Wine: Out on the Shiraz
Liam Campbell blind tastes black grape varietals native of Australia, France, Italy and Spain
Australian Shiraz has been on most people's lips at some stage. Just to prove that Australia's famous black grape is not the only thoroughbred in the stable, a blind tasting of other black grape varietals native of France, Italy and Spain highlights a top-quality range of wines with international appeal. The highest scoring wines are featured.
While each varietal has their own national accent and character, their unifying quality from the Australian climate is reflected in warm and big-hearted wines, accessible and full-flavoured.
Excluding shy Sangiovese's cold tea and dried cherries that become more withdrawn if in the company of over 20% of other varietals, it's all about the blend.
The fleshy ripe strawberry character of Grenache gives a wine full body with gentle tannins, powerful alcohol and matures quickly. Often supported by the backbone of the blackberry and peppery personality of the mighty Shiraz (aka Syrah) whose firm tannins add grip, while the polished leather of Mataró (aka Mourvèdre) helps add complexity.
1) MH 3 Amigos 2007, McHenry Hohnen, Margaret River, Western Australia 14.5pc
Graphite and mineral bouquet with blackberry skins. Berries and fruit kernel flavours. Excellent balance. A classic Rhone trinity of Shiraz, Grenache and Mataró/Mourvedre. Keep it hearty with beef stew topped with a mash of sweet potatoes and carrots.
€21.75 online at tindalwine.com
2) "Luccio" Sangiovese 2010, Pikes, Clare Valley, South Australia 14.5pc
Expect the muted, dusty redberry aromas of Chianti's classic grape, Sangiovese. Lively acidity, ripe red cherries spiked with chilli pepper. Full-bodied, but not heavy. Pair with minced pork meatballs in a tomato and sage sauce.
€18.15 online at jnwine.com
3) d'Arry's Original Shiraz-Grenache 2010, d'Arenberg, McLaren Vale, South Australia 14.1pc
Warm fruit punch aromas. Delicious with earthy and black berry fruits. Firm but friendly tannins. Mellow and satisfying. Made by fourth generation Chester Osborn, one of Australia's most colourful characters.
€23 at Ardkeen, Waterford. In Dublin at Fresh Supermarket, Grand Canal Square and Sweeney's, Glasnevin.
4) Shotfire Quartage 2009, Thorn-Clarke, Barossa, South Australia 14.9pc
A Bordeaux quartet of Cabernets' Sauvignon and Franc, Malbec and Merlot. The sandalwood bouquet introduces concentrated blackberry and polished oak flavours masking the alcohol. Partner with leg of lamb marinated in yoghurt, mint and garlic and slow roasted.
€22.99 in Dublin at Gerry's Supermarket, Skerries; Martin's, Fairview and The Grape Vine, Ballymun Road.
5) Old Bush Vine Grenache-Shiraz 2009, Reilly's, Clare Valley, South Australia 15pc
The powerful alcohol is muffled by the intense tarry black fruit and minerality. Solid, muscular and well-balanced. Pair with duck breast with smoked bacon lardons and Puy lentils.
€29 at Bradley's, Cork; Cases, McCambridge's and Morton's, Galway. In Dublin: Deveney's, Dundrum & Rathmines; Gibney's, Malahide; McCabe's, Blackrock; Mitchell's, Glasthule and Redmond's, Ranelagh or odwyerwines.com for full list of outlets nationwide.
Grillo 2013, Il Padrino, Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy 12.5pc
Classical Sicilian scented with olive oil. Depth of golden ripe fruits, apples and peaches contrasted with a little white pepper. Grill tuna steaks with diced aubergine fried with tomato and shallots. €8.99 from €10.99 until June 8 at O’Brien’s 32 off-licences nationwide or online: wine.ie