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Shaw’s paradox

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I always admire those people who dream the dream and chase it relentlessly.

Philip Shaw’s thoughts of making his own place in the wine world began humbly as a 14-year-old washing bottles at Penfolds. His family has always been involved in agriculture, but the lure of the romantic world of wine was his siren. The result was Philip Shaw Wines of Orange.

Philip’s knowledge base was forged at Roseworthy College. His first legitimate wine role was with Lindeman’s in Cowra, and he later became head wine maker at Rosemount. Over time, with ever expanding knowledge and experience, in the late 1990s he became chief wine maker for Southcorp. But by that time he had already started his own plantings in the Orange district.

His son, Damian, recalls that every family holiday for about five years they were dragged around the country looking at potential vineyard sites. The Shaw family visited places like Geelong, northern Tasmania and Tumbarumba: obscure regions when they went there in the in the 1980s but bonafide winegrowing areas now.

A confluence of factors, including soil, elevation, heat ripening units and more led them to choose a site in Orange. This would become the Koomooloo Vineyard – 47 hectares of rolling hills at an elevation of 600 to 1100 metres near Mt Canobolas. Philip was attracted by the area’s similarities to Burgundy; in addition, his fondness for producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Orange’s versatility as a geographe of wine is shown by the many varietals in the region.

The Koomooloo Vineyard produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. It is planted at high altitude vineyard in soil comprising red loam over limestone. The temperature can vary as much as three degrees Celsius between the lowest vineyard at 600 metres and the highest at 1100 metres, which gives the vineyard great versatility. The numbered Block series of wines produced are high-end products, while the Character series are Philip’s alter egos.

Philip has always been true to his philosophy of making wine for the people. They are also wines that he would consume himself. Even at Southcorp, he tried to steer major brands to produce styles of wine for the consumer, and not just for technical experts.

Forward fruit in white wine with balanced acidity, varietal characteristics and subtle but appropriate structure in the reds is paramount in the Phillip Shaw wine philosophy. The end product exemplifies this. Philip believes the wine making process is simple: “Ferment grapes in a bucket and stop them turning to vinegar.”

His role as a wine maker is to guide this process to an end product that captures the terroir and results in our senses taking flight.

Wines tasted

2015 The Dreamer Viognier Orange – Light pale green color. A delightful nose of white peaches, apples, hints of apricot and, as it warms up, some spicy notes. The palate reflects the nose, with juicy upfront varietal expression and clean minimal acidity. Have with Jindi Brie and fresh apple.

2015 Architect Chardonnay Orange – Light yellow with green hues. Lively white peach nose with complex notes reflecting lees contact. Contrasting grassy notes with nutty complexities add to its attraction. Mid-palate wine structure with balanced restrained fruit layers and mouth feel. Sashimi scallops would go well.

2013 No. 17 Merlot Cabernet Franc Orange – Dense garnet to purple tinges. Dark plums, earthy notes, hints of brambly aromas with glimpses of vanillin oak. A generous wine, with the Shaw trademark of elegant silky tannins. The structure supports the fruit. Have with cured Kangaroo and bush chutney.

2015 No.8 Pinot Noir Orange – Light garnet color. A bouquet of dark cherries to plums, toasty oak notes, opening up to reveal savory herbaceous elements. Flowing front palate merging seamlessly with restrained complex tannins and acidity. Duck and more duck.