Barossa Shiraz

 

Grape pickers in a yellow field, with lush navy-colored grapes in the foreground.

Whether you call it Shiraz or Syrah (as it is known in some regions), it’s a big, bold wine. Shiraz is known for its spice and for big flavors. It’s a grape that, although it has always been one of the more popular varietals has not yet had its moment in the spotlight.

Shiraz is one of those grapes that is grown in many major wine regions — and the style really does change from place to place. In the Barossa Valley of Australia, for example, where all of the wines that VINE TALK tasted were from, Shiraz tends to be a rich chocolatey wine with flavors of dark cherries and plums. California’s Central Coast, on the other hand, makes Syrahs that are plucky with lots of spice. In Spain, the grape makes a wine that is muscular and earthy, and in the wines of Cotes du Rhone, it manifests in a wine that is full bodied but balanced with equal parts spice and fruit.

Part of the inherent allure of Shiraz is its tannic backbone. Without this tight structure, the wine loses the vibrancy of its spice and the lush fruit becomes jammy and sweet. For this reason, aging Shiraz is really a matter of preference. Many devotees don’t like to age the wine for too long, because they enjoy the tannic quality of the wine. Others, however, lay their bottles to rest in order to achieve a soft, plush, almost buttery wine that develops flavors of leather and violets.

Some winemakers have taken advantage of the fruity side of Shiraz and have started to make wines that are jammy on purpose and often qualified as “fruit bombs”. While these wines may be easier to drink and less intimidating for the beginner’s palate they mostly miss the whole point of Shiraz!

VT Tasted:
Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz Barossa 2008 $23.99
Penfolds RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2007 $150.00
Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Shiraz 2008 $40.00
Barossa Valley Estates E Minor Shiraz 2008 $12.99
Elderton Shiraz 2006 $25.00
Yalumba Eden Valley Shiraz Viognier 2008 $18.99

If you like the idea of chocolate, plums, and cherries…
Try: A Syrah from Walla Walla, Washington. The closest American versions of Shiraz from Barossa Valley are grown in Walla Walla Washington. The area started gaining attention a few years ago for its silky, rich, and lush Syrahs. These are the perfect wines to drink slowly on their own or with rich meals like braised or grilled meats.

If you’re looking for spice…
Try: A Syrah from California’s Central Coast. These Syrahs usually have brighter fruits like cherries and blackberries set against earthy notes and lots of black pepper spice. However, this is an area that turns out really jammy Syrahs as well depending on the producer.

If you’re looking for classic Syrah…
Try: A Syrah from Cotes du Rhone. The area of Chateauneuf du Pape, in particular, has drawn the kind of interest from wine collectors that can rival Bordeaux. These are big powerful Syrahs that show classic notes of cassis, cinnamon, and earth.

For more information on the episode featuring Barossa Shiraz, click Episode Guide: Scrutinizing Shiraz from Australia.

Photo courtesy of the Barossa Grape & Wine Association (www.Barossa.com)