Wednesday Wines – Episode 188 – Ox Hardy New Releases

I wrote a feature on Ox Hardy’s first UK releases three years ago, and you can read it here.  This article explains the story behind the brand as well as charting the impeccable quality of Andrew (Ox) Hardy’s wines. Over the last couple of years, Andrew (Ox) Hardy’s stunning creations have found their way into wine cellars and wine lists across the country, and I am delighted to be able to give you a heads up on the next volley of vintages which will arrive on our shores in the New Year.

2023 Ox Hardy, Fiano Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia

This impressive wine is drawn from vines planted in 2011. Fiano is slowly becoming a variety with some decent representation in Australia, and while most of them err on the riper side of the fence, this one weighs in at a tidy 11.5% alcohol, and it gains some of its voluminous flavour from 10% of the juice being treated to some old oak. The result is a fascinating exercise in openness and accuracy offset by balancing tension. There is a magical perfume here with hints of near-tropical fruit and succulent leaf tones, and the crunch on the finish is head-on. Its dizzying effect sends you straight back to the glass for another sip! Tremendous.  18/20

2022 Ox Hardy, Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Ox likes his white wines to be fit and tidy, and even though this is an erudite creation with multiple layering, it sports a sprightly 12.5% alcohol tag that keeps the pulse elevated and the palate keen.  Taking fruit from Mount Torrens and Oakbank and rewarding it with 35% new oak (which I can’t see for the life of me), this Chardonnay has graduated from the 2021 Pro-Am tour to the Open Championship in just twelve months. I am ashamed to have written ‘Chassagne’ in my notes when I should not rely on lazy Francophile monikers for delicious and detailed Aussie wines. This is everything you want from great Hills Chardonnay and more. You can set your timer for a stampede when the price is released because this will confuse and confound anyone who tries to calculate the incredible value for money offered here.   18.5/20

2021 Ox Hardy, Shiraz Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Having tasted several vintages of this ‘estate Shiraz’ and always admiring its generosity and charm, it would be all too easy to find oneself stuck in a flavour rut, unprepared for the unexpected. This would be foolish because with every vintage comes the chance of greatness. In 2021, Ox was given some super-peppery, iodine-spiked Shiraz, and he has done everything possible not to lose a molecule of perfume or flavour while ushering this pristine Shiraz into the bottle. Zesty, lifted, crunchy and punchy, this energetic wine shows boundless enthusiasm on the palate, making it a sheer joy to behold. It is the finest to date under this label, and while it is already drinking well, it will blossom over the next couple of years.  18.5/20

2021 Ox Hardy, Slate Shiraz Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia 

Once again, this wine comes from the Moreton Bay block and is destemmed, crushed and chilled before it goes into the historic slate fermenters. It wins three punch-downs per day and then spends 16 months in old hogsheads; so far, so ancient! The result is one of the most remarkable Shiraz experiences of 2023. With unhinged levels of pepper and seaweed accompanying astoundingly adroit Shiraz fruit, this is one of the most dynamic and expressive showstoppers I have tasted in all of my years dunked in McLaren Vale Shiraz and to think it has only just started on its journey. The mind boggles. Do whatever you can to taste this wine.  19.5/20

2015 Ox Hardy, 1891 Ancestor Vines Shiraz Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia (as yet unlabelled & unreleased)

With crazy intensity and depth on the nose and astounding freshness without an ounce of excess weight or fat on the palate, this is not a heavy wine but a super-intense experience with incredibly grand, swaggering black fruit notes accompanied by an entourage of earth and spice bowing and scraping in adoration. I lost count of how long it was because my watch battery ran out. Either way, this is Andrew’s winemaking down to a tee – patience, precision, and persistence. Gentle handling, old barriques and seriously old vines add to a unique and unforgettable experience.  19.5+/20

2014 Ox Hardy, 1891 Ancestor Vines Shiraz Upper Tintara Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia 

After the extraordinarily refreshing talents of the 2015, this battle-axe of a 2014 feels like everyone’s favourite diplodocus. Old-school, muscular, and hearty, this is the vinous equivalent of running into Oliver Reed in your local and then being treated to a 48-hour sesh of him recounting his finest cinematic moments accompanied by flagons of earthy, almanac-soaked Shiraz. It is fascinating how in tune these ancestor vines are with their surroundings, and in 2014, the richness, power and glory are all front and centre, while freshness and lift seem somewhat crowded out. Drinking beautifully already, while this wine will undoubtedly roll along for a decade or more, I would catch it now before it ambles to a halt.  18.5/20