Nest Egg Shiraz 2010 wins World's Best Shiraz
ANDREW NUGENT is a firm believer in “reward for effort”, which probably has a lot to do with why his Bird in Hand 2010 Nest Egg Shiraz has taken top honours in Winestate’s competition to find the World’s Best Shiraz. It is a considerable feat for a cool climate Adelaide Hills shiraz, cleaning up revered Barossa labels such as the 2007 Penfold’s Grange, the 2007 Henschke Hill of Grace, Torbreck’s 2006 The Laird – all costing about eight times as much, plus a couple of highly respected French wines, the 2007 Paul Jaboulet Aîné - La Chapelle De L'Hermitage and the 2007 E.Guigal Côte-Rôtie - Château d'Ampuis.
The 2010 Nest Egg was one of 726 shiraz wines tasted in the competition and one of only 20 or so to receive five-star honours in what Winestate publisher Peter Simic believes is Australia’s and possibly the world’s most comprehensive shiraz assessment: “We go out and source the best,” he says.
What is indisputable is that the 2010 Nest Egg has added new strength to the view that the Adelaide Hills is now a prime source of premium cool climate shiraz. For many years the conventional wisdom was that sauvignon blanc and pinot noir would be the Hills’ mainstay wines, but increasingly it’s shiraz and chardonnay that get star billing. Neither grape variety featured on Nugent’s radar when he and his family purchased land near Woodside in 1997. A Roseworthy graduate in agricultural science, Nugent drifted into the wine industry after a period working as a jackaroo. He’d grown up within sight of Penfold’s Magill vineyard but, he admits, hadn’t paid the wine industry much attention until after he began working on a Riverland vineyard. His next move was to Tatachilla in McLaren Vale, working as a viticulturist for the late Vic Zerella. These were boom times and the winery prospered. “It gave me a fantastic grounding in the wine business,” Nugent says. “That era in the mid-1990s was extraordinary. With Michael Fragos as winemaker we won lots of awards.”
When the Nugent family decided it was time to build their own vineyard and winery they had little hesitation in heading for the Hills. Water was a key factor and the 40ha patch of land they targeted, a former dairy, had a 250,000 litre an hour bore pumping water at 600ppm purity (of dissolved salts). The soil was another, deep red soil over metamorphic rock and schist, and so was its topography: “It was aesthetically really pleasing – north facing, lush, with rolling hills and big red gums,” Nugent says. And this gives a clue to the forces that drive Nugent’s quest for perfection: “I’ve always loved quality things, beautiful things, whether it be gardens or art, or wine,” he says. “The wine industry has given us the opportunity to be aspirational, to aim for the best. We’re fanatical about quality and continual improvement, which makes this a very difficult place in which to work.”
Ten years ago Nugent found the ideal accomplice in his quest for quality in chief winemaker Kym Milne, who had followed Michael Hill Smith to be Australia’s second Master of Wine, then worked in New Zealand and later as a flying winemaker based in London before returning to Australia. “Kym brought a global perspective to our business and he helped us to understand very early on that if we wanted to compete at the top echelon, it had to be all about shiraz and chardonnay,” Nugent says. “The Hills can do many varieties to a high level, depending on their sites, but these are the two. The other varieties can be amazing, but these two are the best.”
Milne’s first vintage was in 2003 and soon Bird in Hand was winning awards from all over for its shiraz, establishing a shiraz pedigree matched by few other wineries. The 2005 vintage was Winestate’s Wine of the Year and in 2006 it won the World’s Greatest Shiraz Challenge ($30-$40 category), culminating in an extraordinary 2011 when the Two in a Bush Shiraz won World’s Best Value Shiraz in the Decanter World Wine Awards, and the Bird in Hand Shiraz was named Best Australian Red Wine, Best Australian Shiraz and Best Adelaide Hills Red Wine in the International Wine Challenge...plus a Gold Medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards just to cap things off.
“We’ve been fortunate to be able to follow in the pioneering footsteps of wineries such as Petaluma and Shaw & Smith who first showed the potential of Adelaide Hills shiraz,” Nugent says. That potential was also quickly recognised by other nearby wineries such as Hahndorf Hill and The Lane, where John Edwards made prescient choices when he planted both shiraz and chardonnay in 1993. “From a global perspective, the movement in shiraz is now very clearly away from the Parker style of high alcohol, over-extracted wines,” Nugent says. “The demand now is leaning to more elegant, food-orientated wine and this new Winestate award for our Nest Egg Shiraz just cements the direction we’ve chosen to take.”
Bird in Hand crushed around 1550 tonnes in 2010, about 25 per cent sourced from its own vineyards, including a 4ha block at Clare producing riesling and shiraz. The balance comes from Adelaide Hills vineyards stretching from Kersbrook to Kuitpo, with the fruit for the 2010 Nest Egg shiraz coming from three or four vineyards in the central Hills region around Woodside and Balhannah. “The Adelaide Hills as a region has a fabulous diversity of vineyards due it its size, range of altitudes and soil types,” says Milne. “In the case of shiraz, this allows a selection of a range of different styles. Cooler areas such as those around Balhannah and Woodside produce shiraz with fabulous vibrancy and loads of lifted cool climate pepper and spice aromatics. The warmer fringes of the Hills to the north and south produce shiraz in the riper spectrum of flavours, with ripe berry fruits and fleshier palates. As a result, the region is producing a terrific range of high quality shiraz from a number of quality focused producers.”