Wednesday Wines – Episode 38

Episode 38 – 16th December 2020

I have published detailed notes on no less than 146 wines in the national press and also 53 wines on this website (totalling over 26000 words) in the last ten days and all of these wines are available to purchase right now.  Every article is recorded on this website for you to read free – as a Friend (£0.00 annual fee) or as a Member (£60.00 plus VAT annual fee) which includes my unmissable Finest Fifty Wines of 2020 along with my other in-depth, annual Reports.   However, this week, my Wednesday Wines are not yet on sale in the UK.  In fact, they are on the water right now heading our way.  This is the very first write-up in the UK for the wines from Ox Hardy and they will be exclusively sold by Goedhuis & Co. when they arrive.  I have noted approximate pricing here (so please don’t hold me to it) so that you can understand how these wines fit into the greater vinous firmament.  I would strongly advise that you contact Goedhuis on wine@goedhuis.com if you would like to reserve stock ahead of their arrival in the New Year.

Ox Hardy Wines – by Andrew Hardy

Andrew Hardy is a winemaking superstar in Australia. He is also a very experienced wine judge having Chaired the Royal Adelaide Wine Show many times and also my own The Great Australian Red Show, too.  Aside from his family’s famous vinous heritage, Andrew is most well-known for crafting Petaluma (Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra and Clare Valley) and Knappstein (Clare Valley) wines, receiving extraordinary acclaim.  Andrew is also one of Australia’s most respected and influential wine industry leaders. A fifth-generation winemaker, he is the great-great-grandson of Thomas Hardy – the ‘Father of the South Australian Wine Industry’.  Andrew is now into his fourth decade (he won’t thank me for this!) of making elite wine and yet I think that he is finally managing to craft near-perfect wines with every label he releases.  Exacting standards and epic raw materials, coupled with a burning desire to encourage his vineyards to express themselves fully in the glass, make these wines which speak from the heart as well as from the elemental soils in his family vineyards.  I urge you to visit www.oxhardywines.com.au to read about the amazing history of his property in McLaren Vale and also to have a look at some of the images, particularly of the ancient slate fermenters which he has brought back to life.  Interestingly, I tasted a handful of these wines with David Roberts MW and two of his expressions/impressions really stood out – ‘You won’t taste a better bottle of wine this year’ and also, ‘I was lucky to taste some ’82 and ’96 First Growths the other day and this wine gives them a run for their money’ (both regarding 2010 Ancestor Vines Shiraz)!  I hope that David’s first impressions of the wines and also my own observations over the last 18 months of tasting this collection underline just how seriously awesome the Ox Hardy wines are.  No self-respecting wine collector can declare their cellar complete without a few cases of these wines in their racks.

2019 Ox Hardy, Grenache, Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale (approx. £24)

The first word I wrote was Pinot! While this might seem counterintuitive as this wine is clearly made from heavenly Grenache, it is a reference to the perfume, silky texture and freshness on the finish of this mesmerising red wine.  Pure, billowy and beautiful with lovely, wistful aromatics, the colour looks like a Chambolle and the texture feels like one, too, but the flavour is unmistakable McLaren Vale Grenache with its rhubarb and raspberry leaf top notes and dreamy red-fruited core.  Few people outside of Australia know that McLaren Vale is a haven for world-class Grenache and this wine will undoubtedly spread this message fast.  The finish is clean and crisp with fresh chopped herb highlights making this a smashing example of a benchmark McLG. (18/20 Drink now – 2023)

2016 Ox Hardy, Shiraz, Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale (approx. £24)

The most important soldier in the Ox Hardy brigade is this extraordinary Shiraz from the Upper Tintara Vineyard.  Made from younger vine plantings of Shiraz and benefitting from rather powerful vintage conditions, this is a thrilling UTVS with a spicy, edgy attitude, hints of liquorice root and an inky colour which stains the glass with its intentions.   There is a lifted nose and a crunchy, dynamic finish here making this a nail-biting ride.  The meaty core is fruit-driven, dark, and commanding and all of these elements combine to make this the most classic example of UTVS to date.  The Ox Hardy flair is evident in every sip because alongside the heroic McLaren Vale hallmarks there is polish, control and innate balance.  (18/20 Drink now – 2025)

2017 Ox Hardy, Shiraz, Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale (approx. £24)

In 2017, you will immediately sense extraordinary freshness and lift in this wine.  Unlike the swarthy, brooding 2016, the ‘17 shows that the unique maritime climate had control over this wine’s destiny and it calmed the sun’s rays allowing a more expressive side of this vineyard to show itself.  Fresh forest fruit notes, a dusting of fertile earth, a scattering of dried herbs, an unlit Cohiba rolled between your fingers and a distant tang of ozone make this an utterly charming wine with uncommon restraint and poise. (18/20 Drink now – 2024)

