I love Australians. They have a certain joie d’vivre that’s unique along with a great sense of who they are. Maybe it’s because the country is so self-contained and it began with a bunch of outcasts, but they certainly move to the beat of their own drum. And it shows up in the wines.
Take Shiraz for example –
To the rest of the world it’s Syrah, but to Australia it’s SHE-RAZZ.
So why does it have a different name? There are stories about that, including that it was once thought the grape originated in Persia – but you know what? Who really cares. Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape genetically. It’s the way the Australians grew it and made it into wine that really distinguished it from the traditional Syrah of France’s Rhone region. Shiraz is inky dark with pronounced flavors of blueberry or blackberry along with a tarry or leathery component. And it tends to be less tannic and more readily approachable than Old World styles.
What popped Australian Shiraz into the wine world’s consciousness was just that – it popped full of flavor – big and juicy, fruit forward and bold – and people loved it. While there are now more elegant and subtler versions more similar to the French, the true character of Shiraz is still that bold and highly flavorful drinkability. This is a terrific wine with barbecue and it’s great with grilled meats, especially steak and lamb. I think it’s a perfect cheeseburger wine too – really good any night of the week since there is a lot of it priced at every day levels.
The home to the best Shiraz of Australia is the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in South Australia near Adelaide. The Australians offer us Shiraz as a single varietal as well as blended with other grapes. When it’s put together with Grenache and Mouvedre then its a classic “GSM” blend that’s in the style of the Rhone, but Aussies go farther. You’ll see Shiraz – Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Shiraz – Viognier. And there are fun Rose’ from Australia that are primarily Shiraz based too.
A bit about the label: when it says just Shiraz then at least 85% of it must be Shiraz in the bottle. If it is a blend like the Shiraz – Cabernet then 50% or more of the wine must be the first first grape listed. There is now Shiraz labeled in South Africa and a little bit in California, but the real superstar of Shiraz is from the land of Oz.
Every Day Sip
2014 Woop Woop Shiraz $10
2013 Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz Viognier $17
2013 Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz $22
2014 Two Hands Shiraz Angel’s Share $30
2013 Mollydooker Shiraz Blue Eyed Boy $43
2012 Hentley Farm Shiraz The Beast $80