Vintage Reviews and High Scores for The Ironstone Pressings and The Dead Arm Wines
The Many Faces of McLaren Vale
BY ANGUS HUGHSON | FEBRUARY 1, 2023
Wine Critic/Author Angus Hughson reports on the current state of Australia’s McLaren Vale wine region, home to d’Arenberg wines, exclusively imported by Old Bridge Cellars. Highlights include the vintage reports, below, and a few key reviews of d’Arenberg’s Icon range of wines.
McLAREN VALE AUSTRALIA VINTAGE RECAPS by Angus Hughson for Vinous
“At d’Arenberg, all leased and owned vineyards are certified for organic and biodynamic practices, making this winery the largest biodynamic grower in the country. It’s quite an achievement, combined with a large solar array and the use of sheep to manage weeds. Overall, McLaren Vale is a wine region on the move with an eye on the future. Whether regarding sustainability, the varietal mix or winemaking styles, constant evolution and innovation remain vital parts of the local industry’s regional DNA, driving wine quality ever higher.
Vintages 2021 – 2019
After three dry and warm-to-hot vintages in a row, 2021 was a bit of a relief for local winemakers. Heavy rain in the early growing season gave healthy levels of balanced fruit, with the total crush up 28% from the lows of 2020. After a hot start to the season, the weather cooled in December, avoiding any significant heat spikes. The weather and yields show in the elegance and generous fruit in the wines but without the intensity and focus of the most outstanding vintages.
Two thousand twenty was the third in a line of generally dry, low-yielding vintages. However, McLaren Vale has coped better than some other regions. December was the hottest on record and brought some heat stress, but much of South-Eastern Australia enjoyed cooler-than-average conditions from January. Decent rains came in February, which helped the vines to reduce water stress. The vintage is generally strong across the region for Grenache and Shiraz, showcased by traditionally powerful wines with good varietal and regional typicity.
Two thousand nineteen brought its fair share of challenges to much of South-Eastern Australia thanks to baking hot and continuing dry conditions. The ocean’s moderating influence did spare McLaren Vale somewhat, but overall yields were low and alcohols high. The vintage produced some exceptional wines from the best sites but was more challenging in the hotter and flatter vineyards, where the wines often lack shape and complexity. “
“An enigmatic winery, d’Arenberg is impossible to typecast as it is home to tradition and innovation. On the one hand are the iconic Cube (a glass-walled giant Rubik’s Cube cellar door), organic and biodynamic certifications and 70 wines made from an eclectic range of 30 varieties. On the other is traditional winemaking; all red wines are foot trodden during fermentation and are basket pressed. The combination is largely successful but does create red wines with a rustic edge that demand time in the cellar. That said, there are some triumphs.”
Vinous Ratings for d’Arenberg Wines from This Article
94 pts – 2018 The Ironstone Pressings Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre
93+ pts – 2018 The Dead Arm Shiraz
91 pts – 2018 The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon