Legally delicious vinos
A winemaker by day (and weekends) and a criminal judge by night, George Shinas, shares how the cheeky names behind his wines came about and why drought can be a good thing for his vines.
How did you get into winemaking?
My family has been producing wines in Greece for eight generations and moved to Australia in the 1950’s. My father was a restaurateur who made wines for his own consumption. I bought a 50 acres big vineyard 23 years ago and we would make wines just to give away but some friends became interested to sell them.
How did you come up with such interesting names for your wines?
A U.S. wine importer said that Shinas Estates’ wines are great but I should create a label that would attract the U.S. market. At that time I had just been appointed to the bench as a criminal judge and decided I would produce a series of wines and call them The Courthouse Series. For the first 200 cases of Shiraz, I put an image of an Al Pacone lookalike, (he’s an American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate), on the label and called the wine The Guilty. Next was a white wine: a medium bodied Viognier flaunting hints of apricot, custard and honey. It was natural to name it The Innocent. My third wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon called The Judge; we have a picture of a grim reaper figure on that one. The Executioner is our flagship wine and it is a blend of all 55% Shiraz, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 % Viognier—all the best parcels of the vineyard goes into The Executioner. I’m probably the only winemaker in the world to produce this unique blend. The Executioner is very elegant, it is as smooth as the best pinots in the world.
Tell us about your newest addition to The Courthouse Series wines.
We made the Moscato, which I named the Sweet Justice, for the first time in 2011, and there has been such a massive demand for it since. Most Moscatos are basically lolly water but the Sweet Justice is a harmony of floral notes, flavour, acidity, and fruit sweetness—it’s not sickly saccharine. The Sweet Justice is also more bubbly than your usual Moscatos. I’m a big fan of champagne but I find it a bit too dry for me sometimes so I decided I would make my own version with the Moscato grape.
Excerpt from the March 2013 issue of epicure.