Dead Arm is a vine disease caused by the fungus Eutypa Lata that randomly affects vineyards all over the world. Often affected vines are severely pruned or replanted. One half or an ?arm? of the vine slowly becomes reduced to deadwood. That side may be lifeless and brittle, but the grapes on the other side, while low yielding, display amazing intensity.
A healthy winter and plenty of spring rains set the vines up very well. Budburst was on time, but very cool for the first part of spring. Shoots grew to 5 or 6 inches long and then stopped for a month. Flowering was quite late, by three weeks, which meant a late start to harvest, and long, slow ripening periods. The summer rains stopped in mid-January, so disease pressure was low. It was very dry from February to April, with only a few millimetres of rain. Days were mild with a lot of cool nights, the first few weeks of April was around two degrees hotter than usual, which help that last bits of fruit to ripen. Overall, a great vintage with minimal disease pressure and above-average crop levels.
Small batches of grapes are gently crushed and then transferred to five tonnes headed down open fermenters. These batches remain separate until final blending. Foot treading is undertaken two-thirds of the way through fermentation. The wine is then basket pressed and transferred to a mixture of new and used French oak barriques to complete fermentation. The barrel ferments are aged on lees, there is no racking until final blending and no fining or filtration.
This wine will have you second-guessing as it skips between red fruits and lifted spice notes on the one hand to more brooding, dark, ashen, earthy aromas on the other. A sign of the vintage no doubt. The seasonal conditions are even more evident on the palate where flavour, tannin and acid are in perfect balance. There is an impressive amount of concentration in this wine but at the same time, it feels somewhat more restrained compared to other more in your face, rustic Dead Arm vintages. Particularly when we look at the tannin profile which is a relatively fine example for this wine. The benefit of all of this, of course, is that it is immediately drinkable upon release. Don?t be fooled by its approachability however, The Dead Arm Shiraz 2017 also shows all the hallmarks of a classic McLaren ValeShiraz that will see it age gracefully for 15 plus years.
While enjoyable in youth, this wine will reach its full potential with bottle age up to at least 20 years. The considerable structure and depth will ensure that the fruit characters will develop over time revealing more complexity and providing immense interest. This wine is best stored in an environment free of direct sunlight and with consistent temperatures between 10?C and 15?C.
Harvest dates 6 Mar – 8 Apr
Residual sugar 1.5 g/l
Titratable acid 7.0
Oak maturation 18 months