During the last week of February, you may have seen the #ShirazWeek hashtag popping up all over social media. The week, which highlighted the impressive amount of Shiraz being produced in Australia, was a fantastic reason for a tasting.
I was a guest at the iYellow Wine Club Shiraz Week celebration, where they had 17 Australian wines available for sampling. For a wine student, these types of tastings are a real treat. They give you the chance to explore a range of wines from one country and see how terroir and winemaking style can really impact the experience you have with one type of grape.
While I opted not to taste through all 17, I did make it through quite a few and came away with some definite favourites. All of the wines were well-made and, while most were high-volume wines, there was enough variety to really see differences in expression and terroir.
There was also a ‘mystery’ wine, which was kept in a brown bag to avoid it being judged by its label. I gave it a shot and was unimpressed—too sweet, almost juice-like, and not to my tastes at all. What was it? Yellow Tail, a wine I actually enjoyed before I had much experience with wine. It was an interesting experiment and some of the tasters were fans, but my palate has evolved quite a bit since I started tasting regularly and now I find overly sweet wines are no longer to my tastes. That said, it’s one of the best-selling wines in the world and you have to respect that.
So what wines did I really like? The Small Gully The Formula Robert’s Shiraz (that’s a mouthful of a name) was at the top of my list. It hit all the right notes for me, being a good blend of fruit and spices on the nose and palate and a very well-structured wine. I’d like to try this one with food, as I feel like it would be a really strong pairing wine.
I also liked the 19 Crimes Shiraz Durif and the Teusner 2012 The Independent Shiraz/Mataro—both wines had great labels that drew me in and then held up on the structure and palate. The 19 Crimes seemed a bit hot on the nose, though the alcohol in the wine itself was balanced. The Jim Jim 2013 (The Down-Underdog) Shiraz also made a good impression and I’d like to try it again at a smaller tasting.
The combination of ripe, black and red fruit with the peppery overtones that bring a strong, savoury note to Shiraz is the hallmark of this grape for me. I always think of peppery fruit and this tasting brought that to life. While each wine had its own individual nuances, I began to better understand the shared characteristics of Australian Shiraz—a valuable lesson along my wine journey.
The majority of these wines are available at the LCBO or your local wine store. I’m hoping to hold a Shiraz tasting of my own soon, so I may be stocking up on a few of these bottles. What’s your favourite Shiraz?
I don't know how I missed Shiraz Week, but love the idea. I will definitely see if I can find the The Small Gully The Formula Robert’s Shiraz here in DC.
You mentioned that you thought the 19 Crimes Shiraz Durif and the Teusner 2012 The Independent had fun labels, and I was wondering about your thoughts on fun labels and wine. The craft beer folks have used it to really draw people into the beer scene, but the wine folks still seem to resist (I think to their detriment). Is this something you've given much thought to?
I think some of the lower-end wines, such as Cupcake or Apothic, have started using interesting labels to good results. That may be one reason higher-end wines shy away a bit – they may think consumers expect high-end wines to be serious.
I wish more of them would experiment and be a bit more creative. It does have an impact when I make a wine-buying decision. And creative can still be done in a really classy way.