2019 Penny’s Hill Estate “Skeleton Key” Shiraz McLaren Vale, Australia (Alcohol 14.5%, Residual Sugar 4 g/l) LCBO Vintages $42.95 (750ml bottle)

I’ve always found Penny’s Hill to be a solidly consistent producer, having greatly enjoyed their wines over the years, and this release of their famed Skeleton Key Shiraz is perhaps my favourite bottling of theirs to date.

Sourced from the original Penny’s Hill vineyard at an altitude of 110m ASL, the 1654 clone Shiraz here was planted in 1991 and is slightly cooler than most of the vineyards in the region, leading to slightly more consistent temperatures throughout the growing season, and hence the fruit can reach optimal ripeness levels without too much heat stress.

The wine sees 18 months of French oak barrique, 40% being new and the rest being 1 – 3 years of age, and while the oak is certainly apparent, it’s by no means the main event here. The ripe, rich, black/blue fruit core of this wine is to die for, with bucketloads of black cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants, and blueberries. There’s also a lovely Shiraz spice on this, framed perfectly by the aforementioned oak. On the palate, the tannins are ripe, soft, and silky smooth, and there’s an underlying liquorice element that really works with the black fruits. The extended finish brings bags more dark fruit with cocoa powder and salty black liquorice.

This broad-shoulder and muscular wine is drinking exceptionally well right now but would only benefit from a good handful of years in the cellar. I’d recommend this with all manner of grilled/charred meats, as personally I find it a bit much to drink all by itself, although Shiraz fanatics shouldn’t have too much of an issue there. Quite delightful!

(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)


Penny’s Hill is represented in Ontario by Dionysus Wines and Spirits.

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