We promised at Press Wines that we'd only work with winemakers of serious pedigree. Winemakers and vignerons that are the top of their class, and make no tricks in the cellar. They don't come much more pedigreed than Steve Pannell and his wife Fiona, and if you haven't tasted his wines, you should.
The list of accolades are long, as well as his top-level experience at home and abroad. However, it is the wines that Steve releases under his namesake label that genuinely excite. The wines (and there are plenty) are distinctly South Australian in they have a generosity and richness of flavour, though they are unique for their areas in the sense that they carry poise, elegance and a restrained power.
Steve's family are rooted in Australian winemaking history, establishing Moss Wood as one of the originals in Margaret River, before heading further south to start Pemberton with the desire to grow Pinot Noir. Steve cemented his own path in Australian wine, becoming Chief Red Winemaker for Hardy's, picking up his first Jimmy Watson Trophy and International Red Winemaker at the International Wine Challenge in London in 1999. Prior to this, Steve also worked at iconic wineries Comtes Lafon (Burgundy), Mouton Rothschild (Bordeaux) and G.D. Vajra (Barolo).
In 2004 Steve and Fione set up SC Pannell and have continued to thrive. They received another Jimmy Watson trophy for the 2013 version of this very wine, and in 2015 Steve was named the winemaker of the year by Gourmet Traveller. This is surely because of his approach to farming quality vineyards, working with suitable varieties and wanting to produce food friendly wines that suit the mediterranean cuisine and climate they enjoy by the coast in McLaren Vale. In 2013, James Halliday said that "this label is on its way to icon status"; and to paraphrase England's darling of wine, Jancis Robinson MW, "in many ways he is a standard bearer for the new style of fresher Australian wines".
We could have chosen many of Steve's wines to offer, and in time we surely will, though we thought the Adelaide Hills Syrah is a perfect place to start. It is the iconic grape of South Australia, though this time seen through the lens of a winemaker that pursues balance over power. The fruit comes from a vineyard at 410 metres above sea-level, with well draining granite soils. Steve's choice of naming the wine Syrah instead of Shiraz expresses his desire to show the variety in a more perfumed, higher toned style. 2016 in South Australia was a warmer than usual vintage, so there is still some ripeness and rich tannin profile. The flavours are classic Syrah fruits of blackberries and black cherries, though woven through black olive tones, bitter dark chocolate, citrus oils, some dusty earth like minerality and sweet brown spices. The tannins are ripe but silky.
This drinks now, but will still be going in ten years if you like to see some of those fruit flavours dissipate. Some media types agree with the quality, with a 93, 95 and a 96 from Robert Parker (US), James Suckling (US) and James Halliday respectively.
As this is our first offer, we will close the orders today (Wednesday April 17) at 8pm.