"VHS wines, aka Vinous Heroin Society, is the work of quixotic and fascinating winemaker Samuel J Smith. Sam stands out from the pack, indeed, eschews limelight for the pursuit of his very, very individual projects. The underpinning is of course organic vineyard sources, the winemaking with zero additions (per se, but more on that later), including no sulphur. There has been some very expressive wines made with intended additions of fruits, herbs, native botanicals, even tobacco, stretching the boundaries of fermented grapes in a wholly exciting and diverse way. Anyways, this wine is more, let’s say conventional, with Barossa Valley shiraz fermented naturally with 100% whole bunches included, and sees 6% viognier and 1% gewurztraminer and hangs out in AP Johns smoked cherry wood for its life pre-bottling. That’s a pottery love heart attached to the bottle, too.
To add value to this chat, I really like this from Sam direct, “As much as I’m currently following a tangential path to push the boundaries as far as I can, I still like to pay homage each vintage, in some small way, to the wines that got me here. Producer’s like Gramenon, were the first to inspire me to make noble varietals with austerity and purity from Oraginic/Bio vineyards whilst utilising zero adds in the winery. I’ve always sought to distance myself from the inner sanctum of “Natural” wine producers in this country as my ideologies are firmly focused on creating the aforementioned styles, but with the ability to age whilst still presenting very well in their youth”. That all resonates for me. A shift to wines of more significance, despite the methodology being divergent from a classic path. What is classic anyway, of any idiom, hey? Thanks Sam. Shine a light on diversity.
The wine instantly reminded me of an old school Chinato, but without the depth of herb ‘n’ spice expected from that, but has the sweetness, the perky-peaky edginess, a lift of pretty sour tang, good length, richness, dark fruits and minty-herbal-spice. Indeed, there’s so much going on here it’s almost hard to know where to sniff, look and sip. That being said, I went at the glass with gusto. It’s a ripper. It came alive with food. It went well with couch time after. Tannins lightly chisel, the finish trails with spice and fruit. You’d go it for being a fuller red but there’s so much freshness too. Ok, out of the box a bit, but delicious, captivating, stellar drinking."
- Mike Bennie