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Spring Australian Deals - May 2018

New and updated with 6 new wines: 16th May 2017!

Most of you know us. In the main, we rather pride ourselves on not running sales, bin ends and Everything-Must-Gos.

Instead, we simply operate with some of the lowest margins in the UK and keep our prices there consistently. <We know that folk buying in bulk expect us to be able to drop away another 10% (as is the norm in England), but Scottish law explicity prevents that... so we simply make our big discounts apply on the first bottle and every one that follows>.

But even we have the odd exception. Like a number of larger merchants, we hold stocks in bond(ed warehouse), especially for wines that we might send for export, for higher-value wines and those we hold to age. Or, normally, some combination of those. In our case, that's just a few wines, but in reasonable numbers. It's only a small part of what we do, the bond thing, but it has an occasional impact on what we offer on-line.

In that bonded warehouse, we've been ageing a selection of great Australian reds for some years (with no particular wish to wave them goodbye). From time to time, we take a good, hard look and re-evaluate the market price for those wines ... and sometimes there comes a point when we want to release those.

So today is very good news if you like Australian Shirazes (or even a very fine Grenache, a Barossa blend from Australia's finest or a wonderful Margearet Rive Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend) with some age (and the development flavours that come with it): these wines afford an excellent opportunity to buy some world-class, ready-aged wines without the cost that often accompanies them.


What are we offering? Well, start where you like. They're all great, and cover a range of price points.

Our newly-added six in May (see photo above):


- we simply have to start with the two Coach House Blocks in Barossa: one from Two Hands (2006), the other from Branson (2005). These are both the epitome of luxury Barossa Shiraz, both made with absolutely no compromise in quality. Both come from the same vineyard near the wee hamlet of Greenock (how at home we feel...); like so many of the world's great vineyards, it lies in shared hands (or did at the time of production of these two wines). The bottles (far left and far right in the above photo) tell you everything - these are amazing, opulent Shirazes in the dials-set-to-11 idiom of the best Barossas. Both are velvety beyond measure (off the scale of the velvetometer) and feature among the very favourite wines of the Exel team and many of our top customers. Both are from truly great vintages in Barossa: the 2006 Two Hands scored 95 points with Wine Spectator while the 2005 harvest  is still seen as one of the finest ever in Barossa.


- Two Hands are the producer behind the Bella's Garden 2004. This is Two Hands' selection of their finest Shiraz from across their Barossa vineyards (and those of their contracted growers). At 14 years of age, this Barossa beauty is now right at the peak of its drinking window. We might point you towards this rather useful blog from Wine Spectator all about Bella's Garden.


- Ben Glaetzer's Barossa icon/flagship, the Amon-Ra (we offer the 2011) has developed a real cult following, each new vintage selling out at the winery as (or before) it emerges, as this article from Drinks Business details. Many of our offerings here are ripe and ready for drinking now: the Amon-Ra will delight the palate now (being made very much in the modern, softer style) but will also improve for easily another 10 to 15 years for those of you given to cellar time. 


- The most aged of our offering dates from 2001: fully seventeen Barossa harvests ago. And if you were to be buying a Barossa blend with that age on the clock, you'd want it to be from the very best. perhaps, even, from the makers of nearby Hill of Grace. Enter Henschke with their Keyneton Estate Euphonium: 72% Shiraz, 20% Cab Sauv and 8% Merlot. We thought it a wise precaution to uncork a sample yesterday. We need scarely have concerned ourselves: fruit still powerful but now acompanied by wonderful tertiary (game, leather) flavours. It's not everyday you can find a gloriously-aged wine like this from one of the New World's true wine institutions ...  for £28.


- And finally a white. Yes, a white. What would you choose for your iconic Australian quality white? A Hunter Valley Semillon with 15 years on the clock? Yes, probably... but we don't have any of those (yet). But we do have the next best thing - a few bottles of a boutique Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend from Western Australia's maritime Margaret River - the Domaine Naturaliste Sauvage 2013. It's just £16.50 a bottle and right at its perfect drinking point. So good is this, in fact, that this article's writer is unashamedly reducing the warehouse inventory by one bottle this weekend....   




