Out on the Shirazz
Australian Shiraz – aka Syrah – is like the best of friends: reliable, rich and generous. First planted in Sydney 180 years ago with Syrah vines from France's northern Rhone Valley, it spread quickly throughout Australia.
However, just as familiarity breeds complacency, Shiraz became regarded as a workhorse and was used to produce Port-like wines for domestic consumption. Shiraz fell from fashion in the 1970s with the slump in sales of fortified sweet red wines.
In the past two decades, interest and demand has grown for dry and complex wines with stamina to improve with age. Australian Shiraz has been appreciated and valued by winemakers and consumers alike.
It's exuberant in style, with full-bodied flavours of blackberry, black pepper, spice, dark chocolate and liquorice.
Occasionally, a menthol and minty character occurs if Shiraz vines are planted near a wind-break of eucalyptus trees from the leaves' oils as they shed and touch the grapes' skins.
Today, Shiraz the workhorse has been groomed to proudly reveal its thoroughbred nature. More than 20 wines were blind tasted this week and the six with the highest scores are featured here.
1) SHIRAZ 2009 The Lucky Country, Barossa Valley/McLaren Vale, South Australia, 14.5pc
A spicy and meaty bouquet. Smooth- textured tannins and full-bodied flavours contained in a delicious fruit bomb that explodes with black cherry and peppery spice. Do duck with a puddle of black-cherry-jam coulis.
€14.99 at La Touche Wines 4U, Greystones, Co Wicklow. In Dublin: Baggot Street Wines; Red Island Wines, Skerries; Lord Mayor's off-licence, Swords; Wines on the Green, Dawson Street, and McCabe's, Blackrock
2) SHIRAZ 2010 Jacob's Creek, South Eastern Australia, 13.5pc
Mellow black pepper and ripe blackberry flavours ripple over silky tannins and moderate alcohol. Serve with a smoked bacon and white-bean stew in a rich tomato sauce.
€10.99 at Dunnes Stores and Tesco nationwide
3) SHIRAZ 2009 Bin 555, Wyndham Estate, South Eastern Australia, 14pc
A vibrant perfume of menthol and cassis. A powerful palate with opulent, super-ripe, juicy black berries infused with spicy cloves. Serve with grilled steak slicked with a smoky barbecue sauce.
€13.85-€14.50 at Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Superquinn, O'Brien's, Supervalu and Centra nationwide
4) SHIRAZ 2011 Benchmark, Grant Burge, South Australia, 13.5pc
A rich, savoury and meaty aroma. Spiced juicy black fruits, black pepper and firm tannins hold interest. Get hot with a chilli con carne.
€13.99 at La Touche Wines, Greystones, Co Wicklow. In Dublin: McCabes, Blackrock; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, and Next Door McHughes, Kilbarrack
5) Shiraz 2011 Four Sisters, Central Victoria, 14pc
Perfumed with floral and menthol notes. Ripe red and black-cherry fruits hide the alcohol. Partner with a leg of lamb marinated in yogurt, mint and garlic then slow-roasted.
€14 at Wines Direct Retail Store, Mullingar and winesdirect.ie
6) Shiraz 2010 Shoofly, South Australia, 14.5pc
Complex bouquet of meaty black pudding and leather. Full-bodied and chunky, spiced, ripe black fruits with a herbal note of mint. Firm meat-friendly tannins to relax with a peppered steak.
€17.49 at Callan's, Dundalk and Drinkstore.ie. In Dublin: Cheers at the Leopardstown Inn, Leopardstown; Martin's, Fairview; Hole in the Wall, Phoenix Park; Gerry's, Skerries; Deveney's, Rathmines, and D-Six, Harold's Cross