Producer: Nugan Estate
Region/Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Country Hierarchy: Australia
Food Suggestion: Beef and Venison
Wine Style: Red – Rich and Intense
Alcohol Content: 14 – 14.5%
South Eastern Australia Wine
South-Eastern Australia is a Geographical Indication (GI) covering the entire southeastern third of Australia. This area’s western boundary stretches 1250 miles (2000 km) across the Australian continent, from the Pacific coast of Queensland to the Southern Ocean coast in South Australia. This vast viticultural “super zone” effectively encompasses every significant Australian wine region outside Western Australia.
Australian Flag and Vines ©Jonathan Reeve
Rainforest, mountain ranges, scrubland, desert and dried-up riverbeds occupy the majority land within the South Eastern Australia zone. It is only in cooler, coastal areas that vineyards play any significant role in the landscape. The GI covers the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania in their entirety, and also the southeastern halves of both Queensland and South Australia.
The sheer scale of this zone – and the diversity of its climates, topography and latitudes – makes it a GI (Geographical Indication) of rather limited meaning. Even the very largest AVA titles in the United States do not constitute even half of the area labeled as South Eastern Australia. This GI’s existence is the result of legal wrangling between the ever-expanding Australian wine industry and bureaucrats of the European Union, Australia’s most important consumer base. EU law states that, when labeled with the grape variety from which they are made, imported wines must also bear the name of an officially recognized geographical area of origin (a GI). As a significant proportion of Australian wine, particularly in the lower price brackets, is blended from wines made in multiple states, South Eastern Australia was created as an official labeling term.
Australia’s larger producers have been known to create a “South Eastern Australia” wine in order to blend away leftovers from their more location-specific ranges, or even to protect the name of a prestigious region after a poor vintage. This also helps wineries to maintain a more consistent style for a particular wine label or brand from year to year, regardless of vintage conditions. Subsequently, wines labeled as South Eastern Australia rarely display strong regional or varietal characteristics, and are purchased because of their lower price rather than any quality implied by the GI.
Most South-Eastern Australian wines are made from the widely known vinifera grape varieties, particularly those which already have an established reputation or following. Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are the most likely ingredients of a South Eastern Australia white wine, with the reds generally consisting of Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Shiraz is the name given to the dark-skinned Syrah grape when grown in Australia and selected pockets of the New World. Though genetically identical, the stylistic differences between Shiraz and Syrah are pronounced enough to consider them distinct varieties. Shiraz is so important to Australian viticulture that it is the most planted grape variety in the majority of Australian vineyards and has become virtually synonymous with the country’s wine regions, and in particular the Barossa Valley.
The term Shiraz has its roots in the New World, although there is no one story about how it came to be named this. The prevailing style of Shiraz winemaking reflects its New World roots, though, tending toward bright fruit flavors – most frequently blueberries, blackcurrants and black cherries. Secondary notes of chocolate lend themselves well to the full-bodied texture of these wines, often accented by pepper and spicy inflections.
During the 1990s and early 2000s a lot of Australian Shiraz was characterized by highly extracted, super-ripe wines that, for better or worse, caught the attention of wine critics around the world. Some responded well to the style, championing the rich and bold flavors, while others lambasted the wines’ lack of subtlety. Regardless of the divided critics, consumer enthusiasm for Australian Shiraz flourished during this period and countless expressions of the style were exported around the world.
At the dawn of the 21st Century there was a tangible shift in the way a lot of Australian Shiraz was made, with cool-climate styles coming into their own and complexity gaining ground over sheer power. A new generation of wines began to emerge, working towards the elegantly spicy styles of the northern Rhone.
As with Syrah in the Rhone, Australian Shiraz is often blended with Grenache and Mourvedre, creating what has become widely known as GSM. The dark chocolate and cassis of Shiraz, coupled with the plummy richness of Grenache and the earthy, gamey strength of Mourvedre makes for a rich, opulent style often greater than the sum of its parts.
One uniquely Australian application of Shiraz is to blend it with Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a previously unheard-of tradition in the Old World, but the Cabernet – Shiraz blend has become so popular that it now represents a sizable proportion of Australian red wine blends. The other major Shiraz blend emulates the idiosyncratic wines of Cote Rotie by adding a small proportion of Viognier to the wine. Australian Shiraz – Viognier wines have forged a formidable reputation on the international stage; some of the best examples can fetch three-figure prices.
The name Shiraz has become so widely recognized and so highly marketable that it has been used to label Syrah wines in countries other than Australia. In South Africa, the Shiraz naming convention is commonplace and in the U.S., South America and Israel either Syrah or Shiraz may be used depending on fashion. Even a handful of producers in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon have taken to labeling their wines as Shiraz.
Synonyms include: Syrah, Hermitage, Scyras.
Food matches for Shiraz include:
- Beef Wellington
- Malay lamb korma
- Lentils with smoked ham hock
(source: wine searcher)