Our original - and very popular - six from Febrary are:


- at the serious-luxury and sumptous end, we've the Elderton Command Shiraz 2003 - a Barossa blockbuster held in the very highest esteem, and now (for this wine) right in its prime drinking window (reduced from £46 to an incredible £31.20);


- the Clarendon Hills Blewitt Springs Grenache 2005 (from McLaren Vale) is an exemplar of great world Grenaches (check out Oz Clark's excellent Grapes and Wines if in doubt), held up as a style icon alongside the other Grenache greats of Priorat(o) and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. What's more, this is from the 2005 vintage, generally considered the finest vintage in South Australia in the last 40 years. This is now £27 a bottle, down from £36 (and would be my pick of the bunch);


- Torbreck are among the Barossa Greats and The Struie 2006 is their affordable luxury, now at £22.00 ...


- ... while, from that same 2006 vintage, the Shirvington 2006 - a huge McLaren Vale Shiraz that has recently wowed customers at one of our Perth tastings - is now £20.00;


- For the budget-conscious bargain hunter, we've the Henry's Drive Shiraz 2003 from Padthaway, at a case-filling price of £13.50 (down from over £22); and


- Finally, not everybody wants age on their Shiraz (or they may choose to age it themselves). For those, our hugely-popular and Decanter World Wine Award 2017-winning Berton Reserve Shiraz 2015 from Barossa remains available from us at a UK-beating £13.20.

So, we know you may be wondering: "You, Exel Wines ... reductions? Really? So... what's wrong with the wines"?

We understand that thinking: we see plenty of such firesales out in the marketplace, after all.

Well, we've left nothing to chance: where we've had any doubts as to whether any of these wines have made it safely from the Noughties to 2018, we've opened a bottle and tested it

 And very enjoyable it has been, too...


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Branson Coach House Shiraz 2005 (1x 75cl)

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Branson Coach House 2005 - fiche technique

The small, intimate winery of Branson Coach House was established in 1998. Together with other investors, Richard Mintz and Michael Twelftree, of Two Hands Wines, purchased the vineyard and winery in 2001 with the sole aim of creating and establishing one of Australia's greatest estate grown and made wines. The winery and vineyard are located in the Western Barossa. The emphasis on single-vineyard, estate-grown wines drives Branson Coach House's philosophy: to keep yields low, and to practice "minimal intervention." This means that from the vineyard until bottling, the fruit is carefully monitored, but that the unique terroir of the region will be at the forefront of the wine.

Originally planted in 1990, the Branson Coach House vines thrive in the trademark, red clay soil of the Western Barossa. The results are truly phenomenal — power, intensity and the ability to age gracefully. The release of its first vintage, from 2002, led to quick admiration from influential wine enthusiasts. The emphasis on single-vineyard, estate-grown wines drives Branson Coach House's philosophy: to keep yields low, and to practice "minimal intervention." This means that from the vineyard until bottling, the fruit is carefully monitored, but that the unique terroir of the region will be at the forefront of the wine.

This is a stunning, single vineyard, Barossa Shiraz that spent 20 months maturing in French oak that would be a fanatstic addition to your cellar or wine rack. It is now a mature, thoroughly drinkable wine and is a stunning glass to enjoy with a special meal.

A simply outstanding Barossa Shiraz-Syrah. Really deep colour with a brown hue. Sweet blackberry, fresh morning coffee and toast with a hint of truffle rush to my nose. Dense, concentrated and savory on the palate. Soft tanins, complex layers of black fruits, spices and smoky flavours but still spectacular balance. A masterpiece, doubly so at this price.

We like this because it is a hidden gem that we adore and this will possibly be your last chance to indulge in one of the Barossa Valley's greatest wines from this phenomenal vintage. We bought stock of this some time ago, knowing its potential: it has exceeded all of our expectations now that it's entered its peak condition/drinking window. It is well rounded and full bodied with superbly integrated tannins, black fruit character and a trademark hit of spice. It envelopes your tastebuds with its velvety texture and rich flavours - one glass simply isn't enough!


Two Hands Coach House Block Shiraz 2006 (1x 75cl)

Quality without compromise is central to the Two Hands philosophy, driving all the decisions from fruit and oak selection to packaging and promotion. "We strive to differentiate ourselves; to be unique, fun and innovative in our business approach while maintaining a high degree of professionalism and integrity."

The Coach House Block Shiraz comes from an estate grown single vineyard near the tiny hamlet of Greenock in the Barossa Valley.
It is generous and supple whilst soft and approachable upon release. An ultra-rich, heady, mouth-filling Shiraz that combines balanced acidity and mid-palate texture.

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Two Hands Coach House Block Shiraz 2006 - fiche technique

Simply an outstanding wine. Once decanted, you can smell this beast from three feet away. Black fruits highlight the full bodied palate with bits of spice, tobacco and licorice. The finish goes on through desert and part of the journey home.


