Hahndorf Hill is one of the jewels of the Adelaide Hills. This is something you make a ring out of, something you put in a crown. You want to show it off. There are other wineries I prefer, but they're the kind that are scruffy pets you know and love, or dog-eared books you return to fondly. Hahndorf Hill is a jewel, rare and precious.
It's a gorgeous cellar door set on a second story balcony overlooking the vineyards. It's officially a 'micro-boutique winery', which means it only makes a tiny amount of wine. The air is rich with oak and art, jazz and joy. The cellar hand says I remind her of her father, and I like that she recognises me now. It's owned by a couple, two lovely down to earth guys who quite humbly go about their business. Their wines are organic, or carbon neutral, or biodynamic, or some combination of the three.
I had their shiraz two weeks ago. It was a sunny winter's day in Adelaide, and my parents and I had lunch outside under the bare vines. Crusty bread from the Italian bakery down the road, mustard, ham, tomato and avocado. There isn't really a need for anything else.
Now, if you recall, shiraz from the Barossa is usually big and full of spice and life. Unlike the Barossa's warmth, however, the Adelaide Hills are a cool climate region. This means that the grapes are slower to ripen, so there is more acid and less sugar in the grapes. Acid in wine is like blue blood- the more there is, the more refined and elegant the wine will be. Sugar, on the other hand, is more like drinking while pregnant- the more you have, the more likely it is that your baby will be an alcoholic. Thus, the warmer climate Barossa (grapes ripen early, hence less acid and more sugar) has big, unrestrained flavours and fairly high (~14%) alcohol content. Unlike offspring, this isn't a problem at all; it's just a very different flavour. The Hahndorf Hill shiraz, on the other hand, proudly displays its cool-climate pedigree. It has a soft, silky mouth feel ('mouth feel' is one of those complicated wine terms that roughly translates to 'how it feels in your mouth'). It doesn't bombard you with flavour at first, but slowly reveals layers of chocolate smokiness that continue to develop even after you've swallowed. It's a very seductive, sophisticated wine. If a Barossa shiraz is a firey old grandad with war stories and battle-scars, this is more along the lines of your classy aunt who always carries herself with grace.