Posted 11th March 2013        

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Plexus 2011 red blendI visited the Barossa Valley recently to actually see the birthplace of so many great wines. Australia may have had a reputation here in the UK as producers of cheap and cheerful plonk but if you scratch beneath the surface you will find that the country’s wine-producing regions have a lot more to offer.

It’s true that humongous producers like Jacob’s Creek, Yellowtail and Wolf Blass can dominate the landscape with their industrial style wineries; at first glance I thought they were petroleum factories, with their gigantic standing tanks and network of steel pipes running in, around and above the entire site. But there are also plenty of small producers and boutique wineries – some of whom, I suspect have  probably given each plant a name.

John is  a legendary winemaker; having been  Chief Winemaker of Penfold’s for almost 30 years, he was in charge of making their iconic “Grange” wine for the better part of three decades. However, after all that time, he felt the need to strike out on his own and so in 2003 he started up his own label, John Duval Wines.

He only makes 4 wines because he wants to make the best possible wine. He sources his grapes from the old vines of the region, some of which can be over a century old. This results in wines that are complex and very concentrated.

I met John at the tasting room that he shares as part of the winemakers group, Artisans of Barossa. A modern, light and airy single-storey complex, it sits on a small hill overlooking old-vine Shiraz. John poured his latest vintage on release for  me: the 2011 Plexus Barossa Valley Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre. I suppose you could call this his entry-level wine but priced at £23.75, that’s quite a high entry level.

The wine is a real pleasure to drink though: dark and complex with a very pretty, for lack of a better word, nose to it. As a matter of fact, as we were tasting the wine, both John and I exclaimed at the same time what a pretty wine this is! On the palate, it’s savoury with bright red fruit flavours and a peppery note on the finish. No one could accuse this wine of being a jammy Aussie Shiraz;great structure and balanced acidity make this a wine just calling  out for a plate of charcuterie.

John’s wines are available from AG Wines, retailing at £23.75.


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Meet the Author:
Denise Medrano
I'm an American ex-pat who is fascinated by wine. Previous to my arrival in London, I had done a sommelier course in Buenos Aires, Argentina so I knew I wanted to be in the wine trade but where to start? I started where so many people in the UK wine trade start, Oddbins. I was fortunate in that Oddbins back then had a great wine education partnership with the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust and I was able take the WSET courses. I currently have the WSET Advanced Certificate as well as holding a UK personal alcohol license. Another advantage to working at Oddbins was that I had access to all the wine trade shows. Imagine, being able to go and try as many wines as you could in one day! Whew! I have to admit, I didn't do much spitting back then and the next day, I was wishing I had at least taken better notes. I started looking around on the web for blogs that covered the London wine scene and found there were none. Well, none that appealed to me. None that were a mix of trade and consumer views and opinions. And none that really talked about what a great centre of wine this fabulous city of London is. So I rolled up my sleeves, bought a domain name and the rest, as they say, is The Winesleuth history. The Winesleuth Website - Follow The Winesleuth on Twitter