Shaw & Smith   
Modern Australian wines from Adelaide Hills


Michael Hill Smith


Shaw & Smith, a partnership between first cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith, recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. ‘It has been a terrific time,’ says Michael Hill Smith. ‘We started making wine in 1990, and it has been terrifically successful and fun – a really pleasing partnership.’ How did it all start? ‘We found some grapes from Geoff Hardy’s vineyard in the south of the Adelaide Hills – Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay – and we found tank space at Wirra Wirra, with Greg Trott. The following year we moved to Petaluma, and stayed there until 2000, when we put in our own winery.’

One of the specialities of Shaw & Smith has been their Sauvignon Blanc, which pays the bills while they have fun with other varieties. It’s a really attractive, well balanced wine.

Martin Shaw

Chardonnay is a little more serious. ‘We have gone in Australia from big golden Chardonnays with high alcohol and ripeness, through to wines that are finer and finer,’ explains Michael. ‘We have changed our approach, too, moving to hand harvest, pre-chilling, whole-bunch pressing and using wild fermentations.’ M3 represents this new approach, and the first M3 was in 2000. The wines have been refined further since then, with a movement away from the Californian Chardonnay clones to Dijon clones 95 and 96, a higher proportion of wild ferment, and better selection of oak.

A new move for Shaw & Smith has been Pinot Noir, which they first planted in 2000. Initially the fruit was sold off as sparkling base wine, but since 2007 they have been taking a serious look at the fruit. The 2008 gives a glimpse of where they want to go with this. ‘The goal is the opulence of Central Otago combined with the structure of Burgundy,’ says Michael. Martin says that Pinot Noir is the most challenging of the varieties to work with. ‘Chardonnay is challenging, too. Sauvignon Blanc is all about grape quality.’

Shiraz is an exciting wine for Shaw and Smith. ‘When we make a mistake we are quick to admit it,’ says Michael. ‘We believed the future in the Adelaide Hills was Merlot: the last thing we wanted to do was make under-ripe Shiraz.’ But then they made a wine for one of their growers – a Shiraz – and they realized it was pretty good. 2002 was their first vintage, and this is now perhaps their top wine.

‘We are trying to make wines that are modern Australia,’ states Michael. ‘We are excited about making new wave Australian wines.’


Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Adelaide Hills
Fresh, bright and aromatic with lovely fruity character. Fresh but quite full with nice intensity. Very stylish. 89/100

Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay 2000 Adelaide Hills
The debut vintage. Evolved, toasty, nutty nose leading to a toasty palate with savoury, spicy, nutty notes. Complex and evolving nicely with some depth. Well integrated oak. Nice stuff. 90/100

Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay 2005 Adelaide Hills
Complex, aromatic, toasty nose. Fine palate with lovely complexity and creamy, bready, toasty notes. Lovely texture. A delicious wine. 91/100

Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay 2006 Adelaide Hills
Fine, focused and fresh with wonderful spicy, toasty complexity and good acidity. Very refreshing and youthful with lovely focus. 93/100

Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay 2008 Adelaide Hills
Warm, toasty nose with wonderful freshness and good acidity, and some lemony notes. Creamy, fresh, toasty and really refined with great focus. Still youthful. 93/100 (£19.99, Harrods, Oz Wines, Selfridges, Philglas & Swiggot, The Secret Cellar, Noel Young Wines, Bennetts Fine Wines, Winedirect, Peckhams, Valvona & Crolla, Villeneuve Wines)

Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2002 Adelaide Hills
Rich, tarry, medicinal nose with a pharmaceutical edge: notes of mint, menthol and spice. Powerful, rich, minty, spicy palate. Savoury and tannic, but still quite youthful with a long future ahead of it. A bit odd, but nice. 90/100

Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2005 Adelaide Hills
Lovely aromatic dark cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit nose. The palate has a lovely freshness with good definition and fresh fruitiness. It’s backed up by good acidity and savoury, spicy structure. Some elegance. 92/100

Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2006 Adelaide Hills
Beautiful definition and freshness with a fantastic white pepper edge to the nose. Meaty, olive notes complement the pure red and black fruits on the palate. Precise, complex and substantial, this is almost perfect and will develop beautifully. 95/100

Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2007 Adelaide Hills
Sweet fresh dark fruits with some sweetness and lushness, but also good definition. Hints of olive and spice, too. Richer than the 2006 but still totally delicious. Ripe and spicy. 92/100 (£18.99 Majestic, Australian Wines Online, Harrods, Wine Man, Bennetts Fine Wines, Corks Out, Philglas  Swiggot, Reserve Wines, Halifax Wine Co, Noel Young Wines, Peckhams, Markinch Wine Gallery)

Shaw & Smith Pinot Noir 2008 Adelaide Hills
Lovely elegant nose with smooth, sweet sappy fruit. The palate is smooth textured with lovely cherry fruit and gentle herbiness. Light on its feet: elegant and quite delicate but with sweet fruit and a hint of richness. 92/100 (£21.99 Australian Wines Online, Noel Young Wines, Henderson Wines, Liberty Wines)

See also:

Clonakilla vertical, with Tim Kirk
Brian Croser, Petaluma and Tapanappa (series)

Wines tasted 09/09  
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An older report from 2002:

This quality minded estate was established in 1989 by cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith. They currently have 28 ha of vineyards in the cool-climate Adelaide Hills (South Australia) and their goal is to make 'contemporary, high-quality wines that stand amongst the best of their type'. A sparkling new winery was constructed for the 2000 vintage, and is very stylish and hi-tech. While for the first 10 years they focused exclusively on Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (wisely, I feel, given the excellence of their wines from these grapes), they have now begun working with Merlot, and their intention is to produce Riesling and Pinot Noir in the future. I'm very enthusiastic about these wines, and especially the whites. They have a lot of class and restraint, and I've yet to taste a better Australian Sauvignon than their worthy example of this grape. Prices are fair considering the quality of the wines.

Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Adelaide Hills
Hand picked, principally from the Woodside Vineyard. Really attractive full-yet-delicate nose is grassy and intense, but classy with it. The palate is rich and crisp with a good intensity and balance. It is quite light in character despite the depth of flavour. Impressive stuff designed to be drunk young and fresh. Very good/excellent (£9.95 Andrew Chapman, Tesco, Fortnum & Mason, Noel Young, Selfridges)

Unoaked Chardonnay 2001, Adelaide Hills
The restrained, classy nose is delicate but with some honeyed, smoky complexity. The palate displays high-quality lemony fruit with good balance and acidity. Not too confected like some Australian unoaked Chardonnays. Restrained and classy. Very good/excellent (£9.95 Tesco, Connolly's, Harrods, Hedley Wright, Noel Young, Tanners)

M3 Vineyard Chardonnay 2000, Adelaide Hills
This replaces the Reserve Chardonnay of previous vintages, and the grapes come entirely from the M3 vineyard at Woodside. Hand picked grapes. Fermented in stainless steel, with malalactic fermentation in barrique and ageing for a year in new and 1 year-old barrels. Delicious rounded, smoky, nutty nose is quite full. The palate shows good balance and acidity, with nutty, toasty notes. Nice stuff. Very good+ (Liberty Wines £15.95)

Adelaide Hills Merlot 1999
A bit of a new veture, this was first made in 1998. The wine is left on skins for a month following fermentation and French oak is used throughout. Nice bright cherry fruit on the nose with an attractive herby edge. Palate is youthful and brightly fruited, with a touch of herbaceousness and good acidity. May develop nicely; a little too one-dimensional just at the moment. Very good+ (£16.95 Harvey Nichols, Hedley Wright)

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