Purple is such an evocative colour, particularly in wine, where it represents youth, vitality, and richness. Anyone who’s spent time at a winery during vintage will have seen the purple-stained hands of the workers, painted by the continual handling of grapes and juice. This naturally became the perfect name for the Barossa Valley brand, started by Craig Stansborough and Mark Slade in 2006.
Stansborough, a winemaker, and Slade, his friend and business partner, made their first vintage together with a tonne of Shiraz in Stansborough’s shed, and since that auspicious moment, the business has flourished, making more than a dozen wines over four labels.
Given their home region of the Barossa Valley, the selection is naturally dominated by Shiraz, yet other varieties are also shown some love, such as Aglianico, Primitivo, Montepulciano, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Pinot Gris, the latter coming from the Adelaide Hills. I enjoyed the selection of six wines immensely.
After Five Wine Co. Barossa Valley Montepulciano 2020
92 Points – A$35
‘The fruit was picked on the 28th March. All the fruit was destemmed and lightly crushed (rollers open) to one open fermenter with header boards. Temperatures were allowed to reach 28C, the open fermenter was pumped over 3 times per day. After 13 days on skins the open fermenter was basket pressed and transferred into 1 x new French oak hogshead with the balance to 1-4 year old French oak hogsheads and underwent malo-lactic fermentation. After malo-lactic fermentation the wine was racked from barrel, SO2 was added and then the wine was then transferred back to the same oak and matured for another 16 months. No finings used.’
After Five Wine Co. reflects the desire of Purple Hands to ‘showcase single vineyards that consistently produce wines of excellence and convey their Barossa sub-region’s unique quality’. Montepulciano is a variety grown predominantly in Tuscany, although its home is the Abruzzo region of Italy. The After Five version shows a heady mix of red and black fruits (blackberry, cherry, raspberry, mulberry) and a pleasing, savoury lift from pepper and baking spices, with some dried red fruits coming through from bottle age. The tannins are dusty while the palate is smooth and cheery, with the fruit singing when the wine is paired with something a little piquant, like salami or a rich pasta.
Colours of the South Barossa Valley Mourvèdre 2021
92 Points – A$28
‘The Andretzke vineyard and the Stevens vineyard were handpicked and crushed to an open fermenter. Temperatures were allowed to reach 30C with hand plunging performed three times daily. After 10 days and 11 days respectively on skins the wine was basket pressed and transferred into older French hogsheads and puncheons to undergo malo-lactic fermentation. Post malo the wines were racked from oak, SO2 added & transferred back to oak for 6 months before blending and a further 7 months maturation. No fining used.‘
Mourvèdre is a grape you’ll usually find alongside Grenache and Shiraz, although it’s great to see it increasingly appearing as a varietal. Colours of the South is their “budget” label, although there’s still high quality in the offerings. The Mourvèdre is ultra-ripe, with a burst of fruit upon opening that always reminds me of strawberry topping. It’s spicy and peppery, but also floral, with a touch of violet. The blackberry and fresh raspberry is accompanied by some stewed red fruits, and despite the 14.5% alcohol, it’s quite quaffable.
Purple Hands Barossa Valley Grenache 2022
92 Points – A$35
‘Around 25% whole clusters were tipped into open fermenters with the balance crushed on top. Ferment was the result of indigenous yeast. Temperatures were allowed to reach 30C with hand plunging performed 3 times daily. After 9 days on skins the fruit was basket pressed and transferred into older puncheons to undergo malo-lactic fermentation. Post malo the wine was then left 3 weeks before SO2 was added in place, the wine was left on lees and topped regularly. The wine was racked late December and underwent a coarse filtration prior to bottling.’
Like the Mourvèdre, the Grenache unwraps first with strawberry-topping notes (which can be discerned from across the room), before the red cherry, raspberry, violets and liquorice join the party. The palate is silky, supple and juicy, with medium+ acidity creating a vivacious kick, and the dusty, chewy tannins keeping it somewhat serious, while never sacrificing approachability. It has the delicacy to be drunk by itself but also the brawn to take on spice, fat and richness.
