WORDS KEN GARGETT
It seems like yesterday that the news of Michael Hill Smith and Martin Shaw, winemaker cousins, commencing their own operation in the Adelaide Hills hit the front page. Terrifyingly, it was 30 years ago and the wines to celebrate that milestone have just landed. Back in 1989, Michael had just become the first Australian to pass the rigorous Master of Wine exams and Martin was craving a niche as a highly respected winemaker.
In the three decades that have followed, we have seen many wonderful wines and can expect many more. They quickly established, and have maintained, a reputation for Australia’s best Sauvignon Blanc, but for me, the real stars are the brilliant Chardonnays, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.
That said, the public have spoken. Savvy is the wine most associated with these guys. And so, despite how seriously impressive those ’17 Chardies are, it would be churlish to ignore it. At a price pushing $30, it is not the cheapie, price-is-all, Savvy which so many Kiwis examples have become.
2019 was not the easiest vintage the Adelaide Hills has enjoyed. Frost, a dry spell, storms, hail and cold during the harvest meant this was not a year for beginners. Crops across the region were down 30 to 60%, but the guys at S&S have seen it all before (although saying that is really tempting fate, so my apologies if next year provides just that) and also use famed viticulturist Ray Guerin as a consultant, working with Murray Leake. He has worked with them in their vine density program, where they have doubled the density across certain vineyards.
The wine itself belies the vintage difficulties. There are lovely aromas which remind me of the wonderful gooseberry jam my grandmother made every year, along with some tropical notes. Oodles of flavour here. There is good concentration, bright acidity and decent length, all well balanced. While it should age well for several years, few bottles ever get to enjoy their first birthday. 91.