What’s in a name?
I’ve never met a shy Susan before. The Susans I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, including my mother in law, have all been crackers. The name Shy Susan, alas, does not derive from an encounter, amorous or otherwise. Shy Susan is a rare purple flowering shrub, from Beaconsfield. There is believed to be around 100 mature plants left in the wild, in a area of only 5 square kilometres. Pollination is reliant on the Native Bee population, itself in decline.
The wines of Shy Susan are created by Jo Marsh and Glenn James. Qualified is an understatement. Previously, Jo Marsh was a senior winemaker at Seppelt Great Western. She now has her own label too, Billy Button Wines, sourcing grapes from growers in the Alpine regions of Victoria. Not just Chardonnay or Shiraz either. Malvasia, Saperavi, Fruliano and Gruner Veltliner to name a few.
Glenn James is chief winemaker for the largest contract wine business in Tasmania – Winemaking Tasmania. The extraordinary quality of their Shy Susan wines then should come as no surprise. Unparalleled experience and access to some of the finest fruit in Tasmania has resulted in some of the most exciting wines we have tried all year.
Shy Susan’s wine making method is matter of fact, with a ‘do what it takes’ attitude. No false philosophy here. The fruits in, so let’s coax the best results from the raw material. Hand picking, wild ferments, old and new oak, whole bunches, foot stomping, cold soaks, battonage, post ferment maceration and the use of cultivated yeasts. I love this approach, the fruit is pushed to the absolute limit, and yet nothing is overdone.
Tasmania is the new frontier of Australian wine, no doubt about it. To my mind however, its early days. Many wines can seem to be “put together” – the elements, neatly arranged to create the whole. I have problems with this, because to me, excellent wine should possess a seamlessness.
Thankfully the wines of Shy Susan are fabulous and possess a woven flow. Made in tiny quantities they are ridiculously good value for money. Wow is an understatement and there is nothing shy about them. Grand, pure, elegant and generous, they demand to be seen.
An incomparable Tassie Pinot from a great vintage. Very pretty nose, with some whole bunch funk and earthy characteristics. Medium bodied, there is weight without heaviness. Compote of red and blue fruits, Asian spices, woody mushroom tones and the most silken tannins. The fruit really drives the finish, supported by the silkiest tannins. Fresh, lively, imperious and elegant. Many fine years ahead.
Its hard to describe how beautiful this Chardonnay is. For all its texture, flavour and weight, there is an incisive elegance, purity and delicacy also. Puligny like, with it’s stone fruits, white flowers, green apple, subtle creaminess and oakspice. The wine flows so easily across the palate, and yet it’s presence is etched in your mouth as it builds towards a sumptuous finish. I left some in the glass for half an hour or so and everytime I sniffed, there was something else. Peerless Chardonnay.
Wow. Riesling in Australia is so consistent, but this is something else. It’s not that its flavours are unfamiliar, rather they are textured without overdoing it and the fruit is ripe and sweet without sacrificing minerality or freshness. Next level stuff this as the ripe lemon and lime fruit, wraps itself around a pillar of the freshest, chalkiest acidity. Wonderful tension and texture, but utterly fresh. This is hard not to open now, but with the almost perversely long finish, I feel there are a couple of decades of pleasure to come.
All prices quoted are in any six.