Australian Shiraz – Range of styles and flavours
James Busby, the father of vitiviniculture of Australia, is credited with the introduction of grape vines to the continent.
When he arrives with less than 1000 settlers in 1832 he brought a variety of vine cuttings, among them, syrah. Over time, Australians anglicized it to shiraz, maybe hoping that consumers will associate it with the city of Shiraz in Persia, and more readily, try it.
Regardless, the grape variety does not originate in the city of Shiraz as has been suggested by several writers. It is a natural cross between dureza and mondeuse blanche, and originated in the northern Rhone Valley as recent DNA studies established.
Since its introduction to the Australian continent syrah adapted well to the various terroirs of this vast continent and in the process mutated.
It likes hot climes, ripens relatively early, and yields enormous quantities of fruit if not pruned appropriately. Over cropped syrah results in thin and diluted wines.
There are several sub-species from grosse syrah, with large, loose berries, to petite syrah with thick skin and tight bunches. Petite syrah yield superior quality wines, and must not be confused with durif. In New World wine producing countries many call durif petite syrah for marketing purposes.
Dr Francois Durif created Durif by crossing peloursin and petite syrah which yields fruit-forward, appealing, dark wines, that must be consumed shortly after bottling and only two to three years after harvest.
On the other hand, syrah made from low yield fruit, ages gracefully. This noble grape yielded such fine wines in the vineyards of Hermitage in Northern Rhone, that in the 18th century, Bordeaux wine labels proudly mentioned the term Hermitagé (referring to blended with) Hermitage wines.
In Australia, shiraz is planted across the country from the Hunter Valley (New South Wales), just north of Sydney in the east, across South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.
It yields different styles of wine according to terroir, yield and winemaking philosophy. Over copped shiraz tastes thin and insipid. Such fruit is mostly employed in inexpensive wines.
Barossa Valley, north of Adelaide, is famous for its high-alcohol, well-extracted, dark, and concentrated shiraz wines, whereas Hunter Valley in New South Wales is known for its delicate versions.
Western Australia has a climate resembling more Mediterranean, with cold winters and long warm summers. Here, shiraz yields full bodied, acid-driven wines, more appropriate with food and amenable for cellaring.
Grange Hermitage, the flagship brand of Penfold’s is a blend of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon created by the legendary winemaker of the company Max Schubert. The wine has become so popular that it is and now on allocation upon release.
Western Australia on the other hand produces shiraz wines that closely resemble their European brethren. They are cellar worthy, and more appropriate with food.
Frankland Estate in the Frankland River region is a huge sheep farm (1200 hectares). The owners planted vineyards on the most suitable portions oft the property, and apprenticed in Bordeaux to learn the intricacies of winemaking.
Frankland Estate wines, particularly their Isolation Ridge Shiraz 2002, is a fine wine with an appealing crimson red, aromas of cherries, and ripe berries is concentrated, full bodied and has a good grip. It is highly recommended with roast rib of beef, medium-rare grilled steaks, roast rack of lad and Swiss Emmental, Gruyere, or authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Wine: Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz
by: Hrayr Berberoglu