Discoveries Down Under: 4 Unique Styles of Australian Shiraz

Not very long ago, Australian wine was mainly known for producing value-priced, juicy  “critter wines” with cute labels that would stand out on a liquor store shelf.  The sheer drinkability of these Australian wines made them a favourite of many novice wine drinkers.  Despite the rise in popularity of Australian wine; its reputation has also suffered, for now many wine consumers and “connoisseurs” assume that Aussie wines fall into this “cheap and cheerful” category.  Bishop’s Cellar has carried a few such wines in the past (a glass of “Juggler”anyone?), but for the most part, we have always taken great care to source quality wines on the merits of the contents in the bottle; wines that express varietal character, terroir and the winemaker’s craft.  Australia grows an array of both white and red grape varietals and produces a broad range of wine styles that are worth exploring.  That said, Shiraz, has long been the signature red grape of the continent and it can be fun to taste the regional expressions of this bold grape.   

South Australia is the country’s largest production zone within which fall smaller zones, called Geographical Indications.  In my experience, unlike French or Italian wines, where most customers will ask for a wine from a specific growing region; with Australian wines, most people rarely specify a region when asking for a wine, even though, the region has a huge influence on the aromas and taste of all wines.  Within the broad region of South Australia; you’ll find the Barossa zone and the prestigious Barossa Valley; one of the oldest fine wine producing regions in Australia.  Barossa Valley Shiraz is characterized by concentrated ripe dark fruit with rich chocolaty and spicy notes, velvety tannins and sweet vanilla from oak ageing.  The perfect red wine to warm up with on a cold fall night.  Try the Saltram Mamre Brook Shiraz, Barossa Valley.  

Next there is the Mount Lofty Ranges where you’ll find Adelaide Hills; one of the coolest wine regions of the mainland.  Thanks to its chilly nights, the grapes ripen slowly and evenly and the wines are generally very elegant, beautifully perfumed and well structured with their signature acidity and white pepper.  Try the Longview Yakka Shiraz, Adelaide Hills. 

Within the Fleurie zone, you’ll find McLaren Vale, which is a coastal zone located between the mountain ranges and the sea.  The area is warm, but not scorching, so the vines benefit from a relatively temperate climate.  The wines are balanced and seductive. Try Two Hands Angel’s Share Shiraz, McLaren Vale.

Travel across the country now to Western Australia and taste the wines of Margaret River. Though Western Australia produces less than 5% of Australian wines, many of Australia’s premium wines are found here.  Margaret River may be considered to be a cool growing region by Australian standards, however the summers are still quite warm.  It’s springs can be windy and this often affects flowering by reducing the crop; which in some ways is a good thing, because it concentrates the flavours in the wine.  Margaret River Shiraz falls halfway between the powerful Barossa style and the more herbaceous white peppery style of Adelaide Hills.  Try Franklin Tate Estates Shiraz, Margaret River.

You can easily pair any of these wines with hearty meat dishes; the wines are ideal with barbecue, saucy spareribs, hearty stews, peppery sausages and lamb dishes.  This style of wine is best suited to aged hard cheeses like Parmesan, Pecorino or Gouda. Or, simply sip it solo; this spicy wine will warm you up as the evenings start to cool off.