A Taste of Australian Wine...'Shiraz'by Gavin Trott
This is Australia’s highest profile wine style, and arguably its best red wine. The grape is believed to have come to Australia first from its home, Hermitage in the Rhone area of France many years ago. Some believe, again arguably, that due to extensive re-planting in France due to Phylloxera, our older vineyards are more like Hermitage used to be, than that region is today. Some vineyards of Chateau Tahbilk for instance date back over 100 years unchanged (and small amounts of wine are still made from these old grapes.)
What is not in doubt however is that Shiraz is the best and best known red wine of Australia. It is the most widely grown red grape variety, grown in almost all regions, and makes the most recognised Australian wines in the world market such as Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace amongst others. In addition it is used in blends with many other grapes, as well as being used extensively in the Fortified wines of Australia, most notably our Vintage Port styles.
Through all of this and in almost every climate, Shiraz makes quality wine. It rarely needs or receives the same volume of new oak as Cabernet, it can be delicious and fruity when young, but can mellow with up to 20 or 30 years in the cellar into magnificent wine showing earthy, velvety, almost sweet fruit characters.
The aromas and flavours of Shiraz vary with wine style and region, but are usually blackberry, plums, and pepper in varying degrees dependent on growing conditions. In addition, even more regionally based, we can find liquorice, tar even, and bitter chocolate and mocha. Climate affects these with the warmer climates providing the plums and chocolate (Barossa) and the cooler climates giving more of the pepper (Victoria).
Below is a list of some of the Australian regions producing quality Shiraz wines, plus some labels to watch out for from those regions. Naturally there will be many that I have missed, and this is not meant to be a definitive list, but if you try these wines you will find quality, and discover some of those flavours for yourself (with apologies to other regions and producers I have missed).
Mt Langi Ghiran
Seppelt Great Western
Bests Great Western
Rockfords Basket Press
St Hallett Old Block
Leasingham Bin 61 and Classic Clare
Jim Barry the Armagh
Mitchell Pepper Tree
Gavin is the manager of the Australian Wine Centre (a large collection of affordable, rare and cult Australian wines) and hosts the very popular Auswine Forum (An online discussion forum about Australian wine) .