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What To Drink During #ShirazWeek

February 21, 2015 10 comments

ShirazWeekYep, another wine holiday is upon us. This time, it is a week-long holiday, so you will surely get your opportunity to celebrate. What holiday, you ask? #ShirazWeek. Yep, the whole week dedicated to the Shiraz wines.

As we know, Shiraz is just a different name for the grape called Syrah, one of the most popular red grapes in the world. Today Syrah is literally growing everywhere – France, Spain, Italy, even Portugal, United States, Chile, Israel, South Africa, Australia and many others. But – what is the first country which comes to mind when you hear the word Shiraz? For me, the answer is simple – Australia.

Australia is one and only wine making country where you will not find wines called Syrah (well, may be you can, but with extreme difficulties). South Africa is probably next – most of South African Syrah wines are called “Shiraz”. For the rest of the world, Chile is often uses the name Shiraz, and you can find some of US wines called Shiraz as well (quite rare – Syrah prevails by a huge margin), and then it is Syrah all the way.

Shiraz is most popular red grape in Australia, with the plantings been second largest in the world after France. A quick question for you – do you know where the oldest, continuously producing Shiraz vines are located? Well, yeah, I’m sure it was easy to figure out in the context – yes, in Australia, in Barossa Valley, planted in 1847, now reaching a tender age of almost 170 years. Over the years Shiraz had its ups and downs, with the vineyards ripped out, including the old vines, with overproduction and quality problems – but it still remains Australia’s darling, and a world-class wine on its own, well worthy of a celebration. Shiraz is produced everywhere in Australia, but Barossa, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Hunter Valley, Margaret River and McLaren Vale are probably the most famous regions for that wine.

Now, let’s talk about what to drink in honor of the #ShirazWeek. Of course I don’t think you should be drinking Shiraz for the whole week – but then you should do whatever you think is right – I’m merely here to provide some suggestions. As a self-made oenophile, I went through lots of Australian wines the bargain aisle has to offer – I had my fair share of Yellow Tail, Rosemount, Wolf Blass and Lindeman’s – the wines that comprise the glory and the curse of the Australian wine industry. But – I’m sure you don’t need my advice with that group. Let me instead suggest some names which I think would be worthy of your attention. The list below has no particular order – but these are all the producers I can related to, one way or the other. While some of these wines will be more expensive than the others, I don’t expect you to need to break the bank to taste any of them, so don’t be concerned.

d’Arenberg – very well known producer in McLaren Vale, with many family generations involved in the winemaking. Footbolt Shiraz (under $20) and Dead Arm Shiraz (around $70) both worth your attention.

Jim Barry – Jim Barry is a well known producer in the Clare Valley. While they make a number of wines, the one I particularly recommend is Jim Barry McRae Wood ($50), a single vineyard Shiraz – very focused and delicious.

Two Hands Wines – their wines are exuberant, over the top, and never shy in alcohol – but they also manage to achieve an impeccable balance. Try whatever you can get your hands on. The wines are generally priced in the $30 – $100 range.

Mollydooker Wines – a wonderful producer in McLaren Vale. I love the way their wines are named – Carnival of Love, Blue Eyed Boy or Two Left Feet, for instance. Again, try anything you can get. Similarly to the Two Hands, their wines are priced in the $25 – $100 range.

Henry’s Drive – a producer in Padthaway in South Australia. I came across their Dead Letter Office Shiraz as a recommendation from Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, writers of the Wall Street Journal’s Tastings column, where 2005 Dead Letter Office Shiraz was rated as Delicious!, a highest honors in the Tastings column. I had an opportunity to taste and concur – and according to the Wine-Searcher, the 2005 is still available online at $26.

Pirramimma – a producer in McLaren Vale. I have to be honest – I never tried their wines, but – the 2005 Shiraz was listed in that exact same Tastings column with exact same Delicious! rating, hence my recommendation. I have a bottle of this wine, and will probably follow my recommendation soon.

