Thorn-Clarke Wines

Shiraz Classification

It’s that time of the year when the vines are dormant and the air has a certain chill to it that rips through all the extra layers of clothing we put on (It never seems to be enough!) It’s the time of year best to enjoy a big Barossa red but it’s also the time of the year we start looking back on the 2019 vintage and start planning the future of our 2019 wines. This month it is time to classify the Shiraz!

Classification of wine is an extremely important element of the wines journey from vine, ferment, barrel and then ending up in a bottle to be enjoyed. The process requires samples from all batches of our Shiraz we have produced that vintage, put them all side by side and work out which ones have the key elements that we are looking for to go in each of our labels.

Initial classification begins in the vineyard well before grapes have been picked, and even before we have our first shoots growing on the vine. Vineyard classification begins post vintage and looks at previous vintages to establish how each block we have will be treated through pruning and fertilisation works. This process sets up how much each block will crop, and at what quality level the wine should end up. This isn’t always a fool proof formula and vintage climatic conditions usually throw a small spanner in the works. That’s where the wine classification comes in.

In July / August each year we pull all of our Shiraz batches from barrel for individual tastings. We can have anywhere from 15 – 30 individual Shiraz batches each year so this is no small task. Each block is judged on its own and against its peers to establish its grade based on three key elements; colour, aroma and taste. These three elements are the structure to how our final blends come together and each label that has Shiraz in it has its own unique identity and style.

It may sound like it’s all fun sitting around enjoying a nice glass of red (and to be honest it can be!) but it is also challenging. The classification can go for days and involves tasting and re-tasting the same wine many times as we make sure that each batch goes the right path to the bottle. Depending on how we taste and classify each wine, it will decide the oak that it will be in, and the length of time that it will stay in barrel. A lot rides on how our palate works on the day!

Classification is a challenging process to do, but is critical for continuing to produce the award winning wines that we currently produce. Now you will know the work required to create our Shiraz wines next time you are sitting back enjoying a glass of red!