Welcome back, Shiraz!

Sipping this tasty, structured, and food-friendly Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz, I suddenly realized that I haven’t said nice things about an Australian red for a very long time.

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How long? Looking through my records, it appears that the last time I reported on an Aussie Shiraz was in 2015, and the last Shiraz tasting note before that came in 2007. That’s a long time between tastings.

What’s up with that? Why the hate? Or, let’s not call it hate,” but anyway, why the aversion to this grape that’s really just Syrah with an Australian accent?

I explained that back in 2003, writing from Australia’s Blue Mountains where I was serving as a judge in the Sydney International Wine Competition:

“As I’ve frequently pointed out, many wine lovers in the U.S., basing our opinions on the range of Australian wines most likely to turn up on our shelves (and on most of the Australian items that win high-point reviews from critics Robert M. Parker Jr. and Wine Spectator magazine), assume that just about all Australian wines are big, fat, highly alcoholic, fruity and in-your-face blockbusters.”

You know you're in Australia when you see a kangaroo crossing sign along the road.

You know you’re in Australia when you see a kangaroo crossing sign along the road.

But, I added, you’ll find an exception to every rule. Having stayed after the wine competition to tour vineyards with Australian friends, “I’m delighted to have rediscovered a lot of elegant, balanced and refined wines that don’t fit the bold-and-brawny stereotype.”

The problem, though, was that not many of those balanced and refined examples of Shiraz made it across the Pacific to the U.S., while boatloads of those inky, oaky fruit bombs sailed onto our wine-shop shelves. I was probably feeling a little irritable, too, because I was echoing similar words that I had written during my previous wine-judging trek Down Under in 2000.

Apparently, without actually thinking deeply about it, I pretty much swore off Shiraz for the duration. I gave it another shot in 2007, writing, “Whenever I buy Shiraz in the U.S. the pricey brands very often come across as huge, monolithic blueberry milkshakes for adults, fruit-forward and loaded with oak, very high in alcohol and surprisingly one-dimensional. More affordable labels tend to shed the musclebound character in favor of a fat-and-happy fruit-bomb sweetness.”

Bleah! Save for a handful of importers like Old Bridge Cellars that reliably sought out the kind of wines that Australians love, and without really meaning to do it, I put Shiraz out of my mind and moved on.

This week, though, prompted by our WineLovers Forum’s Wine Focus on Syrah, I figured it was time to give Shiraz another try. Times change, Parker is retired and has all but dropped out of sight, and The Spectator‘s influence has waned. Maybe Australia is sending us its more balanced and enjoyable wines again!

Barossa valley vineyard image from Wine-Searcher.com.

Barossa valley vineyard image from Wine-Searcher.com.

Of course only one tasting doesn’t give us a solid database, but I can tell you this: There’s nothing fierce or spoofy about Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz. It’s a very good wine from the Barossa Valley north of Adelaide, one of my favorite stops on my Aussie wine tours.

It’s not a mirror image of the delicious Gassier Fleur de Syrah from France that I tasted in the previous issue, and I wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s delicious in its own right, approachably Australian and varietally true. I highly recommend it for value and price. You’ll find my tasting notes below, and you probably won’t have to wait as long for my next Shiraz report.

Welcome back, Shiraz!


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Today’s Tasting Report

Barossa Valley Estate 2019 Barossa Valley Shiraz ($12.99)

Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz

Dark purple in color with a thin garnet edge, Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz offers appealing scents of plums and blackberries with light spice revealing a dash, not a blast, of oak. Its fruit flavors fill the palate in a tart, freshly acidic flavor that adds a distinct impression of red clay minerality; its 14% alcohol doesn’t intrude. Appetizing red and black fruit linger in a very long finish. A tasty Shiraz that reveals a family connection with the Syrah of the Rhône, but with an appealing Australian accent all its own. Good wine, good value. U.S. importer: Delegat USA Inc., San Francisco. (Feb. 10, 2022)

FOOD MATCH: This mouth-filling red wine with its food-friendly acidic structure will go well with red meats, beef and game. It will also pair well with good cheeses and bean dishes. We enjoyed it with a rich spaghetti and meat sauce made with Beyond Beef beefy crumbles.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s delicious now, but its good fruit and acid balance and sturdy screw cap should preserve it for enjoyment for maybe five years. (The winery says it is “made to enjoy upon release, yet will reward further cellaring.”)

My local price is a dollar under Wine-Searcher.com’s $14 average U.S. retail, but shop around if you can. Wine-Searcher finds it widely available for under $10.

The Barossa Valley website offers both general information and a more detailed technical information sheet on the winery website.

Check prices and find vendors for Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz on Wine-Searcher.com.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read about the Barossa Valley and look up vendors and prices for many wines from the region.

Read about Shiraz and browse wine-sale listings at this Wine-Searcher link.


Wine Focus February 2022:
Syrah & Open that Bottle MONTH!

Bring your Syrah and join us in Wine Focus in our WineLovers Discussion Group in February, as we combine the topics: Syrah, since Syrah day is February 16; and Open that Bottle Night. Open that Bottle Night is actually February 26, but we like to take the whole month to choose “that bottle” that’s been hanging around your cellar or wine rack for a long time, waiting for just the right occasion. This is the occasion! Just go ahead and open it.

You are welcome to join us! Check in at Wine Focus February 2022, and say hello!


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Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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