Two Hands Bellas Garden Shiraz 2004 (1x 75cl)

Quality without compromise is central to the Two Hands philosophy, driving all the decisions from fruit and oak selection to packaging and promotion. "We strive to differentiate ourselves; to be unique, fun and innovative in our business approach while maintaining a high degree of professionalism and integrity."

The grapes were de-stemmed (but not crushed) and fermented in three to ten tonne open top fermenters, with regular pump overs (2-3 times daily over peak fermentation) to extract colour, flavour and tannins. Some parcels had 20% whole bunch ferment and punchdowns.

The wine was then aged for approximately 17 months in French oak hogsheads and puncheons, with a small number of new oak casks and the remainder in older oak.

Black to the core, Very perfumed with lovely red fruits including subtle raspberries, five spice, cedar and sandelwood, Juicy red fruits burst onto the palate and roll on and on, balanced with fine tannins and subtle oak. This wine has great length and an elegant framework.


Glaetzer Amon-Ra Shiraz 2011 (1x 75cl)

Amon-Ra Shiraz is an iconic wine that epitomises Ben Glaetzer’s passion to create wines that are full flavoured, multi layered and intense but still elegant, stylish and finely balanced. In Egyptian mythology, Amon-Ra is considered to be the king of all gods. The temple of Amon-Ra was believed to be the first temple to ever plant a monoculture vineyard to produce wine for the citizens of the temple. The eye on front of the label is the all-seeing eye of Horus or wedjat ("whole one") - a powerful Egyptian symbol of protection. It is represented as a figure with six parts, corresponding to what Egyptians regarded as the six senses; touch, taste, hearing, sight, smell and thought. Ben created Amon-Ra Shiraz to appeal to all these six senses.

Exceptional old vine fruit was sourced from the famed Ebenezer sub district at the northern tip of the Barossa Valley. Vine age 50—130 years old.

This wine was fermented in 1 and 2 tonne open fermenters, as well as being hand plunged 3 times daily. It was matured for 16 months in 100% new oak hogshead barrels (95% French and 5% American) and matured on its lees to maintain fruit profile and animation. Amon-Ra is bottled unfiltered to ensure minimal intervention with the wine’s natural characteristics.

The Amon-Ra is deep purple, almost black in colour. It is highly perfumed with dried spice, espresso, plum and blackberry on the nose. On the palate there is awesome balance which is combined with tremendous depth. This is a wine that will develop beautifully with long term cellaring over decades.


Henschke Keyneton Estate Euphonium Shiraz Cabernet Merlot 2001 (1x 75cl)

Today, it is fifth-generation winemaker Stephen Henschke and his viticulturist wife Prue at the helm of Henschke, passionately upholding the family name and reputation. Stephen and Prue continue to craft their white wines with a focus on purity, while their red wines have a strong focus on terroir, using traditional winemaking techniques. Stephen's thoughts on their work: “Prue and I are the current ‘keepers of the flame’. Just as earlier generations have done, we want to manage the vineyards and winery so they can be passed on to the next generation in better condition than we inherited them. Our vision would not be complete without the expectation that future generations will uphold and perpetuate our belief that such ancient and unique single-vineyard sites can produce exceptional wines that are prized for their beauty and rarity.”

One of the more well-known wines in their portfolio is the Keyneton Estate. The 2001, a blend of 72% Shiraz, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Merlot, is more Bordeaux than Rhone-like. Aromas of blackcurrants, liquorice, tobacco leaf, and spice box with a hint of mint are followed by a medium-bodied, elegant, pure red.

Here is the link to the tasting note produced by Henschke for this wine:

Henschke Keyneton Estate 2001


Domaine Naturaliste Direction Series Sauvage S.SB 2013 (1x 75cl)

Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon cultivars are well adapted to Margare River's gravelly soils and maritime climate. Sauvignon contributes fragrance; Semillon texture and capacity for aging. They are from the cooler southern end of Margaret River, which is renowned for its fragrant white wines. Bold aromas of red currant, passion fruit and orange blossom laced with exotic notes of lychee and clove. A creamy mouth filling palate delights the senses with an unexpected richness and depth of flavour.

75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon.

Fermentation and maturation in 500L French oak puncheons allows a gentle ingress of oak elements, while preserving freshness. Sauvage remains on its yeast sediment sur lie during maturation. This process or yeast cell breakdown adds depth and richness to the palate. Maturation is in 33% new, 500-litre French oak puncheons for 10 months. The wood is primarily from the Vosges and Allier forests.


Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2003 (1x 75cl)

The Elderton Command Shiraz has established an enviable reputation since the first vintage in 1984. It is truly one of Australia’s best and most highly-regarded icon wines. Accolades have come from the world over for vintages such as the 1992, which was chosen by the influential wine critic Robert Parker in his U.S. magazine the Wine Advocate as one of the world’s Top 80 wines. The 1995 Command was awarded 95 points by Wine Spectator and placed in their Top 100 wines; the 2000 was awarded 97 points by the same magazine and placed 27 in their Top 100. The 1996 Command won the trophy for the best Shiraz in the world at the London International Wine and Spirit Competition.

The second generation of Ashmeads and Elderton Co-Managing Directors, Allister and Cameron, as the current custodians of a rare piece of Barossa Valley viticultural heritage, continue their parents aspirations and expectations to produce a great wine of the world. The Command is truly an expression of place, and one of which the family intends to preserve for generations to come.

The fruit was harvested by hand, with five small parcels harvested over five weeks to attain complex nuances. Fermented in open top concrete fermenters with chilled ferments, hand pump-overs and cap submerging with oak header boards for eight days; the process finished with barrel ferment and malolactic fermentation in new French & American puncheons. Aromas of blackberry fruit, aniseed and spices carry through to the palate which is rich, warm and generous.

Very dark purple with bright magenta hues. Aromas of blackberry fruit, aniseed and spices. Aromas of blackberry fruit, aniseed and spices carry through to the palate which is rich, warm and generous.

Elderton recommend that the Command Shiraz willl "cellar confidently for 15-20 years".

£46.08 £31.20

Clarendon Hills Blewitt Springs Grenache, McLaren Vale 2005 (1x 75cl)

Winemaking: Low yielding, dry grown vines planted in 1920 are hand picked and a wild yeast fermentation is cultured thereafter. Typically ferments run for a few days and all pressings are the returned to the barrel and bottled onsite without fining or filtration.

Maturation: 18 months, within a hierarchy of 1-5 year old tight-grained, first-class French oak barriques that are specially produced for Clarendon Hills. Racking occurs as required. Each barrique is individually examined repetitively to gauge the site’s expression and organic evolution.

Nose: Lifted and layered. The evolving nose reveals at first, fresh forest berries with a mixture of softly perfumed rose petal aromas, whose mixture of Turkish delight and strawberries and cream is truly attention grabbing. On decant, a vineyard-unique salty/brine character begins to nuance with subtle anise and earthy notes to create an entirely more dramatic and sophisticated expression. An entirely hedonistic perfume whose suggestion of effortless power and wealth becomes apparent with time.

Palate: Layers of playful cherry, boysenberry and red currant fruit play throughout a long, orchestral finish. The extremely fine boned, talcum like extract presents itself as it appears to ‘tap the brakes’ across the mid-palate before finishing across a long, creamy finish. Mouth-watering, bright natural acidity highlights the exquisite fruit quality whose balance of savoury, raw fruit like, character is neither sugary or jamy. Its just sweet.

Clarendon Hills state, of their current 2013 Blewitt Springs, "The remarkably concealed yet omnipresent super fine tannin will safely sustain this gorgeous 95-year-old, single-vineyard example for another decade" (ie from 2018). The 2005 vintage in McLaren Vale was incredibly strong (and its ageworthiness greater still) - see the Parker vintage guide here which rates 2005 as the best McLaren/Barossa year of the 40 listed there and 'ready to drink' - so, in 2018, this sits very well within a similar 15-year, quality drinking window.

We would make the point that this is an aged New World Grenache: its aged flavours are distinct and not for everyone, but this is a bottle very much in condition for those that appreciate aged Grenache, and, at that, one of the greats of the New World. We greatly recommend decanting and a few hours of breathing. 

£36.00 £27.00

Torbreck The Struie 2006 (1x 75cl)

See the winemaker's own technical note/fiche technique:

Torbreck The Struie 2006 - fiche technique

This wine is a blend of Shiraz from the Eden and Barossa Valleys, combining the best of both regions. 100% Shiraz, 18 months in seasoned French oak.

Sourced from several elevated sites throughout the Barossa (60+ year old vines) & Eden Valleys (40+ year old vines), the Struie reflects the cooler side of the region and showcases the subtle nuances that are gained from hillside viticulture. Possessing a dense and completely opaque hue the 2006 Struie has a wonderfully healthy sheen and great viscosity. The initial aromas of black raspberries, crème de cacao and star anise yield to a fragrant core of slow roasted meats, scorched earth and olive tapenade.

