GRAPEVINE: HUNT FOR BIG, BOLD SHIRAZ GETS HARDER AS TIDE GOES OUT
The pendulum has certainly swung in Shiraz from big, bold styles lavished with new oak and picked very late in the season to early-picking, little if any new oak and liberal use of whole bunches and carbonic maceration.
Both styles work well for Shiraz given the right conditions, but as the market shifts and the tide goes out, some producers move towards a style that doesn’t necessarily suit their fruit or growing conditions. It makes the hunt for big, bold Shiraz a little more difficult at the moment as the traits that appealed to lovers of this style are dampened or taken out of the picture.
What can often happen is, wine can end up being too light and crunchy for the big red drinkers and yet still too full and heavy for those after light to medium styles.
If big reds are your thing, they can still be found albeit with a little bit of digging around, and it has taken some digging to find some good options for the cooler months that fit, while avoiding the common pitfalls in red wines at the heavier end of the spectrum that often put these wines out of balance; high alcohol, excessive oak use and jammy/raisined fruit flavours. Here are three that have stood out over the past few weeks of tasting:
Nashwauk Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale) – $28
The Nashwauk vineyard sits in one of the prime McLaren Vale sub-regions. Tight near the town of McLaren Vale is the Seaview district, home to some of the oldest and most revered producers. Coriole, D’arenberg, Kay Brothers and Olivers Taranga are all in this sub-region. The cooling breezes from the ocean and the higher altitude allow for slower ripening
and while they show off the ripe black fruit spectrum of Shiraz, they also show plenty of black pepper and spice. Barossa Valley producer Kaesler purchased the site in 2005 and have been making the wines since. 2014 picked up a top gold medal and best red wine over 3 years old at the McLaren Vale wine show, and it’s easy to see why. Full-bodied, blackberry fruit, plum, pepper are well balanced with vanillin oak and velvety texture. The bottle age has no doubt helped the wine to settle down and mellow a little.
Clare Wine Co. Shiraz 2017 (Clare Valley) – $18
The Kaesler reach in South Australia is wide, they have been careful to link up with great growers and purchase vineyards in prime areas when the opportunity arises. In the Clare Valley, they are lucky to own blocks now approaching 40 years old. Shiraz in the Clare Valley has a lovely floral note and softer, round texture than say McLaren or the Barossa, it makes for
wines that are deliciously plush and open when young. The wine doesn’t need to be pushed too hard given the vine age, the fruit is allowed to shine with only 25 per cent new oak used and relatively gentle extraction. Rich, mouth-filling Shiraz that leans a little more towards ripe red fruits, with silky texture and chocolatey tannins.
Pirathon Shiraz 2016 (Barossa Valley) – $25
Finally, we couldn’t leave the Barossa Valley out of the equation; 2016 was a good year for rich, dense reds that remained very well balanced in the Barossa. Pirathon is sourced from across the North-West of the Barossa in districts that may be familiar such as Koonunga, Ebenezer, Grrenock and Moppa. The wine is then made by Troy Kalleske. It is classic Barrosan Shiraz, very rich dark fruits driven by blackberry, raspberry and plum, along with licorice, vanilla and some subtle spice. The
flavours are dense and deep, with quite bold tannins although they have a velvet/ chocolate feel to them. If this is your style of Shiraz, it’s hard to go past.