Return of the Shiraz

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If there is one red variety Australia does, it’s Shiraz, but to often all Aussie Shiraz is tar with the same brush – big alcoholic fruit bombs. Part  of the reason we love Shiraz comes down to its vibrant fruity notes dark and red berries and plummy notes, it is general voluptuous and smooth with the wines on the cheaper end offering much more sweet fruit notes.  But is simply note a one size fits all variety. The variety produces various different styles depending on the region it is grown in the most famous two being Barossa and McLaren Vale. But it also inspires in  wines from many other regions where the climates vary extraordinarily and hence the styles do as well – think cool climate like NSW’s Orange and SA’s Adelaide Hills.

Generally speaking here’s what to expect

  • Barossa is big and bold flavours and body.
  • McLaren Vale  tends to a bit lighter with earthy and mocha notes.
  • Clare Valley tends to berry flavours with hints of Mint and Eucalyptus and again a medium to full style.
  • Orange is a beacon for producing cool climate wines of finesse and elegance in an old world style. Rich plum, and dark berries with pepper notes.
  • Adelaide hills another cool climate district that produces refined Shiraz with red berry flavours and cracked pepper notes.

But these are so general to be easily ignored, as  the individual wine makers look to craft unique interpretation of their own.

Three to try


1) O’Leary Walker Shiraz 2010 €19.95

A blend of 70% Clare Valley Fruit with 30 % McLaren Vale. Showing blueberries and blackberries of Clare with a little under one-third McLaren Vale Shiraz to rev it up. Mocha, dark fruits and oak on a firm palate, fine tannin profile promises this wine will age gracefully.

2) Logan Shiraz 2009 €21.95

Hailing from the cool Orange region. The Logan 2009 Shiraz is a deep but bright red colour. The intensely perfumed aroma has mixed berries, white pepper, dried woody herbs and Chinese 5 spice characters. The medium bodied palate has flavours of red berries, plums and tarragon before a long spicy finish.

3) Yalumba ‘Galway Vintage’ Shiraz 2011 €17.95

This Shiraz shows all the hallmarks of a traditional Barossa Red. It has a bright colour with crimson hues. There are aromas of mulberries, ground spice and liquorice all sorts that speak of its varietal and regional origins. The palate is ripe and generous with flavours of mulberries, dark chocolate and hints of beetroot. It finishes with cocoa powder like tannins that give evenness and generosity to the wine.

Fabulous Fortifieds

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To wrap up our Yalumba Tasting on Monday 18th Jane Ferrari treated us to a bit of Aussie history, back in the day Australia was the Vineyard of an Empire based in the offshore Island. In fact the vineyard of this Empire was quite successful in the production of fortified wines like Port and Sherry, to names which they cannnot for obvious geograpical reasons use on the bottle.  But Yalumba continues to produce a range of delicious fortified wines which include not only the Museum Muscat and Antinque Tawny but also a 21 year Old Tawny and a 50 Year old Tawny.  Yalumba have been making fortifieds since Samuel Smith, founder of Yalumba, first began making wines at his Angaston winery from the fruit of vines he started planting in 1849. Today, Yalumba maintains its reputation for premium quality fortified wines by occasionally releasing very small parcels of show reserve stocks.

The wines we tried on the night where great and turned a lot of heads from those who doubted the pedigree of Australian fortifieds to those who expect nothing but sugar and alcohol. First up was the Museum Muscat,  made predominantly from the brown, red and black sports of the Muscat grape variety. Fermented on skins very briefly to soften and release the juice and flavours from the shrivelled and partially raisined berries. After draining and pressing off skins,neutral grape spirit is added.  The vintage wines are then put aside into small oak barrels to mature, producing a complexity of raisined and fruit cake flavours. After many years of maturation, a selection of older and younger wines are judiciously blended to produce a complexity and balance of fruit and aged characters. The base blend, from which the Museum Muscat is bottled, is regularly re-blended to perpetuate the consistency and complexity of this classic style from year to year. This was an absolute delight but better was to come in the form of the Antique Tawny.

