How the 2012 Vintage Changed Everything I Thought About Australian Wine

Posted March 03, 2015

Matt Sitomer


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Australian wine was my “gateway drug” into the world of wine appreciation. I remember fondly sitting at a formal dinner during graduate school, ordering a glass of Shiraz, and drawing glances of surprise and awe from professors and colleagues alike. Before long, a veritable Sam Adams commercial broke out, and it was Shiraz for everyone.

Those $6 - $10 bottles from Down Under were fruit forward, accessible, and fun. Even the packaging was entertaining, with colorful kangaroos or penguins and simple, unintimidating descriptions. While a lot of wine drinkers tend to look down on this category, for me it was an introduction.

A few years later, when the wine bug really bit me and I began exploring the regions of Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and France, I developed a dimmer view of Australia. Even the more serious wines seemed too one-note, bombastic, and Parkerized. Whether my palate was evolving (surely true) or I simply equated the country with my earlier, uninformed dabbling, I tended to avoid Australian wines altogether.

Enter 2012.

Thankfully, the Mayans were wrong, because the growing conditions in South Australia (along with various other regions around the world) in 2012 turned out to be superb. After a disappointing and rainy 2011, 2012 brought a cool spring followed by a warm, dry summer that allowed the grapes to mature slowly. Although yields were low, concentration was high, reportedly resulting in wines with well-differentiated varietal character and bright acidity. As a whole, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate rated the vintage a 94 (which is considered outstanding), the highest for the area since 2006.

After reading all the hype, my skepticism gave way to intrigue. I selected two bottles from producers I trusted, cautiously dipping my toes back into the water. First, a GSM-style blend from the Barossa Valley, Hewitson’s Miss Harry. It did not disappoint. Reminded me of the wines I had come to love from the Rhone, with dark fruit flavors underpinned by a huskiness and wild animal character. Second, Mitolo’s Jester Shiraz, an entry level effort from McLaren Vale. This one impressed me even more, with its big nose, silky mouthfeel and ample acidity.

An excellent vintage equates to quality and value across the price spectrum, so you don’t have to spend a lot to get a truly great bottle. I don’t know that this vintage will change my buying habits over the long term, but for the time being I’m forced to conclude that the bottom is, indeed, up. As long as these 2012s are still on the shelf, South Australian wine is definitely going to be top of mind.


Matt Sitomer wore many hats at Wine Library before becoming a founding employee at VaynerMedia, a social-first digital agency. He recently spent 18 months acting as an emissary to the burgeoning tech community in Las Vegas, NV, and relocated to Southern California in 2014 to help open VaynerMedia's Los Angeles office. While the weather was nice in Vegas, the wine is far better in LA.

Product Label.

Mitolo Shiraz Jester

94 James Halliday - Australia...

Item: 82000

750 mL

Retail: $20.99

$13.89 per btl