Mike Press releases an exciting new $17 shiraz
I first met Mike and Judy Press in their kitchen overlooking their young vineyard near Lobethal, high in the Adelaide Hills in 2006. They didn’t have a cellar door back then. Still don’t. Didn’t even have a label.
I’d heard the buzz on the grapevine that an unknown cleanskin had just won three trophies and seven gold medals in the Adelaide Hills Wine Show. That never happens, so I knocked on their door the very next day to find out what all the fuss was about. They poured the wines and I immediately ordered a pallet each of their shiraz and cabernet. 128 dozen. I’d never ordered more than a dozen of anything in my life.
I gave a bottle to each of my mates with a note to say that if this was the best $7 wine they’d ever tasted, they owed me $84 for the rest of the case – and if it wasn’t, the bottle was on me. Turns out, nobody got a free bottle.
Back then the vines were seven years old. The bottom had fallen out of grape prices, and making cleanskins was a last-ditch survival attempt for Mike and Judy to rescue this young vineyard – their retirement investment. He hand delivered every bottle to Adelaide to cut out the middle man. Smart.
I published some rather excited reviews, sent a couple of bottles to my mate Campbell Mattinson, who did the same, and the rest is history.
Today they have a label, it’s celebrated as a household name, and the range has grown to ten wines. Still no middle man – which means they’re actually earning as much selling wines for $12 to $17 as some of their peers make with iconic labels at four times the price. Clever business.
Over the years, the vines have settled into their soil, and Mike has grown to understand them more intimately. The wines today are more effortless, less oak-driven, more sensitively assembled, and ultimately more delicious.
This year marks an exciting new chapter in this compelling tale: the release of their first single block wine. The vines celebrated their 20th birthday in 2018, and Mike’s son and vineyard manager Jimmy convinced him to bottle the best block on the estate. It’s affectionately labelled ‘Jimmy’s Block’.
It’s worth knocking on their door to grab a case. Or two pallets.
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020
$12 | 13.7% alcohol | Screw Cap
If this were a year in which wine shows were functional, Mike Press would have been in all manner of trouble with his peers because his $12 sensation just might have trumped every sauvignon class going. Don’t miss it. A pretty, pale straw green hue heralds a sauvignon bursting with flavour, character and tension. In fruit concentration, perfectly integrated yet taut acid drive and unadulterated persistence, this is hands-down the finest under this label yet. It’s loaded with every sauvignon hallmark in the book: gooseberries, white nectarines, passionfruit, lemons and lantana.
93 points | Drink 2020-2021
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir Rosé 2020
$12 | 12.0% alcohol | Screw Cap
Inspired by the rosés of Provence, this is a wine of medium salmon pink hue, bursting with all the primary vibrancy of Adelaide Hills pinot in fresh strawberry, raspberry and morello cherry fruit. This cool site at 500m of elevation in Lobethal cuts it with a formidable razor of natural acidity, infusing a superpower rarely possessed by rosé: endurance in the cellar.
91 points | Drink 2020-2025
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018
$17 | 14.5% alcohol | Screw Cap
Vine age means more in pinot than any other variety, and these Burgundy 777 clone vines have hit their straps after 20 years in the ground in this cool, high site in Lobethal. The warm summer of 2018 has given birth to a generous style of blackberry and dark cherry fruit, backed confidently by dark chocolate infused by six months maturation in French oak barrels. This is one of the more complex releases under this label yet, and while it isn’t the very best (the season was too warm for the delicacy of this grape), it’s certainly among the more serious and ready to drink on release. Gone is the flamboyant fruitiness of juvenile vines, replaced with the savoury complexity of fully ripe fruit, backed by tannins of fine, firm confidence, holding a finish of great persistence, its warm alcohol well countered with the brightness of high altitude acidity.
90 points | Drink 2020-2023
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Merlot 2018
$13 | 14.1% alcohol | Screw Cap
In these days of ever warmer seasons, cooler sites are coming into their own, exemplified in the warm summer of 2018 across South Australia. In that year, merlot had been thriving in Mike Press’ vineyard for 20 years, and gave birth to the finest he’s made yet. Lifted violet fragrance and crunchy blackcurrant fruit define varietal identity rarely found at any price in Australian merlot, let alone at the princely sum of $13. It’s exactingly and unashamedly medium-bodied, a celebration of great fruit precision, elegantly and sensitively backed by 12 months maturation in a mix of American and French oak barrels. Structure is crafted as much on vibrant Adelaide Hills acidity as it is on medium-grained tannins, uniting to promise a tremendous future in the cellar.
92 points | Drink 2028-2033
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
$13 | 13.3% alcohol |Screw Cap
It’s cold up there at Mike and Judy Press’ place high in the Adelaide Hills, and 2017 was the coolest and latest harvest in some years. Cabernet is always the last to ripen, and Mike had to work hard with diligent yield control to achieve ripeness. He’s done an impressive job, achieving a core of blackcurrant fruit backed by varietal notes of capsicum and leaf, more apparent on the nose than the palate. Maturation for 16 months in French and American oak barrels has built a compelling backdrop of dark chocolate, and seamless integration of perfectly ripe, fine-grained tannins. Without the precision and carry on the finish of the great vintages, it’s a lesser release in the grand lineage of this label. Nonetheless, a good result for medium-term cellaring, and testimony to hard work in the vines in this tricky season.
89 points | Drink 2022-2027
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Shiraz 2018
$13 | 14.7% alcohol | Screw Cap
Mike Press’ shiraz vines celebrated their 20th birthday in 2018, and put on quite a show! A cool March provided reprieve to a warm end to summer, facilitating long, slow ripening and great flavour development. The result is an impressive hue of medium, vibrant purple, announcing a flamboyant style that rejoices in enticingly glossy black and red fruits of all kinds, underlined by the dark chocolate of 12 months in American oak barrels. Mike has strategically morphed this label into a more approachable style since the 2016 vintage, accenting juicy fruit and downplaying oak and tannins. It works to compelling effect in this warm season, pulled into line impeccably by the vital fourth ingredient in this equation: the tension of Adelaide Hills acidity, bringing structure and integrity.
92 points | Drink 2021-2026
Mike Press Wines Jimmy’s Block Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Shiraz 2018
$16 | 14.7% alcohol | Screw Cap
Ignore the playful label and ludicrously low price, this is a monumental wine and one of the greatest yet to emerge from this beloved estate. After 20 years in the ground, it was only a matter of time before Mike singled out his favourite block, egged on by his son and vineyard manager, Jimmy. On paper it’s identical to his famous estate shiraz of the same season, but the wine projects an altogether different and much more serious and polished mood. Grand testimony to the distinctiveness even of blocks within the same vineyard, this label is much closer in style and shape to Mike’s fabled shiraz prior to its evolution to a more approachable style since 2016. And it’s more than this, too. A medium, vibrant purple hue, it’s built around a fantastic and focused singularity of satsuma plum, blackberry and black cherry fruit, confidently supported by the dark chocolate and fine-grained tannins of 12 months maturation in American oak barrels. Vibrant acidity, fabulous fruit and beautifully deployed tannins unite on a finish of profound line and length.
94 points | Drink 2021-2028
STOP PRESS: Jimmy’s Block was released in August 2020 and proved to be far more popular than anticipated, selling out by mid-September. But all hope it not lost, and a second bottling is currently being prepared for release in October. I have confirmed that this is an identical blend to the first.
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