It seems like yesterday that I first tasted the Spinifex red wines. They were so different from the normal Barossa style, and I had no expectations when that tasting took place in 2006 – but the pieces fell into place when more wines sent the same message. And so to Spinifex and New Zealand-born Peter Schell and his wife Magali Gely (from a winemaking family in Lunel in the south of France), who opted to make the Barossa their home in 2001.

Schell began his wine education at Roseworthy, followed by six vintages in Provence, the Languedoc (Gely’s birthplace), Bordeaux and Burgundy. It comes as no surprise that he also points to this time with the Barossa Valley’s Turkey Flat as part of the education jigsaw that (in Schell’s words) involved “slotting parcels of wine into a harmonious whole, leaving no blank squares on the grid”.

The Spinifex wines are all medium-bodied and balanced, either from micro-plots that show regional typicity or, increasingly, single vineyard wines based on Mediterranean grape varieties that have made the Barossa home for more than 150 years: shiraz, mataro, grenache, cinsaut, carignan, ugni blanc, grenache gris and semillon. Old vines are sought for all except new varieties.

Having demonstrated his exceptional ability to create synergistic blends, he was crowned Young Gun of Wine in 2008. While giving Spinifex another major string to its bow, most of the wines will continue to come from a group of dedicated growers in the Barossa and Eden Valleys. In 2014 he and Gely bought their first vineyard, a 5.5ha plot in Flaxman Valley, with shiraz and riesling planted in the 1940s and ’50s. Last year he was a finalist for Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year. Small wonder Spinifex has five red stars in the 2021 Halliday Wine Companion. If all this isn’t enough, the prices are a breath of fresh air.

2019 Spinifex Barossa Valley Syrah
The compelling complexity of the wine starts in the old vines, magnified by the whole bunch (40%) and whole berry (60%) fermentation: layer upon layer of blackberry essence accompanied by licorice, spices of all kinds and velvety tannins. Exceptional value. 14.5% alc, screwcap 97 points, drink to 2044, $30    

2018 Spinifex Single Vineyard Moppa Barossa Valley Shiraz
The excellent colour is part of the Spinifex shiraz signature. The bouquet is very expressive, with warm baker’s spices and cedary oak framing a palate full of black fruits – berry and currant – and a mouthwatering juxtaposition of tannin and oak. It has a long life ahead. 14.5% alc, screwcap 96 points, drink to 2048, $50

2018 Spinifex Single Vineyard Moppa Barossa Valley Grenache
Good colour, particularly given its varietal makeup. The perfumed bouquet of red flowers, spices and raspberries is comprehensively upstaged by the exquisite palate, with its array of red fruits twinkling through to the lingering, mouthwatering aftertaste. 14.5% alc, screwcap 98 points, drink to 2033, $35


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