April 8, 2011 Paxton Vineyards
Paxton Vineyards Paxton AAA Shiraz Grenache
Australia (McLaren Vale)
shiraz (72%), grenache (28%)
Paxton Vineyards is an 80-hectare, family-owned-and-operated wine estate in McLaren Vale, a short distance south of Adelaide. It was founded in 1979, although vine planting in this region of Australia dates back to English settlers in the 19th century. Today McLaren Vale is home to a broad range of wine producers, from giants such as Hardys to dozens of small operations.
The estate’s founder is David Paxton, one of Australia’s premier viticulturists, a man who has been instrumental in laying the vineyard foundations of wineries in several regions of Australia. Self-taught, with opinions rooted in 30 years of experience, he was won over to biodynamics by the dramatic improvement he saw in the health of his vineyards once he began experimenting with the approach. He views it neither as a marketing tool, nor something rooted in moral argument. Quips Paxton, it was “the difference between bringing a child up on Big Macs or healthy homegrown food.”
McLaren Vale’s climate is conducive to premium wine production. The region is a coastal strip wedged between the southern ranges of the Adelaide Hills and the Gulf of St. Vincent. In general terms it has a long, warm growing season, moderated by ocean breezes, although there is significant climatic variation throughout the region.
In red wine production shiraz is king. The shiraz fruit for the 2008 Paxton AAA (the name harkens back to Paxton’s youth when he worked in the wool industry, where the stencil ‘AAA’ signifies prime quality) was drawn from five different premium vineyards, each with its own characteristics. The grenache was drawn from another three. All eight were fermented separately. The 11-month maturing of the wine was done in 225 litre oak barriques (half American and half French), only 15% of them new.
Son Michael Paxton is the winemaker and another son, Ben, manages Paxton’s Cellar Door (on the site of an 1860s sheep farm). Michael took on the task after several years working with wineries in Australia and abroad (U.S., France, Argentina, and Spain). He oversees the production of the six estate grown wines, both white and red. Production is very much hands-on, yet with minimal intervention to take full advantage of the natural fruit characteristics. One of the results is this handsome shiraz/grenache blend, showing sophisticated restraint and delivered at a surprisingly good price point.
Paxton Vineyards Paxton AAA Shiraz Grenache 2008
AAA…hey, hey, hey.
Deeply berried, hints of chocolate and spice. A welcoming wine, with herbaceous notes, and tannins that swim along smoothly. Bright and fresh, juicy, not jammy, and with fine depth of character. $