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SWA 2011: VARIETAL CLASSICS - AUSTRALIAN SHIRAZ

Varietal Classics: Australian Shiraz
Consistent only in its inconsistency, this year’s Aussie Shiraz category was all about the lower price points

Ten years ago this would have been the kind of eagerly awaited flight that set the pace for the rest of the world to follow in terms of value for money and general over-delivery. Well, no more. There were some very glum faces after this flight.

Of course, the steroid-pumped strength of the Aussie dollar has made life more difficult for both producers and sommeliers, but such Forex intricacies are less of an issue further up the price scale and, oddly, it was the upper end of this category that left our tasters most deflated.

‘Every Aussie winemaker likes to blame the exchange rate, but you can’t hide behind that at £12 ex-VAT,’ said Caspar Auchterlonie.

At the higher prices, wineries seemed to be trying just a bit too hard: endeavouring to cram more into the bottle than the wine could tolerate. Over-extraction (particularly) and reduction were common. Certainly, our sommeliers objected to the hand of man being quite so visible in what they were tasting.

‘The wines feel like they have been stretched or pulled in a certain direction,’ said Senthil Kulandhaisamy eloquently. ‘They are just not balanced.’

No surprise, then, that the cheaper, simpler wines were the ones that met with our tasters’ approval. Both the Mr Smith from McLaren Vale and the Tahbilk from Victoria showed a depth, quality and exchange rate-defying value for money that proved beyond so many of their peers. Big shout-out to the Boutinot wine, by the way, which also made Gold last year with the 2008 vintage.

“Australian Shiraz can be jammy, rich, spicy and still enjoyable. Too many of these were technically horrible – just not nice wines. ” Joris Beijn, Andaz


GOLD LIST

Mr Smith Shiraz 2009, McLaren Vale, Australia
£6.59 @ Boutinot
SWA 2011 Gold List Smoky, toasted oak on a plummy nose is followed by spicy, black and red fruits. Well balanced, this has good tannins and warming alcohol. ‘But not OTT,’ said Mark Deamer. ‘An awful lot of wine for the money.’ ‘Rich and savoury sweet,’ added Martin Lam.

SILVER

Four Sisters Shiraz 2009, Central Victoria, Australia
£5.75 @ Ehrmanns
The nose of mocha, raisin and cherry transfers onto a medium- to full-bodied palate, with hints of liquorice thrown in. ‘Quite simple but straight Syrah with a twist of spice,’ said Maria Rodriguez.


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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