10/08/2011 - 10:20

Give cool-climate shiraz a go

10/08/2011 - 10:20


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Give cool-climate shiraz a go

I DON’T like shiraz. Well, that’s not exactly accurate; when I first started really getting into wine, I didn’t like shiraz. 

Most of the bottles I tried were from the warmer climates, areas famous for producing shiraz – Barossa, McLaren Vale, the Swan Valley – and most of the wines were super high in alcohol and really oaky.

Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing; wines like these helped to put Australian wine on the international stage. Often shiraz from these hotter areas have a lovely, generous, warming mouth-feel due to all the alcohol. They are supple and velvety from all the oak. You can understand why producers continue to make wines in this style and why there are legions of warm-climate Aussie shiraz drinkers around the world.

But the thing for me is that they are kind of a one-trick pony – big, in your face, jammy, alcohol and fruit bombs. They make me think of going to the movies and seeing the latest instalment in Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor franchise – all vacuous one-liners and jokes about bodily function. 

Hey don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for those jokes, just as every now and then we just feel like a warming bottle of red that we don’t have to think about too much – but not every night. 

If you love these big Aussie bad boys, shiraz from a cooler region might be worth a look; and by cooler region I don’t mean Tasmania, I only mean relatively cooler than the blistering heat of McLaren. The result is a much more interesting wine. 

The team from Shaw and Smith in the Adelaide Hills has been doing some really, really excellent cooler-climate shiraz for a while; they have been a bit stymied by a run of average vintages but the very good 2009 is available now and they are about to bottle the 2010, which is looking totally fantastic. 

It still has that lusciousness (although not as much) as the Barossa big guns but there is a whole other level of spicy, floral, liquorice flavour spectrum backed up by a tight acid line and some really smart, fine, grainy tannins. It’s an excellent wine for around $40 and a nice way to dip the proverbial toe in to cooler-climate shiraz.

If you want to dip more than a toe, I reckon Heathcote is the epicentre for exciting cool-climate shiraz. Little more than an hour from Melbourne in central Victoria, Heathcote is home to some of the greatest shiraz vineyards anywhere in the world. The wines are tight, savoury, explosively spicy and utterly unique. Almost all of the producers make tiny volumes of cult status wines. Look for names such as Syrahmi, Jasper Hill and Archer but my pick of the bunch is the shiraz from Greenstone.

So next time you stay in with a DVD and a bottle of red, have a look at cool-climate shiraz; it will make a nice counterpoint to your Eddie Murphy marathon.


Scott Taylor is the proprietor of The Beaufort Street Merchant in Highgate.


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