Purple Hands Barossa Valley Shiraz 2021
94 Points – A$35
‘The fruit was crushed into open fermenters, one open fermenter was seeded with Melody yeast. Temperatures were allowed to reach 28C with header boards allowing gentle extraction. After 12 and 13 days on skins respectively the fruit was basket pressed and transferred into 19% new French oak puncheons with balance into 1-6 year old French oak hogsheads to undergo malo-lactic fermentation. After malo-lactic fermentation the wine was racked, blended then transferred back to the same oak and matured for another 16 months. The wine was pumped from oak in September.’
Complexity and brightness were in abundance in this delightful drop. Strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, mulberry meet spice, vanilla, dried red fruits, soy and black tea to create a thoroughly enjoyable wine, which is a pleasure to smell and is juicy and vivid in the mouth. When I paired it with bolognese, it heightened every positive attribute and made me want to prolong each sip. This is still very much a youngster, and I imagine it will develop for many more years to come.
Planta Circa Barossa Valley Shiraz 2021
95 Points – A$80
‘Circa 1880 PF Zimmerman planted Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines on his family property ‘Woodlands’ situated on the outskirts of Lyndoch. 5% of the fruit was tipped into a concrete open fermenter with the balance destemmed and lightly crushed (rollers open) on top of the whole and was seeded using a neutral yeast. Temperatures were allowed to reach 28C with header boards allowing gentle extraction. After 10 days on skins the fruit was basket pressed and transferred into 42% new French oak (1 x 720lt ) with balance into 1-4 year old French oak puncheons to undergo malo-lactic fermentation. After malo-lactic fermentation SO2 was added to the barrels, the wine was then left on light lees to mature for 8 months before racking. The wine was then transferred back to the same oak and matured for another 9 months. No fining used.‘
Having access to vines over 120 years old would be a dream for many winemakers. The Zerk family of Lyndoch, custodians of the vineyard, gave Stansborough and Slade the fruit from this long-lived plot, from which they first made a Cabernet in 2013. The name means “planted around” as it’s not exactly certain how old the vines are, only that they were planted around 1880-90.
The Shiraz has three fruit colours represented – blackberry, mulberry and blueberry – with a savoury edge of cinnamon and mint, secondary characters of toast and vanilla, and stewed black fruits from bottle age. The palate is rich and full, with a concentrated flavour that points towards the dark spectrum, and a mellifluous mouthfeel. It’s balanced and long, hiding its 14.5% alcohol well, especially when paired with something equally rich like steak. It will continue to shine for at least another 5-10 years.
Planta Circa Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2021
96 Points – A$80
‘Circa 1880 PF Zimmerman planted Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines on his family property ‘Woodlands’ situated on the outskirts of Lyndoch. The wine fermented in an open fermenter with indigenous yeast allowed to conduct fermentation. Temperatures were allowed to reach 28C with gentle hand plunging performed 3-4 times daily. After 12 days on skins, the fruit was basket pressed and transferred to 300 ltr oak barrels (50% new French oak with balance into 2, 3 & 4 year old French oak hogsheads) to undergo malo-lactic fermentation. Once malo was complete SO2 was added to the barrels, the wine was then left on lees to mature for 6 months before racking. The wine was then transferred back to the same oak and matured for another 9 months. No finning was used and only a very coarse filtration was used prior to bottle.’
The Planta Circa Cabernet was my favourite of the six wines tasted, for many reasons. The mélange of aromas pulled me in from the first whiff, saturating my senses just as the wine stained the glass. The fruit is simultaneously dark on the nose and bright on the palate, presenting cassis, black cherry, mulberry, raspberry, cinnamon, tomato leaf and mint, while the toasty oak is well integrated and the dried black fruits indicate that the wine is starting to mature. I had it one night with bolognese and the next with roast chicken, and each meal was improved by the sinuous, mouth-filling texture of this gorgeous wine.