A study of heritage Hunter Shiraz plus one speciality that is really a sweetie …..
Mount Pleasant produce wines that truly reflect their regional roots. Shiraz wines from Australia’s Hunter Valley always has an elegance as it hovers between medium and full body. In the valley, some of the best shiraz wines come from heritage vineyards. Old Hill vineyard, Mount Pleasant’s oldest, was planted in 1880. These gnarly wines are still producing outstanding wines.
The first part of the round up for the current vintages looks at some of the renown specialities amongst Mount Pleasant wine range. Semillon and pinot noir, as well as some of the more experimental highlights.
A journey through Hunter Valley shiraz history with some of the best of Mount Pleasant wines…
Mount Pleasant Old Paddock Old Hill Shiraz 2017
This is a shiraz that is a blend of Mount Pleasant’s two historic vineyards – Old Paddock and Old Hill. Old Hill vineyard was first planted on volcanic soil above the winery in 1880 by Charles King. Maurice O’Shea planted the adjoining Old Paddock vineyard in 1921. Each of the vineyards produce wines with individual personalities. While each individual wine is an excellent shiraz, the combination is remarkable. Particularly, for the price!
The judicious use of mixed oak, small and large format and predominantly old, has left the fruit in the limelight. The bright blue and black berry and plum fruit has been endowed with some brown spice richness. Velvety tannins are ripe and shapely and firm up the finish of the fuller bodied red. It is a wine good drinking now. However, the Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz is a wine that should be a cellar staple. $50
Mount Pleasant Rosehill Shiraz 2017
The original Rosehill vineyard was planted in the 1940s and is one of the highest vineyards in the Hunter Valley. I find this vineyard produces shiraz that has more floral notes and shows a little pepper too. Rosehill has a tendency for wines of elegance as well as intensity.
The 2017 is lush with ripe berry fruit, blueberry and raspberry brought together with those floral nuances and pepper and nutmeg spices. This juicy red’s fuller body has been fleshed out with some lightly creamy oak. It has spent twelve months languishing in chiefly old French oak (80%). While it is rich, it is looking very pretty now. Like other Mount Pleasant wines, the Old Paddock & Old Hill should be a cellar staple for a decade or two. $50
Mount Pleasant 1880 Vines Old Hill Shiraz 2017
The original shiraz vines in this Hunter Valley vineyard were planted in 1880 and this wine has been made from these treasured vines. After the mash up of a vintage for 2016, the 2017 was a good one. And for old, established vines such as this with their deep roots, it was excellent. It is always heartening to see Mount Pleasant’s oak regime of utilising older and large format French oak as it allows wines such as this to showcase their unique expressions.
This is a fragrant red in its youth. Rich with ripe raspberry and plum fruit with an earthy dark chocolate base and finished with a pinch of pepper. The tannins are supple and very shapely and the long finish is deep and generous. Wines such as this will still be giving generously in decades to come but are so very good to appreciate now too. $135
Mount Pleasant 1921 Old Paddock Shiraz 2017
This has been made from a parcel of grapes from the original plantings on the Old Paddock vineyard. This vineyard neighbours the Old Hill vineyard above the winery. Whereas the original plantings on the Old Hill are more exuberant in their fruit, this wine is more about structure in its youth.
It is richly perfumed with a peppery, floral lift to the plum and black berry fruit. There is a flush of acid to drive this wine deep along the palate. The fruit is still generous though adding plenty of flesh to that backbone. I would certainly love to see this wine unfurl and relax into its stride. However, like its Old Hill partner, it is still good to go now and showcases the fruit of this particular vineyard. $135
Mount Pleasant 1946 Rosehill Shiraz 2017
These grapes were sourced from the original parcel of the Rosehill vineyard. Wines from this block are only made in exceptional years such as this vintage. The fruit here is elegantly proportioned with sweetly ripe fruit that continues right through to the finish. It shows a little more pepper and spice amongst its red fruit than the 1965 block and perhaps was showing a little more of a structural frame at the time of tasting. $135
Mount Pleasant 1965 Rosehill Shiraz 2017
The Mount Pleasant Rosehill vineyard was expanded in 1965. Hence this particular assemblage. And what evocative parcels of fruit this section of Rosehill vineyard offers! Some of Mount Pleasant’s most distinctive wines come from this block. These wines take on an effusive violet and pepper combination that lifts the more earthy chocolate, nutmeg and vanilla nuances and the red cherry and plum fruit.
As the flavours evolve, they take on a more savoury and earthly persona. Whereas I felt the 1946 vines were a little more structural, this selection was showing more of a shapely tannin structure. Again, these are wines that are built for the long haul in the cellar as well as being imminently drinkable now. $135
Mount Pleasant Mountain B 2016 Shiraz 2016
The ‘Mountain Series’ is a grouping of Mount Pleasant wines where rather than focusing on specific vineyards, the style of shiraz is showcased. For instance, ‘Mountain A’ is made from the 1965 Rosehill vines with less oak time and styled to be a medium bodied wine. ‘Mountain D’ is a blend that sees more new oak than most of their top end shirazs. ‘Mountain B’ is another blend of vineyards, however, it differs to the ‘D’ in its oak regime. This version spends 18 months in large format oak.
This means that the oak provides support for the fruit, while leaving the plum and berry fruit to strut its stuff. The pepper and floral detail is joined by some thyme here. The ‘B’ is fuller bodied and has a creamy vanilla oak that smooths its way across your mouth. A generous but not opulent shiraz and one that has lots going on. ($100)
Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz 2014
The Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz is one of the Hunter Valley’s top wines and is no stranger to accumulating gongs and accolades. It is after all a rich blend of heritage vines each contributing their best fruit. The secret here though, is that the team has made sure that fruit is undisguised by a block of oak. And it is a wine that embodies elegance and never denies its Hunter Valley roots.
The 2014 vintage is also one of the most lauded for half a century. This means that if you are looking for an alternative to some of Australia’s red wines of legend that have overinflated egos, you really cannot go past this wine. Particularly, if you can hold on to it for the long term.
At this moment in time though, it has five years cellaring already done for you. This has given the O’Shea plenty of ripe nuance from the tip of its red plum, cherry and black berry fruit to its chocolatey, earthy bass. Each note is in harmony strikes a dulcet tone amid a mouthful of plush, well tuned, tannins. Indeed, all those accolades are deserved and merited.
A sweet finish …..
Mount Pleasant NV Aged Verdelho
The rich fortified history of the Hunter Valley is so often overlooked. Particularly now that sweet wines have been forsaken by those who are seeking to drink less alcohol and wines that are drier in style. However, those sweet treats are often still treasured in the wineries of established Hunter family’s. Usually, they are offered on limited release.
Also, let us not forget that the Hunter Valley still makes some of the best straight Verdelho wines in Australia. These wines may be sourced from old vineyards that were planted to provide those fortified wines. They were the fruity dry whites of choice before Sauvignon blanc took its place.
The fortified versions however are still popular cellar door specials though. The Mount Pleasant fortified Verdelho is rich and toffee like due to the inclusion of a small portion of the original blend that was started in the 1920s by Maurice O’Shea. This original blend has been freshened up with additions of great vintages along the way.
It is a very sweet, unctuous and fiery fortified and while it is ready to drink, it can also be kept for enjoyment much later in your lifetime. Pour it straight up over vanilla icecream or bring out the sticky toffee pudding. Decadence in a bottle. $60
Mount Pleasant wines also makes a nutty caramel, spicy 30 Year Tawny as well.
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