Celebrating Pyrenees Shiraz
This International Shiraz Day we would like to celebrate one of Dalwhinnie’s most pivotal varieties – Shiraz – and its home in the cool-climate Pyrenees wine region.
History of the Pyrenees Wine Region
The Pyrenees is located at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range in western Victoria and was named after the famous European mountain range on the border of France and Spain. Explorer and surveyor Thomas Mitchell travelled through this as yet unknown region in 1836 and was reminded of the European Pyrenees’ sweeping vistas, plateaus and rolling hills.
It took 12 years after Thomas’ travels through the Pyrenees for the first vines to be planted in the region in 1858. This period was a tumultuous time for the area as it was caught up in the gold rush before a fledgling wine trade was established in the 1960s, focusing on brandy and pineau (aperitif style liqueur) production.
In the early 1970s, a handful of passionate vignerons (including Dalwhinnie founder Ewan Jones) followed a strong hunch that the Pyrenees region would be suitable for producing high-quality wines and planted a range of French varieties, including Shiraz. The rest is history.
After 30 years of exceptional cool-climate wines being produced in the area, the Pyrenees was formally granted Geographical Indication (GI) in 2000, and today the region is known as a world-class producer of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. As Australian wine writer James Halliday said, “if the Pyrenees is suited to anything, it is to the production of full-throated red wines.”
Shiraz in Australia
Shiraz is produced in a variety of styles around Australia, from cool-climate Tasmanian Syrah (read more about Syrah vs Shiraz here), to a Mediterranean climate Margaret River Shiraz, or bold and powerful South Australian Shiraz.
Chief Winemaker Julian Langworthy highlighted the importance these stylistic differences have had on the Australian wine industry when he said, “…grown across the country in a myriad of different styles, Shiraz is exciting and rewarding, and it’s the varietal that brought Australia’s wines to the world.”
Dalwhinnie and the Pyrenees
Dalwhinnie has found a natural propensity for making award-winning wines that are celebrated for their age worthiness and tremendous depth of flavour, and Shiraz is at the very heart of this Dalwhinnie legacy.
In a stunning valley on one of the most remote and high-altitude (595 meters above sea level) sites in the Pyrenees wine region, Dalwhinnie has the ideal terroir to produce exquisite Shiraz. The property was purchased in 1973 and after three years of cultivating the land, the first Shiraz vines were planted in 1976. The now 50-year-old vines are dry grown and low yielding, providing an ultra-premium expression of Shiraz, marking it as Dalwhinnie’s hero varietal.
“I think our site high in the Pyrenees at Dalwhinnie is close to optimum. Relatively high in altitude with warm days and cool nights, with an amphitheatre of hills providing a multitude of aspects, and stony lean soils ensure that the vines are not overly vigorous,” said Julian.
Today, Shiraz is the most planted variety on the estate and since the first release in 1980, the iconic Moonambel Shiraz wines have helped Dalwhinnie become known as a world-renowned producer of premium, cellar-worthy, memorable wines.
Regarded as one of the most iconic wine producers in Victoria, Dalwhinnie produces some of the most coveted and highly awarded wines in Australia. As Erin Larkin from the Robert Parker Wine Advocate said, “the Dalwhinnie Shiraz wines have a devoted following here in Australia”.
Dalwhinnie has been awarded two Langton’s Classifications, representing wines of unsurpassed excellence, and consistently receives awards and praise from wine critics and shows around the world. On an international stage, the Eagle Shiraz has won three consecutive Gold Medals at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 vintages.
Read through a selection of outstanding Dalwhinnie reviews below.
If the Moonambel Shiraz is black like the night sky dotted with stars, then the 2018 The Eagle Shiraz is like staring full into the belly of the sun. It evokes sounds too—an eagle calling as it soars through an ancient rocky canyon. Initially, this wine is full-throttle in flavor, with blackberry fruit in tangles on the palate, shaped by a cage of savory, spicy tannins and drawn out over a long lead in the finish. Once you give yourself fully to this wine, and I mean fully, its mineral rachis is revealed. It has a rocky austerity that is most appealing and works to rein in the fruit, which is kind of as possible as taming a wild animal. But the attempt is always made. A wine for the cellar.
– 96 Points, Robert Parker Wine Advocate 2022
With air, notes of bay leaf, red plums and raspberries emerge. The core of fruit is red berry centric and conveys a sense of lightness, helped by the fine and silty tannins which emerge. Hung meats and mulch add to the flavour profile, offsetting the pretty red fruits. This has a lovely sense of fruit purity and great staying power. It's composed with great aging potential.
– 93 Points, The Real Review 2023
Strikes a generous pose and colour. There's some pretty smart and attractive oak that is a big part of this wine's appeal. It contributes added gravitas, with wide-ranging influences from prominent spice to a toasty, smoky, mocha overlay. The ripe blackberry, plum, aniseed fruit loves it. Mouth-coating and long.
– 95 Points, Halliday Wine Companion 2022
Very deep, bright red/purple colour. Spicy, peppery, fresh earth and red fruit aromas of some complexity, especially considering its youth. The wine is medium to full-bodied and soft-textured, with no shortage of tannin, but the texture is supple and drying, the fine-grained powdery tannins augmenting the savoury flavours. There is abundant fruit within but the overall style is savoury, food friendly and very stylish. Very long aftertaste. Great value.
– 94 Points, The Real Review 2022