the wine buff
Gentlemen may prefer blondes but when it comes to wine, they prefer red. I know, I'm not sure I'm allowed say any of this anymore, but, in my defence, the first one is a film (and a book) and the second one is kind of a statistic. So as we've got a male focus in this issue of Weekend, one of the red wines that immediately comes to mind is Shiraz. It's not just a man-friendly wine, it's also very food-friendly, and in our house, we live with the happy stereotype of red wine barbecue man. Steaks for the carnivores, aubergines for the vegan, and a bottle of Shiraz.
To be honest, Shiraz is one of those wines that I had moved away from over the years, as I had with other very full bodied reds. But over the past few months, I've found myself at tastings where some of the big blockbusters were featured, most of them at the super premium end of the market. They included Amarone 'De Buris' from Tomassi Family Estates in Verona, a powerful Amarone Classico Riserva from the 2008 vintage, a number of Opus One vintages presented by Michael Silacci, the chief winemaker at this legendary Napa Valley estate which is a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild and Robert Mondavi, and The Caley, a quintessentially Australian blend of Cabernet/Shiraz from the Yalumba winery, which owner Robert Hill-Smith said came about in 2012 because it had such outstanding quality in the harvest that year.
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The Yalumba in particular made me smile, because I remember being astonished the first time I tasted it many years ago. Back then, we were all seduced by the power and concentration of these big Australian reds, it was the New World blasting on to the wine scene, and tasting these wines was a bit like meeting an old friend, albeit one who had won the lotto in the meantime and matured handsomely over the years. It was lovely to see that the winery is still managed by the family, and Robert's daughter Jessica was with him on the trip, having just taken up a position after years of working for other international wineries. So her first day on the payroll was in Dublin.
There is also a personal touch to some of the wines they produce. The Yalumba Signature Series, made from old Cabernet and Shiraz vines in the Eden Valley and Barossa Valley, was first made in 1962, and is a "salute to an employee or person who has made a significant contribution to the culture and traditions of the company". The first year, it carried the name of the founder, Sam Smith, and each year, it is dedicated to someone different, someone who would not necessarily be in the limelight, like the winemaker or the vineyard manager. It is a big thing, announced at the Christmas party each year with a story about the person on the back label, and, of course, their signature.
May is Real Wine Month, and one of the most exciting things happening is the Real Wine Fair which will feature wines from artisan growers who farm organically and/or biodynamically and make wine with minimal intervention in the winery. Twenty-eight winegrowers will be pouring their wines; food stalls will include The Fumbally Cafe and Loose Canon Cheese and Wine. The Chocolate Factory, Dublin 1, May 15. Tickets €20, eventbrite.ie
Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz 2013
€23.95-€24.99, 14pc, from The Corkscrew, Whelehan's Wines, Hole in the Wall, Leopardstown Inn, Dublin; La Touche Wines, Wicklow; and Number 21, Cork.
More affordable than the Signature Series (€49.95), this is juicy and rich with wild plums, cherries, mulberries and a herbal touch of smoke.
Peter Lehmann Portrait Shiraz 2015
Approx €15, 14.5pc, from Mortons, Jus de Vine, Nolan's Clontarf, all Dublin; Fine Wines, Cork and wineonline.ie
A well-known brand that continues to deliver on taste with dark rich fruit and well integrated oak. Always good with charred steak, burgers and Middle Eastern kebabs.
Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2017
€34.99, 14.5pc, from 64 Wine, Baggot Street Wines, Blackrock Cellar, Jus de Vine, Drink Store, Egan's, Grapevine, Nectar Wines, Redmond's, The Corkscrew, Mitchells, and wineonline.ie
A classic Australian Shiraz, this is ripe, floral and concentrated, with flavours of wild bramble, raspberries and a touch of white pepper spice.