Why Penfolds' The Max Schubert Cabernet Shiraz 2012 is worth five stars

Chris Shanahan

Penfolds The Max Schubert Cabernet Shiraz 2012
Barossa Valley and Coonawarra, South Australia
Points: 98

This new red marks Penfolds' continuing move upmarket under Michael Clarke, chief of parent company Treasury Wine Estates. The wine salutes the late Max Schubert, whose deep purple thumbprint still permeates Penfolds reds 64 years after he created Grange. Schubert was a master of the cabernet–shiraz blend, perfected perhaps in the legendary 1962 vintage Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Kalimna shiraz. The new release's intense crimson rim and opaque red–black colour put it firmly in the mould of the Schubert originals. A blend of Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon (48 per cent), Barossa Valley cabernet (13 per cent) and Barossa Valley shiraz (39 per cent), it currently offers a powerful but smooth matrix of fruit and oak flavours and tannin. Over the decades we can expect the fruit flavour to flourish and the elegant structure of the cabernet to emerge in what should be a great Australian red.

Hay Shed Hill Pitchfork Shiraz 2013
Margaret River, Western Australia
Points: 90

Winemaker Michael Kerrigan continues to steer Hay Shed Hill's Pitchfork wines in a delicious direction. While the recently reviewed cabernet merlot really stands out, his shiraz, too, provides outstanding drinking at the price. Sourced from  several Margaret River vineyards, the medium-bodied wine delivers juicy, ripe varietal flavour in an elegant, drink-now style, with lovely soft tannins.

Oakridge Over the Shoulder Pinot Gris 2014
Spring Lane vineyard, Coldstream, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Points: 90

Winemaker David Bicknell opted to harvest grapes early, ensuring fairly high acidity and comparatively low alcohol (12 per cent) for this difficult variety. Fermentation and maturation on grape solids gave the wine a rich texture and the funky notes of sulphur compounds which, in small doses, integrate tastily into overall flavour. But the richly textured palate, combined with lively acidity, is what this wine is all about.

Anderson Reserve Petit Verdot 2008
Rutherglen, Victoria
Points: 90

The late budding, late ripening petit verdot grape struggles to ripen in Bordeaux, where it adds colour, spice and tannin to cabernet-based blends. In hot Rutherglen it ripens fully, producing for the Anderson family a deep, vividly coloured red of generous, if jammy-ripe fruit flavours, masses of soft tannins and a heady alcohol level of 14.8 per cent. This rich, solid, smooth winter warmer sells for $26 a bottle at cellar door and andersonwinery.com.au.

Clonakilla O'Riada Shiraz 2014
Murrumbateman and Hall, Canberra District, NSW
Points: 96

Winemaker Tim Kirk calls O'Riada "an archetypal Canberra shiraz, full of red fruits and spice". O'Riada fitted that broad description in our tasting, where we lined it up alongside Kirk's flagship Shiraz Viognier 2014 ($90–$100) and cheaper Hilltops Shiraz 2014 ($28-$33). Our group of six enjoyed the solid Hilltops wine, but as the night wore on, the levels in the other two bottles declined more rapidly. Ultimately, in vocal opinions, as well as volume consumed, the intense, silky shiraz viognier won the day by a comfortable, but not wide, margin, over the classy, harmonious O'Riada.

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2013
Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Points: 96

From the lean, stony soils of Hawkes Bay's Gimblett Gravels sub-region comes a shiraz mightily removed from the styles we see in generally warmer Australia. The back label says, "The vineyard is hand harvested in several passes late in the growing season and only the best and ripest bunches are selected". Indeed, ripeness is the issue in this location, meaning part of thrill in drinking Le Sol is the tension between the barely ripe white and black pepper flavours and the riper berry characters. Although medium bodied, it's a wine of considerable power and flavour intensity, revealing a deep, peppery, savoury face of shiraz