Today we are enjoying a taste of Australian wine history. It isn’t every day one has the opportunity to taste wine made from Shiraz planted in 1891 and made by the same family whose ancestors planted those vines, but that is the story of Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz. We received this wine as a tasting sample.
Herbert and Frederick Kay took possession of Sections 514, 515, 516 and 740 at Amery on February 2, 1891 finalizing the purchase of property they made in October 1890. By July of 1891 the brothers had surveyed the land and started planting grapevines on their property just north of McLaren Vale. Within 7 years the Kay brothers had planted 90 acres of vines, built their winery and made their first wines.
Fred and Herb remained partners in the winery, adapting to what the world threw at them and becoming active in their community, for 57 years. After their deaths Herb’s son Cuthbert assumed responsibilities at Amery.
Kay Brothers opened a cellar door in 1956 and by 1969 Colin Kay, the third generation of the family, completed his enology training and joined Kay Brothers, which remains in family hands today making it the oldest winery in McLaren Vale still owned by its founding family.
Block 6 is one of the vineyards planted by Herb and Fred in 1891. In 1984 Cuthbert and Colin Kay decided to vinify the Block 6 Shiraz separately. Since that time, Block 6 Shiraz has become Kay Brothers’ signature wine. In October 2019 Kay Brothers released the 125th anniversary Block 6 Shiraz.
The 3.5-acre Block 6 Shiraz vineyard is described by the winery this way:
The Block 6 vineyard faces east and rows run north south with significant undulation. The vines are cane pruned with the canes wrapped onto the top wire of the low lying trellis. The present 3.5 acres comprises a corner of red loam, some heavy clay in the middle of the block and gravely alluvial soils on the lower side. The underlying “South Maslin Sands” geology is extremely complex containing layers of glauconite, limestone, sandstone and siltstone.
Block 6 Shiraz is harvested by hand, crushed and destemmed then open-fermented for 10 days. The wine is aged for 23 months in puncheons – 40% new.
2014 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz, McLaren Vale — dense ruby in the glass with generous aromas of dark red fruit, spice, earth and dried hay. Flavors of raspberries, blackberries, dusty earth are bright and juicy. Notes of dried tobacco and cedar add interest in the background along with drying, well-integrated tannins. The finish is moderate in length. 14.5% abv. SRP $119
This is a Shiraz with depth and character that will delight you, but not overwhelm your palate or what you are eating. This is a well-balanced Shiraz with plenty of ripe fruit flavors without being even close to overripe or overbearing. And, there is no need to feel rushed to finish the bottle in one sitting; it tastes just as good on the second day. If you think you don’t enjoy Australian Shiraz, give this lovely Shiraz a try – you just might change your mind.
Don’t be deterred by the price, you likely will find it for less. And it literally is a taste of Australian wine history.
For those of you wanting to know how you can help those affected by the recent bush fires in Australia, please see this list compiled by Wine Australia that includes, among other things, organizations accepting donations for assistance.