What is Shiraz Wine?
Shiraz wine is Australia’s most successful varietal. Australia has an international reputation for blockbuster, Shiraz-based reds. Shiraz (Syrah) is a constituent grape in wines from Côtes du Rhône. Pioneering viticulturist James Busby planted early Australian Shiraz vines, cuttings imported from France, in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens. After this, he was responsible for the first major vine plantings in NSW in the Hunter Valley. Shiraz was later planted in South Australia in the 1800s.
McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley Shiraz are highly regarded throughout the world. Noted for their blockbuster styles, these wines are full-bodied and full of fruit. Arguably the best Shiraz in Australia is Penfolds Grange; it is certainly the most famous and is highly decorated. The maiden vintage was in 1951 but it but it wasn’t until 1962, when the 1955 vintage was recognised, that Grange began to dominate the Australian wine market.
Grange is primarily a Shiraz but has a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon with recent vintages adding some Viognier. This Australian Shiraz has been instrumental in putting Australian wine on the global map.
Common Shiraz Wine characteristics
Australian Shiraz has a reputation for big-red, blockbuster styles that are bold in flavour with high-alcohol content. However, Shiraz is influenced by climate and landscape and, as such, there is diversity to be found in Australian examples.
The best Shiraz from The Hunter Valley is characterised by leather, black pepper and blackcurrants in the bouquet while the palate issues more of the same with a slap in the mouth. Moving up a weight class, Rutherglen and Glenrowan, the Northeast Victoria zone, are renowned for burly reds that have surprising balance amongst all the huge blackberry fruit flavour.
The Barossa is world famous for monster Australian Shiraz. The hallmark of Barossa Valley Shiraz shows red berry and cinnamon with cedary, oaky notes in the bouquet and a palate of rampaging redcurrants, mocha and licorice.
Pairing food with Shiraz Wine
Food pairings with Australian Shiraz should consider the context of diverse styles. The red-with-red rule is in effect when it comes to Shiraz as wilting-lily, meaning delicate food tends to get trampled. With a Hunter Valley Shiraz, a rare cattleman’s cut will pair perfectly.
A Rutherglen red will stand up nicely with a beef casserole. To keep up with a Barossa Valley Shiraz something stronger is required. A dark kangaroo fillet with its gamey flavours will be able to cope with some of those South Australian full-bodied wines.
Balance is, as always important. Australian Shiraz tends to be more powerful than international Syrah wines. As with food, hard cheese suits the muscularity of Australian Shiraz. Crumbly, mature cheddar stands up very well where a weaker cheese would simply fold under the pressure. The positive Italian influence on South Australia’s wine, food and cultural scenes should be noted. So it is perhaps appropriate that a sliver of Pecorino, or other hard Italian cheeses, is the perfect accompaniment to a full-bodied Barossa Valley Shiraz.
Notable Shiraz Wine regions
The Rhône Valley in France is a renowned region for growing Syrah. The wine is particular to the slopes of the valley for which Côtes du Rhône is named.
Barossa Valley, Australia
Australian Shiraz from the Barossa Valley is renowned throughout the world but it is not for the faint of heart. The Barossa Valley and Eden Valley make up the Barossa region.
Australian Shiraz is grown with great success in the Hunter Valley and Canberra region in New South Wales, Beechworth, Rutherglen and Glenrowan in Victoria, Margaret River in Western Australia and McLaren Vale in South Australia.
The future of Shiraz Wine
Australian Shiraz has never looked better then it does today. New unique and diverse styles are continually being created in the search of a more elegant taste. One example of the relatively new superstars is in the Canberra region with Clonakilla’s Shiraz Viognier. This wine has received awards and acclaim with its elegant and contemporary style. This is great example of the diversity in styles across the range of Australian Shiraz. Other notable styles are produced by Krondorf, Dorrien Estate, McWilliams, Hardy’s, Angora, Dolan Family Wines and Rohrlach.
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