Take a Moment Before Diving
2020 Shobbrook 'Poolside' Syrah
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Tom Shobbrook’s 'Poolside' cracked the lens of Australian Shiraz in 2015.
While still definably 100% Barossa Valley, Poolside is the most luminous, pure expression of a grape we’ve idolised as being just one thing. And a big thing at that. Indeed there are some talented expressionists drawing it out of the depths into more lifted, supple forms, akin to its Northern Rhône ancestry, and even lighter still. Poolside lazes up in the shallows on a giant flamingo floaty, bathed in the light bouncing up from the tiles only centimetres below while sipping freshly squeezed juice from a long glass, with an even longer straw.
The expected utterance of ‘just an early pick’ is not the revolution here. It’s more intelligent than that. As we’ve observed over the years and by checking back in with the 2019 below, Poolside’s complexities will shine much brighter after a bit of a nap.
What underpins this lil' upstart of a wine, aside from Tommy’s zero-zero approach to the craft, is some downright fandango winemaking.
“Shiraz is tricky [made in this way]. Pick it too early, you get too much sherbet. Too late, you get too much watermelon.”
The Shobbrook method of wrangling this spectrum? A rolling ferment.
Well before the onset of the Barossa Valley harvest, the Shobbrooks spend two-ish weeks handpicking and pressing two tonnes of Shiraz per day (except on Sundays, of course). Each morning's press load gets tipped into the same big fermentation vessel. Despite the fruit's youthfulness in this window there are plenty of delicacies to be seen, but they're better seen accumulatively.
When I say ‘before the onset’: the Shobbrooks’ shed is full of finished wines before the first grape comes off the vine in 99.9% of the other paddocks in the region.
As a process, the wine will (hopefully) capture absolutely everything the vines have to offer during this phase of adolescence. Think of it like extended exposure in photography; you're combining two weeks' worth of continual and developing imagery from the vineyard instead of one snapshot captured in a single pick.
On both wines:
The sheer and antagonising beauty of contrasts holds the gaze; it’s a really pretty wine to observe, especially when you acknowledge what it is. It's worth mentioning that much like Champagne, the only extraction of colour you're seeing in Poolside is from the ninety minutes of squish time the juice gets with the skins while in the press. That's it.
“Same fruit, same vineyard. Both from Vine Vale.”
The fruits are beaming. They’re not long-lived but inviting; perplexing. This is damn good quaffing and it seems counterintuitive, but you’ll see more of them the less chilled the wine is.
“It’s more intellectual, because of the tension and the structure.”
Call it psychosomatic but there’s an almost glacial freshness to both wines. Poolside staunches the thirst, like slurping back rainwater between gasps of air from that forever-chilled tap up at Mount Lofty summit (Adelaide heads know). We know this is fruit’s natural acidity. It’s a huge part of what makes Tommy’s wines what they are. Not a single Shobbrook wine has been acidified in over fifteen years, but beyond the contravention of such a claim, natural acid can do all kinds of magical things to the palate when it’s deliberately developed in this way.
On the 2019:
The 2019 Poolside experience felt more complete. It has also visibly softened. Its tone is more relaxed: more peach, less ‘punk pink’. The palate is plush. Loads of ‘just picked’ strawberry, ‘just cut’ watermelon. The texture was also more refined, almost as though the fruits have ripened in bottle. There’s a slight tingle to it too.
“The twenty nineteen was fermented in an old 6000L conical French oak vat. We bottled it with four grams of residual sugar, which then finished off in bottle giving you a light spritz on opening. It's had almost a year longer in bottle so you can see how well it has settled, ready for drinking."
On the 2020:
The 2020 Poolside is already out to strut. A bit more booty. Comparatively, the fruits are crunchy; slightly underripe. The aromas, while vibrant and overt, aren't yet so tethered to the wine, but drive more of that ‘pullback factor’ to the glass. You're going to want to smash this back—herein lies the challenge, I guess.
“[The 2020] was fermented in stainless steel and left on lees till the end of July, then bottled bone dry.”
Shobbrook's Poolside Syrah is far more than a rosé, brosé, or any equally breezy quaffer.
The 2020 will do well with a bit of time.
I know this gear will get snapped up quick and the impulse in this era is to 'swallow first, ask questions later', but try to refrain. It doesn't need to be locked in a dungeon gathering dust, but give it more than a disco nap. Buy a six-er, or a dozen. Leave half at a friend’s place; someone who’s allergic to wine. In a year’s time it’s gonna show you a few things worth waiting for. Your Dad will give you that 'my, how the tables have turned' look but they're all converts in the making, amirite?
It’s better out of the fridge.
Seriously. I know you’re going to want to throw this straight in the salad crisper or the esky—it cries out ‘chilled red’ and 'drink me now'—but don’t. Keep it closer to room temperature and you’ll get twice the fruit, both up the snout and across the tongue. Yum.
This is definitely not the Shiraz Dad was expecting to drink on Father’s Day. Ultimately though, Poolside is far more climatically suited to a warm arvo on the deck, or almost any Australian setting, really.