Friday, November 4, 2016

A New Exploration of Australian Wine with Two Hands Wine & #WineStudio

I must confess that I've not sampled Australian wine for a number of years. This changed with the commencement of October's Protocol Wine Studio's #WineStudio series featuring Michael Twelftree and his Two Hands Winery. Not sure the reason for the exclusion of Austrian wine from my cellar, perhaps because there are so many other local and global wine options. Or perhaps I mentally framed Australian reds as fruit forward, jammy wines made for the international market. Well, this #WineStudio session has sure changed that perception; in brief these wines are elegant, structured, and provide soft or firm tannins, depth, and balance.

A more detailed rendition of the winery's founding can be found on their website, but for an overview, the winery was founded in 1999 with the goal to "make the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized growing regions throughout Australia". Twelftree leveraged his wine contacts in the U.S. and the U.K. to launch the brand where it critical acclaim allowed it to grow where Robert Parker named Two Hands "the finest negociant south of the equator". Today the winery is owned by Twelftree and Tim Hower, whose investments have allowed the winery to acquire additional estate vineyards.

Two Hands categorizes their portfolio into five series: Flagship Series, Single Vineyard, Garden, Picture, and Twelftree.  The #WineStudio session focused on the Picture Series, Garden Series, Flagship Series while learning more about the Twelftree, the winemaker - Ben Perkins, Australian Shiraz, and the Barossa Valley & McLaren Vale wine regions.  The Barossa Valley is located in South Australia - northeast of Adelaide. The region was first settled by German immigrants who tried vinifying Riesling before they realized the climate was to warm for this cold climate grape. Over time Shiraz were deemed more suitable for the continental climate with old-vine Shiraz a contemporary cult classic. The valley does host several distinct micro-climates with wider diurnal temperature shifts. Riesling is still planted, but at higher, cooler vineyards and Grenache and Mourvedre have become serious players. The McLaren Vale wine region is located south of Barossa and enjoys a seasonal, Mediterranean climate. Dry reds are king with Shiraz the emperor, followed by Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cabernet Sauvignon - somewhat similar to Barossa.

Here are the wines that we sampled from these regions. In general they we fantastic with the Ares a masterpiece.

The Picture Series - Serious wines with irreverent labeling
"Every wine in the Picture Series has its own inspiration, our own take on popular culture. With some old school Polaroid imagery by friend and photographer Don Brice and a quirky back label descriptor, the aim is to bring a smile to your face when you pick up the bottle, reminding you that wines should be approachable and of course… fun."
Gnarly Dudes 2014 Shiraz ($34, 14%) - The fruit is sourced from mature vineyards from the Barossa’s western ranges and showcases the gnarly vines of historic Shiraz. Aged for 12 months in French oak, which 15% was new, and the remainder in one to six year old barrels . Rich, dark plums throughout with pepper and mint perhaps. Firm but short finish. 
Sexy Beast 2015 McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon ($34, 14%) - Aged 15% new French oak with remainder in one to five year old French oak barrels. The nose jumps out of the bottle. Leads to textured dark fruit, earth and tobacco, and finishes with tight tannins. Let this one breathe or age.  
Angels Share 2014 McLaren Vale Shiraz ($34, 14%) - Aged for 12 months in 6% new French oak and the remainder in one to six year old French and American oak. Layered fruit with rounded structure with slight white peppers and leather. Solid acids. Decanted but tannins could use more breathing or aging.   

The Flagship Series - Represents the very finest varietal selections from each vintage.
"With a strong commitment to the philosophy of ‘quality without compromise’, Two Hands Wines use a strict classification process to ensure that only the best barrels each vintage are deemed worthy of being bottled as a Two Hands product."

Ares 2012 Barossa Valley Shiraz ($140, 14.8%) - Produced to showcase Shiraz. Aged 24 months in new and one year old French oak and then re-tasted continually to determine the best barrels. A luscious and silky smooth wine with layers of dark berry fruit and chocolate.  Plenty of texture and depth with easy tannins. 
The Flagship Series - Our super premium range of Shiraz from six of the finest Shiraz growing regions in Australia, showcasing regionalism of Australian Shiraz.
"Two Hands source premium fruit from six of the finest Shiraz growing regions in Australia, from which we produce the Garden Series."
Bella’s Garden 2014 Barossa Valley Shiraz ($69, 13.5%) - Aged for 18 months in French oak with 17% new and the remainder in older oak. A blend of their best Shiraz barrels from across the Barossa Valley region. This label’s color reflects the red soils of the Barossa’s western ranges where all the best Two Hands vineyards are located.  The wine and fruit are dark black, a noticble chewy depth, and a spicy and firm tannic tail. Very nice.  
Lily’s Garden 2014 McLaren Vale Shiraz ($69, 14.5%) - Aged for 18 months in 6% new French oak and the remainder in two to six year old American and French oak. Represents the best barrels from their McLaren Vale estates. The label’s blue color takes inspiration from McLaren Vale’s close proximity to the sea.  Lighter color and depth than Bella's Garden but smoother tannins and a clear transition from smokey spices to mocha. A fantastic wine. 

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