Now… From the get go- DO NOT FEAR!! This will be kept as easy as possible, wine can be a surprisingly easy thing to come to terms with- once you know where to start! For me it was starting working here- I’m sure all of our regular customers will remember the terrified look in my eyes every time someone came, I was like a deer caught in the headlights petrified in case they asked me something which I would have no clue how to answer. Now I’m not saying I’m an expert at this stage, so so so so far from it, but the easiest way I found was to just pick a country, try some wines from the different regions (it doesn’t matter if you have a developed palate or not), and see what I liked myself. After all at the end of the day when you know what you like you can take it from there. So for the sake of these AWESOME blogs we’ll be focussing on Australia- and why wouldn’t we? With a history of amazing movies like Crocodile Dundee, and incredible facts like In 1954 Bob Hawke made it into the Guinness Record Book for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. Bob Hawke went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia. How could you not love this country?
Australia is brilliant, so many different regions, so many different types of wine, and so many winemakers who are willing to try out new techniques. It really does encompass a lot of styles, and the Australians do not shy away from taking on the old world at their own game. The main grape variety in Australia is Shiraz, sometimes you will see it written as Syrah, but they are essentially the same thing. Now one little argument which I think should be laid to rest, at this stage, is the origins of the word Shiraz… Yes I know there is a place in Iran called Shiraz too and therefore the grape has to come from there! I’m afraid that’s all just a coincidence, a pretty freaky one I might add- what the hell are the chances? But, yes from what I’ve read there is no evidence at all that that’s where it comes from. It’s more likely that the main reason behind the differences between the two words is down to good old English mispronunciation… Don’t believe me? Well look at the word whiskey…. Came from the Irish Fuisce Beatha (one of a few Irish words to enter the English language…). So it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Syrah was mispronounced Shiraz- Long story short Syrah and Shiraz are the same thing!
Now Shiraz is a great grape- easily in my top 5! And what makes it so good? I hear you call… Well as I talked about at a great length above, the grape is popular in France, particularly the Cotes Du Rhone, where it goes by the name Syrah. It is one of the more important ingredients when making a top notch Châteneuf-du-Pape. So Syrah/Shiraz was takin from france in 1832 by James Busby- clearly a fan of wine but much more known for all the stuff he did for New Zealand… maybe they should have called him James BUSY…. Cause of the wine… and the stuff with New Zealand… anyyywayyssss…. Aren’t we all glad that he did bring it with him, because around the 1970’s the Australians were getting pretty thirsty (like our little squirrel friend here!)- and more than anything else they wanted a nice big full-bodied red, that would quench this insatiable thirst. So of course they turned to Shiraz. It took off in a big way; all those vines that had been left lying around sine Busby’s time were now producing some of the greatest wines the Australian’s had ever tasted. But this wasn’t enough! They looked back to the old world, at what France were doing and they started creating some classic Côtes-du-Rhône blends. The possibilities were limitless now- Shiraz and Viognier were a triumph together, Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre (GSM) Brilliant! Yes the Shiraz Grape really won the affections of the Australians, but the key to it being so popular in Australia was not its dependability…. On the contrary it was how different it would be between the regions. The Australians had this brilliant Full bodied Grape- but whats more they had variety like no other country could have in the world! Shiraz produces wines with a wide range of flavour notes, depending on the climate and soils where it is grown, as well as other viticultural practices chosen. Aroma characters can range from violets to berries (usually dark as opposed to red), chocolate, espresso and black pepper. No one aroma can be called “typical” but generally blackberry and pepper are the most pronounced. But at the heart of all this success the Austrlians had, not just with Shiraz but with other grape varieties too, there was one defining atttribute which set them apart from the old world- basically it was the lack of rules and regulations. Most if not all the old world regions have a fixed set of rules which determines what grapes are to be grown and where- France with their AOC, Spain with its DOC, Italy with their DOCG’S, and while these do ensure a certain level of quality… they confine producers to an old way of wine making. But in Australia those rules don’t exist- it’s a playground for winemakers. Look at the O’Leary-Walker Shiraz. They take 70% of their Shiraz grapes from the Clare valley, and the other 30% from the McLaren vale- and because of this blend you get a shiraz which is truly unique to not only to O’Leary-Walker wines, but also Australia! Now in the next Blog we will be going a little more in depth with regards Regions (it’ll be better than it sounds trust me!) which are really important for anyone looking to further their knowledge of wine!