The original Antique Tawnys, made over five decades ago, were blends of old-vine varieties such as Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre and Muscadelle. But since 1985, Portuguese fortified varieties Touriga, Tinta Coa and Tinta Molle have contributed added complexity to the blend, bringing finesse and elegance to this wine. The grapes are crushed and fermented on skins for several days to extract the fruit flavours and build texture. After draining and pressing off skins, the fermentation is arrested by fortification with brandy spirit, which also adds complexity and enhances the depth of flavour.

The vintage wines are then put aside into small oak barrels to mature, turning into the classic tawny style with classic wood aged nuttiness and chocolate flavours. After many years of maturation, a selection of older and younger wines are judiciously blended to produce a complexity and balance of fruit and aged characters. Each year the Antique Tawny base blend is re-blended to perpetuate the consistency and complexity of this classic tawny style from year to year.

This outstanding old dessert wine is deep tawny in colour, with an aroma featuring wood aged rancio, elegant brandy spirit and hints of dried fruits and spices. The palate has a firm rich texture, with chocolate and caramel flavours and a persistent aftertaste of nuts and rancio characters. The fine spirit characters provide a firm balance to the middle palate and excellent drying finish.

Stars of our Yalumba Wine Tasting

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We’re fortunate to have enjoyed a wonderful selection of wines from Yalumba including the above Cabernet Shiraz Flight which stole the show if we are honest. Jane Ferrari Yalumba’s spellbinding travelling winemaker and storyteller guided us expertly through some Single Site Grenache wines and the silky smooth Strapper 2010 GSM, then some lovely classic style Barossan Shiraz before the room was blown away by the picture flight.

First up was the wonderful 2010 Scribbler, the Classic Australian Dry Red Wine Blend Cabernet Shiraz which is treated to very similar aging to its big brother The Signature. Same blend but ready to drink now and perhaps without the concentration. It’s a fabulous rendition of Barossa wine showing generous fruit from the Shiraz and tremendous structure from the Cabernet.  To explain to us how this wine smells of cherry chocolate Jane brought us all along a treat, Embedded image permalink a Cherry Ripe. And boy did this wine have that lovely Cherry Choc nose followed by sweet spices and licorice, then fresh floral aromatics of savoury herbs and crushed plums. A beautifully polished wine of medium to full density with a huge  red-currant fruit and dark berries palate.

Next up was many people’s wine of the evening the 2008 FDR1A, which is only produced in certain vintages from Signature bound fruit from the Eden Valley in the Barossa. The Eden Valley tends to be a cooler area than the Barossa Valley. The name FDR1A is an old cellar designation for the oak barrels the wine is aged in standing for Fine Dry Red 1A. This wine explodes out of the glass with beautiful rich cassis, hints of anise and cedar are also present. The palate is soft and elegant like hammered silk, with a lovely dark berry fruit finish that lingers.

Following on from the FDR1A we moved on to the stunning 2005 Signature. This wine is dedicated to a different person each year the signature. The 2005 is  deep dark red in colour with aromas that are dense and curranty, yet fresh. The nose shows florals, violets and  cherry – choc with a mint/eucalyptus edge. The palate is brooding and serious with dark chocolate berry fruit. This Signature finishes with long fine powdery tannins.

Once we had finished with the Cabernet Shiraz blends we moved on to some remarkable fortifieds but I’ll save that for our next post.

Tutored Yalumba Tasting

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We have a treat coming up to brighten your February, A Tutored Tasting of Yalumba’s Fine and Rare wines in the company Jane Ferrari.  Wines tasted on the night include The Signature, The Scribbler, The Strapper, Hill-Smith Vineyard Chardonnay and some other surprise wines from their Fine & Rare selections.

When: Monday 18th Feb. 7.30 pm – 9.30 pm

Where: The Blue Room, The Park House Hotel

Tickets: €15 per person