This week I was consumed by the notion that it was time to expand my horizons and venture into the unknown. Two areas that I consider myself somewhat unfamiliar with are Australian wines and the variety known as Syrah or Shiraz. So with that in mind I decided to not only choose a Shiraz, but an Australian Shiraz.
Shiraz is an increasingly popular red wine that, since 2004, ranks among the top 10 wine varietals grown worldwide. As with many wines, the origins of Shiraz can be traced back to France’s Rhone Valley. Throughout its history it has been produced on its own to limited success, but is also used quite often to blend with different wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cotes du Rhone. It was the Australians, however, that have really taken it to the top. Shiraz was brought to Australia in 1832, but it was not until the 1990’s that this grape exploded on the country’s wine making scene. Grown primarily in the Clare Valley in the south of Australia, Shiraz is now the country’s most planted variety of grape. Australia now ranks second worldwide as the second largest producer of the variety behind the French.
Jim Barry is a legend in the Aussie wine industry. He was the first qualified winemaker to produce grapes from the south, and has been making award-winning wines there since 1959. Jim passed away in 2004, but the business is still family run, and producing trophy winning wines to this day.
The Lodge Hill Shiraz has consistently caught my eye of late. When reading reviews and recommendations, this bottle is always near the top of the “Good under $20 list”. Recent offerings have been rated from 89-92 (on a 0-100 scale) by popular wine publications. Reasonable prices and critical acclaim do not usually come hand in hand. So imagine my skepticism when choosing this bottle. (Priced from $9.99- $17.99 online, depending on vintage.)
Visually the wine is a deep dark ruby red that presents notes of cracked black and red pepper, followed by the scent of dark berries and plums. Hints of mint and other herbs can also be detected. Considered by many at its best when drunk young, there is a crisp acidic taste, bringing with it rich, dark, berry flavors, along with herbal essences and a bit of chocolate. It has a nice, long, smooth finish. Robust and full bodied, this Shiraz would pair well with rich full bodied cheeses and red or game meats. It’s a perfect companion with a thick steak.
I’m glad I checked this one out. It certainly lives up to its reputation. I’ve always overlooked Australian wines, (for no particular reason) and Shiraz for that matter, but this one is certainly worth checking out.