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James Halliday Australian Wine Companion


  • By Jon Rimmerman
    9/20/2010, (See more on Garagiste...)

    (PETER LEHMAN Shiraz 1885)
    Going Back

    Dear Friends,

    As many of our oldest email list members know, we used to be a primary source for the finest Australian Shiraz – ten years ago, we offered Shiraz several times/week and consumers often complained that it wasn’t enough. We pioneered several brands in the US before they were available on our side of the world – Two Hands, JJ Hahn, Veritas, The Magpie Estate, Amon-Ra, Tatiarra, et al but I slowly began to sour on the entire category five years ago – long before consumers put their arms up in disgust and said enough is enough.

    Enough is enough of what?

    High prices, high alcohol and a category so swelled with “me too” copycat entrants that Shiraz was starting to become a caricature of what it once was: a fascinating, complex and exotic beverage unlike anything else in the world. It had become stale and manufactured - it was in need of a drastic overhaul.

    In a matter of ten years, some of the finest Shiraz in Australia went from $15 to $100+ and the rise was in tandem with over-planting and a wild-west approach Down Under that enticed every would-be wine enthusiast to abandon their career and set out into the Shiraz abandon instead. Doctors made wine, dentists started labels....and then the crash came. At the worst moment for the Australian wine industry, the world economic collapse in 2008 hit Australia arguably harder than any other country. Floods of unsold wine were available on the open market and the incredible fact is that pride and a one-arm grip on brand identity (like a small raft floating away in the torrent of the Pacific Ocean) prevented many labels from discounting their wine just to get their Shiraz into the mouths of would-be enthusiasts. Many of those labels are now gone.

    Nearly all of the classics remain.

    Brookenwood, Mt Mary, Chambers, Jasper Hill, Cullen, Mt Langi Ghiran, Leeuwin, Yarra Yering and a host of other special, treasured places now have their chance to shine - to redefine what the world perception of Shiraz is and what it can be going forward....

    ...but what about the old-style Barossa Shiraz? The Shiraz that arguably allowed the above mentioned properties to crack into the US consumer’s cerebral cortex? What about the Peter Lehman’s of the world?

    In some way, Peter Lehman reminds me of Arrowood (pre sale) or maybe even Mondavi – they do what they do under the radar but they stick around for the long haul. They are resistant to fashion or trends, preferring to follow their own model with a slowly built consumer base that favors good wine over a load of marketing fluff. Many of Peter Lehman’s best private clients don’t have time to worry about whether his Stonewell Shiraz is “flamboyant” or like a night out at a club – they just want to know that Stonewell is a wine to cellar every year and when they open it in 15-20 autumn's, it will be a classic example of Barossa Shiraz. They are not looking for goo or glop, they are looking for tannin, a bit of a coarse personality in youth and the fruit that has made this wine famous for decades.

    They are looking for something real (even if it has added tannin or acidity) and (at the high-end of the portfolio) Peter Lehman more often than not delivers upon its promise.

    Now 80+ years old, Peter Lehman doesn’t have time to change – his eponymous winery has been around since the 1970’s and it’s one of the stalwart properties of Australia. Yes, times have changed around him, investors have been brought on, commercialism and hundred thousand case productions have crept in, but the top-level wines are still made in a style that captured the imagination of this writer back in 1988 when I was given a tip by a visiting Australian student on the 1986 vintage in his home country – boy was he right.

    So, for those of you that have been asking for Shiraz at moderate prices, here you go – two upper-tier examples from Peter Lehman from old-vine, dry-irrigated sources that epitomize his style and legacy in the Barossa – nothing flashy or overdone – just something real. Both are at excellent prices for their respective labels and both should reward the patient:

    2006 Peter Lehman “The 1885” Shiraz -
    (compare at $40-50 but there is very little of this in the US)
    Rare example made from 125 year old, deep-rooted vineyard in the Ebenezer sub-district of the Barossa. Rumor is that this wine used to go into a very famous cuvee from another winery – would appear to be a steal at this price.

    2004 Peter Lehman “The Stonewell” Shiraz -
    (compare at $70-90 in the US)
    One of the classic examples of the Barossa with the pedigree and track record to age - tightly tannic, masculine and unforgiving – a strong cellar candidate that should repay another decade of slumber with ease:

    (lowish alcohol for this type of wine, around 14.0% - JR)

    As a side note: are these the most natural wines ever made? No, but neither is Grange (or Lafite). To their credit, they are trying very hard to make the most hands-on wines in their history, with full disclosure to the public in a section called “Environment” on their web site. How many wineries look their consumer in the face and say “this is what we are doing” - not many.

    Please give us your maximum number of each up to 12 x The 1885 and 12 x The Stonewell and we will allocate accordingly

    To order:

    Both wines have perfect provenance and will arrive at the warehouse in approximately 2-3 weeks (please check OARS for local pick up after October 15th). Both will ship during the Fall shipping season (late).

    Out of state orders will be held for free under ideal storage conditions (56 degrees/70%humidity) until shipping is possible. Locals may pick up at their leisure.

    For current local pick up and arrival/ship information, please see your OARS link below (at the bottom of this offer) - don’t know how to access your OARS? Simply click the link and see your account. You can also paste the link into your browser. If you are having trouble with your link or your account, please contact:


    Thank you,

    Jon Rimmerman
    Seattle, WA

    Click here to view the status of your orders in O.A.R.S.

NOTE: Some content is property of James Halliday Australian Wine Companion and Garagiste.

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