Frequent trips to the United States as a child meant that friends were always asking me to bring back candy. 

Kool-Aid, Jolly Rancher, Dr.Pepper, Starburst; hundreds of things that pop, fizz and zip in your mouth while turning your tongue the color of toxic waste. Things which, at the time (probably owing to some manner of chemical import restrictions) weren’t available in Australia.

Everybody’s favorite was Big Red, a cinnamon flavored chewing gum that conjured a world of sweet spice and everything nice.

It was years before I would get excited about Big Reds again.

All Somms go through that rebellious phase, the one where we laugh at the overpriced tannic red the businessmen are drinking with oysters whilst drooling over the weirdest things we could justifiably put on a wine list.

‘Barossa Shiraz? Mum and Dad wine! Ever hear of Nebbiolo/Palomino Field blend Pet-Nat? Didn’t think so!’

We thought we were punk rockers. Some of us still do.

But we get older, our palates mature and we stop playing wines and styles off against one another. And more than ever in this winter of discontent I find my self comforted by the firm hand of rich South Australian shiraz.

I’ve been enjoying Ben Glaetzer’s wines, most notably the 2018 release of the AMON-Ra Shiraz.

There is some serious concentration going on here – no surprise as the fruit comes from vines that are aged from 50-130 years old.  We’re in Ebenezer, a site in the north of the region that gives, contrary to it’s Dickensian moniker, startling generously flavoured shiraz.

100% new oak (most of it French, a little dash of American) matured for 16 months means that you can put it away for decades before excavating it carefully from the cellar like some giddy archaeologist.  

But Glaetzer’s wines have a charm in their youth too.

There’s this marvelous juxtaposition, difficult to quantify, between the power and the structure, the ‘seriousness’ of the wine and this bright, playful element that comes through in the immediacy and freshness of the fruit.  There’s a kind of devil-may-care ‘I-know-I-should-be –cellaring-this-but-it’s-too-darn-tasty’ vibe going on.

Kid in a candy shop? Nah, more like a (somewhat wiser) sommelier quietly enjoying an outstanding shiraz from one of Barossa’s best.

Amon-Ra by Ben Glaetzer 2018, Barossa Valley $100

A first pull of the cork and the room fills with the kinetic aromas of dark chocolate, ground coffee, mint and crushed blue flowers – this is before you’ve poured a glass. The spice runs in streams. There’s cracked pepper of course, but also nutmeg, cinnamon and ground cloves along with something more middle-eastern – za’atar perhaps.  Fruit is glistening, pristine and ripe -blueberry, blackberry, plum and cherry.  Tannins are polished and lacy but regimental, there’s a stride down the tongue that doesn’t dominate the palate and allows for that freshness to co-mingle.  If opening now I’d recommend drinking it over a couple of days – all that lovely coffee and chocolate will melt down and harmonize in the mouth. Bottled without filtration.

You can purchase this wine here.