Proctor : September 2017
55 PROCTOR | September 2017 Beguiling and intriguing, modern Australian shiraz has many faces and flavours as it ranges across a wide swag of this big country. Shiraz is Australia’s wine – perhaps not in origin but certainly by adoption. The National Vintage Report for 2017 shows that the Australian crush of shiraz exceeded that of any other grape. The top five were:1 • 500,938 tonnes of shiraz • 361,043 tonnes of chardonnay • 279,041 tonnes of cabernet sauvignon • 125,487 tonnes of merlot • 107,423 tonnes of sauvignon blanc. Shiraz is the undisputed king of reds in Australia and its vines grow widely, from the Coal River Valley outside Hobart in the south to Queensland’s South Burnett region in the north. Shiraz grows from Australia’s east coast to the west coast, and just about everywhere in between. While shiraz is almost ubiquitous, it is by no means homogenous. The character of the shiraz produced can be affected by many things – sometimes intervention by the winemaker, but mostly by the climate of the growing region. Enhancing its many faces are distinct traits that distinguish Australian shiraz from particular regions. Broadly, it is apparent that there are three main sub-themes – cool climate shiraz, hot dry climate shiraz and hot humid climate shiraz. Cool climate shiraz is exemplified in products from traditional pinot noir growing regions such as the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania (particularly the Tamar Valley and Coal River Valley sub-climates). This style of shiraz is generally lighter in body, lower in alcohol and more integrated in flavours. White pepper on the nose and palate is a strong flavour identifier of a cooler clime variety, also with potentially less tannic backbone. This style is sometimes referred to by the French name of syrah to differentiate it from the more classic shiraz of South Australia (New Zealand producers almost always call their shiraz wine syrah to indicate the lighter style). Hot dry climate shiraz is the muscular, rich, powerhouse of shiraz legend. This style largely comes from the iconic South Australian shiraz dens of McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. It is high in alcohol, dense, tannic and weighty in youth, showing deep ambrosia with aging. Classic examples of this style include most of the Penfolds range, Henschke Hill of Grace, Rockford Basket Press or Torbreck RunRig. Flavour identifiers for this style include dark chocolate, menthol and plum. Hot humid climate shiraz is a very different animal and often disappoints those used to the hot dry climate style. Coming largely from the Hunter Valley and sites north to the South Burnett of Queensland, this style produces a wine mid weight in body and alcohol. Classic Hunter shiraz is a mighty delight for those familiar with the style. Notable examples include Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea, Tyrrell’s Vat 9 or Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard. Flavour identifiers for the humid shiraz are often earthy flavours of leather, tobacco and savoury spice. Australian shiraz is far more than one- dimensional and comes in a variety of styles and flavours. Some regions produce a mixture of the three classic sub-themes with varying flavour elements. Despite the mix, all Australian shiraz is a national obsession and unique to this wide brown land. The first was the Eagles Rest 2011 Hunter Valley Shiraz, which was the colour of damson plum with a fine tinge of sepia. The nose was redolent with black pepper, oak and red capsicum. The palate was leather, earth and warm red fruits. The apparent oak was well integrated with the nutmeg savoury spice. The second was the Kay Brothers Basket Press McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014, which was deep purple red in colour. The nose was rich summer fruits, black pepper, plums and oak. The palate was dense and dry with a core of rich sweet red fruits and mid palate of dark chocolate and menthol lift. A long- lived wine still in infancy. The last was the Coldstream Hills Reserve Shiraz Yarra Valley 2012 with a dark black red colour at its five years of age showing a creeping ring of sepia. The nose was vibrant white pepper and red currants. The palate was smooth, supple with an oak frame on red fruits of the forest and cherry. The mid palate of savoury notes rises with a flourish of white pepper. A sophisticated wine, yet so different to the others. Verdict: The three options were all the same variety, but all so dissimilar that a preferred option was hard to pick. However, the Coldstream Hills was one polished contender. The tasting Matt Dunn is Queensland Law Society acting CEO and government relations principal advisor. Wine Shiraz – the god of many faces with Matt Dunn Three examples of the many faces of shiraz were perused. Note 1 wineaustralia.com/market-insights/national- vintage-report.