Two Hands Deserves Applause
by Ray Jordan, The Western Australian, 5 February 2004
New blood in this industry is what makes this writing caper so interesting. Sure, its great to taste classic, old wines from distinguished lines, but nothing excites the senses quite so much as a bright newcomer with a great future clearly before it.
One of the most impressive I have seen in some time is the Barossa-based Two Hands, which comes complete with quirky names, clever packaging and fabulously-opulent, rich wines.
The partnership of Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz – they are the two hands – has lost little wine in getting their impressive operation up and running since its launch in 1999.
The principal aim of the partnership has been to produce classic shiraz, based largely on the best the Barossa can offer, but also bringing into play some high-class shiraz from other areas such as McLaren Vale in South Australia and Heathcote in Victoria.
Both Twelftree and Mintz come from a wine-linked background, which has provided a solid basis for the partnership. Twelftree, initially from a construction background, spent a number of years exporting Australian wine to the United States and Mintz a chartered accountant was formerly chief executive of one of Australia's leading cooperages in the Barossa Valley.
The first vintage was in 2000 when Two Hands started with 17 tonnes of fruit from McLaren Vale and Padthaway, and now the fruit is being sourced from a number of other regions.
There is no doubt that Two Hands was set up to be different. Its clearly reflected in just about everything from the names they have chosen for the wines, to the wines themselves, which are unashamedly sold at premium prices. You get just a hint of d'Arenberg concentricity in these names, but hey, this should be fun.
To justify the prices, Two Hands sources the best fruit it can get its many hands on from six major regions, with the aim of producing super premium wines of uncompromising quality. My recent tasting of these wines clearly reflected the fruit as the key driver.
The fruit itself is processed by small batch handling to maximise the individual regional and varietal characteristics. Oak is certainly used in reasonable amounts, such is the depth and concentration of some of the shiraz, but it is the fruit that dominates.
The intention is to remain a boutique small producer, limiting production to just the 10,000 case annual production which they have already achieved from the 200 tonne crush.
The backbone of Two Hands is the Garden Series of wines and the intention is to make all the wines to a Garden Series level and declassify if the wines don't measure up to the standards during subsequent assessment. The wines that don't crack the Garden Series generally go into the Picture series, which is still a pretty smart range.
Late last year I included the Two Hands wines in a regular tasting and the Garden Series of three wines really stood out.
The Two Hands Lily's Garden McLaren Vale shiraz 2002 ($55) shows how marvellous 2002 was throughout southern Australia. The powerful aroma shows stacks of licorice and savoury fruit characters. The soft, fleshy and remarkably-supple palate texture is a feature of this wine with the slightly assertive finish providing a neat finish to the package.
I like also the balance of fruit and oak. An impressive wine that is just gorgeous drinking.
The Two Hands Bella's Garden Barossa Valley shiraz 2002 ($55) shows the depth and concentration of Barossa shiraz at its best. It has a dense, unctuous feel in the mouth with ripe tannins and a nice mix of oak. It is wine with some years ahead of it, yet such is the balance you could happily drink this immediately.
The Two Hands Samantha's Garden shiraz 2002 ($55) is the first shiraz from Clare Valley to be released in this range. The colour is deep and bright and the bouquet of plum and prune with some distinctive Clare mint and eucalyptus. The palate is delightfully smooth and supple and impressive length.
Garden Series wines will be added from Heathcote and Langhorne Creek.
The Picture Series loses little in comparison. For instance, the Two Hands The Wolf Riesling 2003 ($25) comes from the outstanding 03 vintage in Clare. The strong smells of lime zest and grapefruit provide a powerful introductions. The palate is full of spicy mineral flavours with a fresh acid cut.
I was also impressed with The Bad Impersonator Barossa Valley shiraz 2002 ($45) a single vineyard wine sourced from the grey soils of Light Pass and showing an intense yet elegantly fruity palate. And the Bull and Bear Barossa shiraz cabernet 2002 ($45) showed a lovely soft, rounded structure with deep savoury, plum fruit.
Its been an impressive beginning for Two Hands. My advice is to get your own hands on some of them and see for yourself how good they are. Try Steve's Nedlands Park Hotel, La Vigna in Mt Lawley and Barossa Cellars in Leederville.