Comparing your Shiraz’s

While many wine drinkers make their wine selection simply based upon a preferred variety (a nice pinot noir over a merlot for example) they can sometimes be quite surprised by the results in the bottle. And why should we find this unusual? While all wine labels must clearly state the variety, vineyard & vintage, they can never truly represent all the specific characteristics of a wine deeply shaped by their growing region and vintage. In this short review of three of our beautiful–yet–different featured shiraz offerings, Peter Bourne introduces us to the wonderful world of terroir…

HUNTER VALLEY, NSW – OAKVALE SHIRAZ ’17

The Hunter Valley is regarded as the birthplace of Australian wine and is undoubtedly a great example of terroir. Why? Because on the face of it the warm, humid climate of the Hunter Valley is not conductive to winegrowing, with sub-tropical storms in the peak January/February growing season diluting flavours and increasing disease pressure. However, in the dry years, such as 2014, the afternoon cloud cover and cool overnight temperatures slows the ripening process so the grapes build more flavour. Flavours of Hunter shiraz are variously described as savoury/umami, or in the ‘olden’ days — sweaty saddle and cow shed. The 2014 is in the former mould, with intense wild blackberry flavours, hints of clove and a taut tannin structure. Drink now with a rare steak or cellar for five or more years.

 

MCLAREN VALE, SA –MONTERRA RESERVE SHIRAZ ’17

Although the Barossa and McLaren Vale are just hours apart, there’s a distinct difference between the two winegrowing regions, with shiraz being the perfect mirror to compare the two terroirs. McLaren Vale is unashamedly hot in summer but the breezes off St Vincent’s Gulf moderate the heat, with the mix of sandy soils near the coast and more complex red and brown loams in the Clarendon Hills bringing a juicy, red & black fruit flavours with a more compact tannin profile. Mike Farmilo makes his Monterra Shiraz in the traditional style with oodles of flavours that just cry out for a barbecue – chops, sausages or a good hamburger.

BAROSSA VALLEY, SA – BETHANY EAST GROUNDS SHIRAZ ’16

While the more inland Barossa valley region enjoys the same warm conditions as the McLaren Vale, the combination of a more continental climate (with cooler nights) and its richer soil adds depth and power to the Barossa shiraz style. The Schrapel family have farmed the Eastern Hills of the Barossa Ranges for 150 years with the 2016 East Grounds Shiraz a  typically dense, intense shiraz with dark chocolate and black fruits bouquet, a rich compact core of equally dark fruits and a skein of compact tannins binding the wine together. Best with a leg of lamb and lots of roasted vegetables.

 

Regional Wine Shows, Special Purpose Shows & Competitions

Regional Wine Shows

While capital city shows accept entries from all over the county, the (smaller) regional shows are limited to the wines from their region. For instance the Royal Hobart Wine Show is a national show, while the Tasmanian Wine Show is limited to the Island’s wines. The Royal Adelaide Wine Show is national, while regional wine shows are run in the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Limestone Coast, which incorporates Coonawarra. The National Wine Show of Australia only accepts entries that ‘qualify through Australian regional & capital city wine shows, and special purpose competitions’ and is essentially looking for the best of the best.

Special Purpose Shows and Competitions

While the agricultural and regional wine shows are run on a not-for-profit basis, there are a number of commercial wine shows. The Australian & New Zealand Boutique Wine Show, the Sydney International Wine Competition, the National Cool Climate Wine Show, Australian Small Winemakers Show, the Canberra International Riesling Challenge and the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge are just a few of the names out there. All are professionally run, but consumers may be baffled by the difference between a small winemaker and a boutique one.

How important are these competitions for winemakers and vineyards?

While the winning of these awards can create a splash in the media, it is certainly not mandatory for winegrowers to enter into wine shows — and is actually a very costly process in terms of dollars, time and wine for the winemaker. Often small prestige producers with limited stock would rather sell via their cellar door. Large companies and those new to the business can gain attention by boasting of their gold medals and trophies, but on the flip side, a cult maker may not want to tell their dedicated customers their latest chardonnay scored just 14 points!! It happened to one of our iconic winegrowers and he’s never entered a wine show since.