I have been fortunate to make my own wine in Australia since 1989 although my journey started many years prior in New Zealand. I made Three Rivers Shiraz at Rockford with the encouragement of Robert O’Callaghan but never more than a few barrels. From 89-94 there were never more than 720 bottles filled of Three Rivers and it wasn’t until I purchased my own vineyard in 1994 when I was able to increase the number of bottles filled. From then on the vineyard dictated how many bottles I would produce under my own label, Three Rivers to start, then simply Chris Ringland Shiraz from the 1998 release.
2007 was somewhat of a transition year for me. Given the extremely low yields (400kg/acre), I opted to vinify the entirety of the vineyard myself. In the past I had sold half to the fruit to Robert. Even then, I finished with only 4 hogsheads of Shiraz.
The wine was bottled on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 with no filtration.
- Harvest: Monday, April 16.
- Pressed: April 22.
- First racking: February 19, 2008.
- Bottled: Wednesday, March 30, 2011.
I believe that my 2007 Shiraz is an exceptional outcome from what has been considered a relatively ordinary vintage. For me this proves the advantages inherent with old vines in a high altitude environment.
This is a very powerful Shiraz with great structure. It should mature gracefully for 20-30 years.
Region of fruit Source – Barossa
Sub-region – Barossa Ranges (Eden Valley)
Specific Vineyard by Name – Stone Chimney Creek
Soil – Sandy loam over podzolic clay
Trellis System – Single wire at 1 metre
Viticulture – Minimal sprays of sulphur and seaweed nutrient. Dry grown.
Varietal Blend – 100% Shiraz
Winemaker – Chris Ringland
Alc/vol – 17.2% alc
Age of Vines – Planted 1910
Yield – 1 tonne per acreHarvest – Monday April 16thPressed – April 22nd
First Racking – October 2007
Vinification – De-Stemmed and vinified in a new open top french oak vat. Basket pressed and allowed to complete alcoholic fermentation in oak.
Wood Treatment – 100% New French hogsheads for 48 months
The Winter and Spring of 2006 was unusually dry in the Barossa ranges. This was the peak of the seven year drought, which did not subside until the 2010 growing season.
Yields at Stone Chimney Creek were low. The Summer was hot, but not extreme.
Rainfall events during March kept the old vines refreshed. I was able to hang the grapes until late April.
They achieved superb ripeness and balance.
Tasting notes Courtesy of Andrew Jefford
Enormous and liqueur-like, but in no way specious or confected. I’d call (it) profound, essence-like, saturated in extract, aromatic to the last drop, shocking in their depth and density. The 2007 smells of mineral oil, leaf litter, stones and dust. Despite its weight and density, it is somehow searching, lively and vivid: definitely Eden, not Barossa (though you’ll read ‘Barossa Ranges’ on the label). Its taste is hard to describe. It’s as if the normal gravitational force in a wine had suddenly been doubled, and an entire landscape had been sucked into that physics-defying mouthful: the stones, the trees, the herbs, the plants, all of them minced up into an elixir which creeps like lava over your tongue. These kind of wines redefine the wine-drinking experience.
www.decanter.com Jefford on Monday 90: 12.11.12
The Secret Visit
A little under six months ago, I was standing more or less on the other side of the world. The weather, as I made my way up Stone Chimney Creek Road, was much as it is in this corner of the northern hemisphere today: a sky the colour of mushroom stalks, misty rain blowing on the wind, temperatures cold enough to make wearing a parcel of goose down advisable. If our world didn’t tilt, of course, these seasonal pulses wouldn’t happen. But it does – so the brightness and warmth I left behind back in May is now, in November, lavished on the south.
There was a house on the hill there: modern yet modest, neat and tidy, with a bright green ute lurking like a grasshopper in the backyard. We took a look at the vineyard next to it. It’s not big: just 3.5 acres (1.4 ha) of Shiraz, planted in 1910 on a light sandy loam over clay. Not generous soils, but enough to keep most of the vines alive ever since, drinking only the water which falls from the sky. They’re old but not massy, and look north-east: the warmer option here, and necessary for Shiraz growing at almost 500 m, though that turn to the east means they’re in shadow a few hours before summer dusk.
The mist, the solitude, the forbidden allure: I almost felt like a spy. I was there to taste some of Australia’s most astonishing red wines, yet I hardly dared tell anyone I was going. When I owned up later, and shyly admitted how much I’d liked them, I was met with near-incredulity. At least once, I was asked to confirm what I’d just said. These are the great wines you aren’t, in right-thinking circles, meant to like: too rich, too much alcohol, too many “Parker points”. They swim furiously against Australia’s current tide of early-picking righteousness and buttoned-down restraint. But, sorry folks, great they are.
The man who lives, quietly and privately enough, up at 9 Stone Chimney Creek Road is Chris Ringland, and the wines I would use ‘great’ about are his 2007 and 2008 Shiraz (alcohol levels 17.3% and 18.3%). They are enormous and liqueur-like, but in no way specious or confected. I’d call them profound, essence-like, saturated in extract, aromatic to the last drop, shocking in their depth and density. The 2007 smells of mineral oil, leaf litter, stones and dust. Despite its weight and density, it is somehow searching, lively and vivid: definitely Eden, not Barossa (though you’ll read ‘Barossa Ranges’ on the label). The 2008 is more savoury in aroma, and has a little more menthol, too. Its taste is hard to describe. It’s as if the normal gravitational force in a wine had suddenly been doubled, and an entire landscape had been sucked into that physics-defying mouthful: the stones, the trees, the herbs, the plants, all of them minced up into an elixir which creeps like lava over your tongue. These kind of wines redefine the wine-drinking experience. Of course they are not ‘refreshing’; of course they are not burgundy or claret, or anything built to emulate them. They are Something Different: a vast, subterranean murmur from one of earth’s most ancient, most eroded, most enduring landscapes.
There are plenty of specious, highly adjusted wines made in the flamboyant style in Barossa, and the results can be repellent. These wines, by contrast, are pure, true and only gently adjusted (the 2008 has a pH of 3.77 and acidity of 5.92 g/l). The fruit was picked on April 16th and March 28th respectively; four unhurried years pass before they see the inside of a bottle, so the 2008 was only bottled in March this year. “I saw the vineyard,” Ringland remembers, “in early June in 1994. I took a look at it. I just figured it was going to do what I wanted. I nipped over the fence on Sunday, and owned it by Monday. I just want to make a delicious wine which will age.”
He worked for Robert O’Callaghan at Rockford for 18 years. “Roseworthy taught us as winemakers to ask ‘What are you going to do?’ The big epiphany came from Robert. ‘What is the wine telling you to do?’”
I made my way back to Adelaide in thoughtful mood. How could that scraggy vineyard up in the Eden hills produce a wine like that, just a few gear-changes away from the crystalline finesse and delicacy of the Rieslings of Pewsey Vale? How is it possible? Is it not wondrous? Would we not be poorer without them? Are both not inspirational? And why is Australia’s wine establishment not proud of beauty this singular?
12 Double Magnums
Individually numbered bottles
54mm hand select cork finish
Shipped as a single bottle