine with the pancakes, but we might have sampled some of the bacon while we were sipping the wine, and it was great. We served it slightly chilled, and it got better as it warmed and opened up.
Keith thought it started with a sweet cherry taste, before a smooth, dry finish. Jim liked the flavor; he really picked up on the Merlot. This is one of those wines you want to share with a group of friends over pasta, pizza, roast chicken or barbecue.