Elderton Wines – another great producer from Barossa. I had an opportunity to try 2002 Elderton Command Shiraz, and this wine was simply stunning. It will set you back about $90 or so – but in that price category, it is well worth every penny.

M. Chapoutier – best known for their French Syrah wines, M. Chapoutier started producing Shiraz in Victoria, Australia in 2002. Tasting 2011 Domaine Tournon Mathilda Shiraz was literally a mind-blowing experience and it was one of my absolute favorite discoveries of the last year (here is my post). At less than $15, this might be the best Shiraz you can ever taste at a price.

There are lots and lots more Shiraz producers in Australia – as I said before, the list above only includes wines I can relate to, so feel free to suggest your favorites.

And just in case money are no object, I would like to suggest two Shiraz wines I didn’t have the opportunity to taste, but they should be able to provide a holistic experience, at least based on the price ($600+) and according to the people who tasted them. I’m talking about Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill Of Grace Shiraz Eden Valley – both wines should be absolutely magnificent – but I will let you confirm or deny it in case you had the firsthand experience.

Now you are ready to celebrate the #ShirazWeek – and don’t forget to share your experiences on the AussieWine web site. Drop me a note too – I want to know what is in your glass and how do you like it. Cheers!

 

Seductive Barossa

April 25, 2012 6 comments

Today is Wednesday, right? Well, yes, of course, it is already Thursday for half of the world, but at least here, on US East coast, it is still Wednesday. And it is not only #WineWednesday as celebrated all over the  Twettersphere, it is also a Wine Blogging Wednesday #76, a.k.a #wbw76, with the theme Barossa Boomerang. In other words, it is all about wines coming from Barossa Valley region in South Australia.

Winemaking history in Australia goes back more than 200 years, of course with ups and downs. From 1990s, Australian wine imports were growing very steadily, with Australia literally becoming a number one wine importer to US around 2005-2006. Australian Yellow Tail was the most popular wine on the shelves of US wine stores. And then…it all went down. The glut of inexpensive but at the same time absolutely indistinguishable wines was one of the reasons for that demise. Of course there were more reasons than that, but this is not the subject of today’s post – however, if you want to read more, here is a very good post by Jancis Robinson. As of late, Australian wines are slowly working its ways up the ladder, but it will take time and dedication to regain the lost positions.

So the theme of today’s Wine Blogging Wednesday should help exactly with that – there are many great wines produced in Australia, and this #wbw76 certainly helps to bring attention to the Australian wines. Barossa wines are somewhat of an easy subject, as there are lots of wines produced in the Barossa Valley, so finding the bottle to open is definitely not an issue. Would the subject be Victoria or Great Perth, it would make the task of finding the appropriate wine a lot more difficult. Outside of sheer availability, another great fact about Barossa region is that it is a home to some of the best and most famous wineries in Australia, such as Penfolds, Henschke, Seppeltsfield and others.

Okay, enough fluff, let’s talk about the wine. When the theme of #wbw76 was announced, I pretty much new only one thing about the wine I’m going to select – it will be a Shiraz. Which one exactly – I had lots of ideas in mind, until two days ago, when I saw 2008 Fetish Playmates Barossa Valley wine on sale at local Bottle King for $8.99. Considering the price and the fact that label looked very inviting, the decision was made rather easily.

Here are my tasting notes, in quasi-real time: Dark chocolate and blackberries on the nose, slight hint of vanilla. Very round on the palate, showing lighter than expected just by the smell. Touch of spice and wine disappears on the palate, leaving it coated with tannins. Lots of tannins. This wine needs time to allow fruit to develop to support the nose experience on the palate. Very easy to drink… and then this wine grows on you – seductive, escaping and effervescent – if you can say that about red wine. Before you understand what happened, you are looking at the empty bottle – you still want more… but it’s gone.

If you care for a bit of technical detail, this wine is a blend of 80% Shiraz, 10% Grenache and 10% Mataro, ABV 14.5%. Drinkability: 8.

There you have it, folks – great seductive Barossa Shiraz for the Wine Blogging Wednesday. How was your #wbw76 experience? Cheers!

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