2018 Ox Hardy, Slate Shiraz, Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale (approx. £50)

I wrote the rather baffling expression, ‘beyond minerality’, when I first tasted this wine.  This was a knee jerk reaction to the elemental force contained in this fruit coupled with the unquestionable, but also the unfathomable impact that the ancient slate fermenters have on its expression.  If you haven’t already, you must read the story of this magical ‘equipment’ from the long-derelict winery into which Ox has breathed life.  The colour alone is absurd – it is Mordor in a glass.  The earth and spice remind me of only one other wine on earth – Tempier’s Cabassaou and so I opened up a bottle of this wine, on the spot, to compare to 2018 Slate and the attitude, nobility and stance were identical.  Sanguineous, vampiric, epically layered and super-fine this is a phenomenal release. While the nose and mid-palate are truly magnificent in their measured delivery, the trademark Ox finish arrives, freshening the palate and ending with ‘happy ever after’ purity and calm.  As you will see by my words and also my score this is a deeply impressive wine.  (19+/20 Drink 2022 – 2030)

2019 Ox Hardy, Slate Shiraz, Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale (approx. £50)

If you take every word that I have written in the 2018 vintage note for slate and swop out the Bandol reference for Cornas from Allemande you will see, once again, that this statesmanlike 2019 Slate Shiraz has nailed it again.  If anything this vintage contains even more potential and even deeper wells of thrilling fruit.  There are coffee notes, hung game hints, dark chocolate and tar references, but these are filigree details to the all-pervasive, omnipotent Shiraz fruit.  Once again, this is not a big wine.  This is important to underline.  It is a medium weight fellow with mind-bending purity and intensity and this is what makes it so unforgettable and also desirable.  (19+/20 Drink 2022 – 2030)

2008 Ox Hardy, 1891 Ancestor Vine Shiraz, Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale (approx. £100)

I urge you to pop back to Andrew’s website to read more about the historic vines which make this wine because I will concentrate on the flavour here as opposed to the turf!   At 12 years old, this late-released wine is an amazing treat for the drinker.  One would usually have to undertake the cellaring oneself but Andrew’s philosophy echoes the préstige cuvée Champagne mantra where it makes sense to hold wines in perfect conditions until they are ready to be released.  Of course, this is the diametric opposite to those voracious souls in Bordeaux who can’t wait to flog it out of the barrel!  Anyway, this luxurious limo of a wine is already rolling along nicely on the palate, purring with mega-intense Christmas cake highlights over a tornado of dense black fruit.  While it is certainly the richest wine in the portfolio there is ever-present freshness here, too, reminding us that we have a welcome maritime influence lifting the finish and primping the palate.  Succulent, heart-warming, every inch a centenarian in its complexity this is a magnificent creation which is a gift to wine aficionados everywhere.  (19/20 Drink now – 2030)

2010 Ox Hardy, 1891 Ancestor Vine Shiraz, Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale (approx. £100)

By contrast to the ‘happy grandpa’ which is the harmonious and gregarious 2008 vintage of this wine, the 2010 is a very different creature.  Upright and yet ever so slightly gnarled, this is a grand wine which still retains vigour and verve.  While 2008 might be relaxing on the verandah in its slippers, regaling us with lovely old reminiscences, 2010 is charging around in a droptop with his salt and pepper bouffant fluttering in the breeze.  This is a seriously exciting wine with undoubted class and reverence, but there is energy and dynamism here which hints at a much younger creation.  Drinking now, but able to hold for a further two decades, there is unbelievable scale and phenomenal depth here balanced perfectly with and exquisite detail, poise and élan.  I have tasted this wine on two occasions and each time the aftertaste has lasted all day on my senses.  It is one of the most remarkable wines of 2020.  (19.5+/20 Drink now – 2040)

2012 Ox Hardy, 1891 Ancestor Vine Shiraz, Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale (approx. £100)

I was very fortunate to taste the only bottle of this vintage in the country and I understand that it is not yet released in Australia, so this is somewhat of a scoop.  Given I only had a tasting sample-sized glass with which to make my notes so this is a somewhat cramped review, but I can tell you that this is yet another stellar interpretation of the vines which Thomas Hardy planted back in 1891.  So deep, so closed and yet so refreshing, the power-to-weight ratio here is mind-blowing and the monastic control on the palate confounds any form of devotion I have ever heard of.  By far the most introverted and centred AVS to date, at eight years old, this wine is refusing to budge, but there is so much potential here it is staggering.  We are witnessing the birth of a vinous superstar, and with 2008 and 2010 in the back catalogue, and knowing just how serious the great 2012s are from other wineries in South Australia, I can safely say that I expect this wine to unfurl over the next two or three years into one of the finest Shiraz/Syrahs on the planet.  As far as experiences go, my sip and a half took me on an even more fascinating journey than the near-perfect 2010 but, of course, I didn’t reach the destination.  Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed with just how expressive and also how distinguished this wine felt on my palate and so it would be remiss of me to give it anything less than a perfect score.  (20+/20 Drink 2024 – 2045)