Producer: Torbreck Vintners
Region/Appellation: Barossa Valley
Country Hierarchy: Barossa, South Australia, Australia
Food Suggestion: Beef and Venison
Wine Style: Red – Rich and Intense
Alcohol Content: 14 – 15%
Barossa Valley Wine
The Barossa Valley is an extremely important wine-producing region within the Barossa zone of South Australia. A prestigious and internationally renowned region, it is not only home to some of the oldest vineyards and wineries in Australia but produces some of its most recognizable and sought-after brands. The region takes its name from the ‘Barossa’ ranges and the ‘Valley’ created by the North Para river, which connects the main towns of Nuriootpa, Tanunda and Lyndoch.
Located at a latitude of 34°S, the region’s geography is dominated by valley floors and rolling hills, which sometimes reach altitudes where white grapes can be grown without compromising their character. The growing season gets gradually hotter and drier, with temperatures during the last phase of ripening often reaching more than 95F (35C). This results in vine stress, which, along with a wide diurnal temperature range, helps to concentrate flavors in the grapes.
Gum trees and Grenache, Barossa Valley
A striking feature of the Barossa Valley’s wine landscape is the presence of very old vines, proudly showcased on many wine labels and during vineyard tours. These yield low quantities of fruit but the grapes are packed with flavor and color and represent some of the best offerings from the region. This part of Australia has never been affected by the phylloxera louse, thanks to strict quarantine laws – hence the age of the vines.
Although the region specializes in many different wines, those based on Shiraz have received the most acclaim locally and internationally. The best wines have a reputation for being rich and extremely full-bodied, with the ability to age for a significant time if cellared correctly. Another unmistakable feature of Barossa Valley Shiraz is the velvety and soft tannins attributed to the grapes’ phenolic ripeness.
Other prominent grape varieties of the region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, Grenache and Mourvedre. Viognier is also well represented, but mostly appearing as a small portion in blends with Shiraz, similar to the red wines of the northern Rhône Valley.
Many of Australia’s best-known wine names are based in the Barossa Valley, where wineries range from small boutique vineyards to those owned by multi-national corporations. Together with its cooler-climate neighbor Eden Valley – which is best known for dry white wines from the Riesling grape variety – it forms the larger Barossa wine zone.
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
(sources : wine-searcher)