Wine Ark Hawthorn St Hallett private Masterclass

Recently, Wine Ark Hawthorn was very pleased to play host to Stuart Blackwell, Senior Winemaker of St Hallett Wines for a private Masterclass, showcasing the new vintage releases from this iconic Barossa Valley producer. Stuart Blackwell’s winemaking career spans four decades, including time not only in the Barossa, but in the McLaren Vale, South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

As Senior Winemaker of St Hallett, Mr Blackwell has developed a deep understanding of the rich tapestry of site and climatic variances in the Barossa and an appreciation of the importance of both dedicated growers and ‘old vine’ Shiraz. His commitment to the region over time has won the hearts of some of the Barossa’s most dedicated and passionate growers giving St Hallett access to some of the Barossa’s most prized vineyards dating over 100 years of age! These strongly forged relationships have yielded exceptional quality fruit leading to benchmark Barossa wines of extraordinary acclaim all endorsing Stuart’s sincere and long term approach in the Barossa over the past four decades.

Stuart is not only incredibly knowledgeable of the region he calls home (which you would hope having made wine here since 1973!), but is an absolute gentleman to boot. We were all blown away by how humble, friendly and genuine he was, as well as clearly passionate for a brand he really believes in.

Stuart told us about the St Hallett winemaking process, and how they achieve their distinctive medium-bodied style of wines. St Hallett have gone in the opposite direction of some of the major producers in the Barossa, who tend to favour highly alcoholic, tannic and extracted wines. Stuart explained that due to the fact that alcohol is a solvent, higher percentages of alcohol can lead to a harsher, more astringent and more tannic wine that is less enjoyable immediately. Therefore at St Hallett, they cool the ferment after around 10 days and stop pumping-over of the juice, creating a softer, rounder wine lower in alcohol and harsh tannins, but still with good acidity and great potential to age. He said that in the Barossa they are gifted by the warmer climate with power and structure naturally and there was no need to further extract more from the skins than it gives after 10 days.
The resulting wines from St Hallett showed a smoothness and consistent balance across all price points. We had the great fortune of being able to provide a bottle from the Wine Ark Cellar as well, which showed very clearly that the wines were not only impressive and delicious on release, but age so very gracefully. These are the kind of wines that you buy a few dozen of, and drink over the years to see them grow and change- you don’t have to wait for them to develop, you visit them every year or so like an old friend and see what’s changed.

And so, we are very pleased to be offering you today a selection of the St Hallett wines that we deemed to be exceptional, and a fantastic addition to your Wine Ark Cellar!

St Hallett Eden Valley 2014 Riesling
When discussing the 6 sites where this wines is sourced, Stuart dropped in very casually that the youngest vines in these sites were planted in 1976, and the oldest were over 100 years old! St Hallett have neglected to write the term ‘Old Vine’ on this wine, but the depth of flavour and long haunting length are testament to it. At the same time as it is full of fruit and flavour, ready for immediate consumption, it also hold a taut, crisp line of acid heralding further improvement with patience. And for the price, an absolute bargain spring/summer white.

St Hallett Blackwell Barossa Valley Shiraz 2012
The wine named after the man himself, and what a wine it is! Sourced from carefully chosen sites in the Barossa, with each parcel separately matured in a combination of new, one and two year old American oak for 20 months. The resulting wine is, as with the rest of the St Hallett Premium range, immediately approachable and delicious, as well as clearly age-worthy. Put perfectly by Stewart; “We endeavour to capture the rich, robust, dark berry concentrated flavours without falling into the abyss of overripe jammy and stewed characters”. More on the savoury side over fruity sweet, and rich without being big and blowsy. Think chocolate cake with layers of ripe raspberry and blackberry with touches of liquorice and vanilla. Sounds good, doesn’t it? A classic, now, and for a long time to come. We tried the 2002, which Stuart rated as almost as good as the 2012 vintage, and the wine was seamless- simply delicious, silenced the room.

St Hallett Mattchoss Eden Valley Shiraz 2013
Made from a vineyard that sits on the exact border of the Barossa and Eden Valleys, this was a vineyard Stuart had kept his eye on as something special for decades. He said that the fruit was definitely good enough for Old Block, however the vines were not on their original roots (due to an introduced disease about 80 years ago), so didn’t qualify. He was so proud to be showing this wine, which he said was ‘The future of the Barossa’. On the nose the wine was floral and lifted, with aromas of graphite, blackcurrant, coal, dark spices (cinnamon quill, nutmeg, star anise) and liquorice. Light and lifted on the palate, with a long, driving finish and a dusting of cocoa-powder tannins. In the mouth the wine was all dark chocolate and rich, dark spices, with little touches of violet, lavender and mocha. James Halliday just gave this 98 Points in his latest Wine Companion, which was spot on for us- will last a good 15 years, so could still go higher though…

St Hallett Old Block Barossa Valley Shiraz 2012
The pinnacle wine of St Hallett, and the high point of the tasting. Fruit for the Old Block is derived from low cropping old vines of 60 to 100 years of age. Unique sites in the warmer Barossa Valley contribute a rich foundation while the adjacent higher altitude and cooler Eden Valley provides seamless tannins and lifted aromatics. After each site is deemed worthy for the Old Block, every parcel is vinified separately, and barrel tasted regularly to make sure the wine is evolving correctly- which if it isn’t, the whole barrel is declassified. The resulting wine is all class; seamlessly smooth and fresh, with layer upon layer of complex primary and secondary fruit, spice, sweet vanilla oak and herbal notes, all held taut by ultra fine grained tannins. As The Winefront’s Campbell Mattinson puts it, “The Holy Grail of Barossa Shiraz. In a word; Yes”.  Using the older examples of this wine we were able to find in the Wine Ark cellar as a yardstick, these wines will most definitely evolve and grow over the next 15-30 years.