Full-bodied and tightly-structured, the palate shows phenomenal ripeness and brooding richness along with a razor-like spine of beautifully integrated acidity and mountain like tannin that will greatly reward those with the patience to cellar it. Pleasurable now but also with real depth to age further. 

£29.30 £22.00

Shirvington Estate Shiraz 2006 (1x 75cl)

This blockbuster wine was 100% barrel-fermented and oak aged for 12 months: 75% in new oak and 25% in one-year-old oak. 90% of the oak was American and 10% was French.

The 2006 vintage has an opaque red colour with a purple hue. It shows an amazingly concentrated and intense nose with blueberry and blood plum filling the headspace. These fruit notes are joined with dark chocolate, vanilla bean and golden syrup nuances. The opulent palate has a magnitude of oak-driven, sweet creamy layers, soft and supple tannins and a seamless length, full of liquorice, toasted coconut and cracked black pepper.

The Shirvington 2006 is drinking well now but will cellar for many years. Like many 'major' Shirazes/Syrahs, it has thrown a noticeable sediment and will repay careful decanting.

£25.00 £20.00

Henrys Drive Shiraz 2003 (1x75cl)

The fruit for this Henry's Drive Reserve Shiraz is sourced exclusively from a single family vineyard in Padthaway.

The colour is opaque red with a purple hue. The complex nose displays an abundance of violets, rose perfumed talc and dark cocoa. Lively aromas of mint and eucalyptus fill the headspace. These aromas all evolve in the glass over time continuing to stimulate and impress. The powerful palate from the start hits with luscious sweet blackcurrant fruit, leading into the tight elegant structure which enfolds creamy and toasty layers. The long chewy tannins vie with the flavours of caramel, mocha and wood fired oven bread. This unique Shiraz is a stunning and superbly balanced wine.

The wine is barrel-fermented and matured in oak hogsheads and barriques. The breakdown is as follow - 65% American, 35% French, 80% new & 20% one-year old oak.

Exel note: This is a big New World Shiraz with 15 years on the clock. We have recently (6.3.18) tested it for quality and it remains excellent: the eucalyptus aromas and vanilla flavours are powerful, fruit flavours are still dominant and age/tertiary flavours are clear but not overbearing; in short, the tannins have preserved this wine well. It is for drinking witin the next year but is an excellent aged Shiraz, especially at the price.

£22.90 £13.50

Berton Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and a Platinum Best In Show at the Decanter World Wine Awards (www.decanter.com): see their August 2017 DWWA supplement (see blue link below).

Berton Reserve Shiraz 2015 - August 2017 Decanter review

Established by Bob and Cherie Berton in May 1996, Berton Vineyard's estate covers 30 hectares of land located on gently rolling hills at 450 metres above sea level, in a subregion of Eden Valley in South Australia. The superb Reserve Shiraz and Reserve Chardonnay wines are still sourced from this plot. In 2007, Bob purchased the Yenda winery in the heart of the Riverina. This state-of- the-art facility has the capacity to process 20,000 tonnes and enables Berton Vineyard to produce value for money wines which sit alongside their premium single vineyard offerings.

Shiraz 93%, Durif 4%, Cabernet Sauvignon 3%. The grapes come from the Barossa Valley, in South Australia. Situated at a latitude of 34° South, the region is made up of rolling hills and valley floors. The growing season often sees hot, warm weather with temperatures of 35°C, which can result in vine stress, helping to concentrate the flavours in the berries. The wide diurnal temperature differences help to retain balancing acidity. Some of the grapes come from Berton's original vineyard in the Eden Valley, where the climate is cooler. The vine age is varied, but all vines have been spur pruned and are generally trained on a single wire cordon trellising system. The vines are planted at approximately 1.8 metres apart with 3.6 metres between the rows, to allow machinery access. The soil styles in the vineyards are varied, ranging from clay, to limestone and sandy soils, with each terroir adding its own characteristic to the final wine.

The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks with regular skin submersion in order to extract the required colour and flavour from the grapes. After fermentation, the wine was pressed off into stainless steel tanks where it completed malolactic fermentation in the late autumn. The wine was then racked off into both French and American oak barrels resulting in a rich, spicy complex Shiraz. 

The Reserve Shiraz is deepest dark red with a very youthful and vibrant garnet hue. The aromas are powerful and complex with a wealth of fruit ranging from ripe black cherries and blackberries with hints of eucalypt and spice. The rich and full palate displays soft flavours of plum skin, mulberry and hints of vanilla and blackberry, These abundant flavours are underpinned by fine vanilla from the oak and defined by exciting spicy tannins.

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