The Artistry of Shiraz
Tue, 04 November 2014
Shiraz is undoubtedly one of our favourite varieties here at Taylors Wines. There’s a luscious allure to this ancient red, which has the ability to either stand in magnificent solitude or to blend with others in perfect symmetry. Botanical genealogy traces the first Shiraz (or Syrah) vines to the pairing of two obscure grapes in the Rhone region of south-east France. It was in the upper segment of the Rhone that Shiraz first blossomed in winemaking, with vintners from 500BC onwards discovering the deliciously round and fruit-focused flavours of this versatile red wine. Folklore, however, would have us see the precious Shiraz vine being spirited back from the same-named Persian city during the Crusades circa 1200AD – prized spoils from the East as it were. But genetic science doesn’t tend to back up this rather romantic version of Shiraz’s provenance. Still, you never know for sure in wine lore!
All we know is that at Taylors, we’re eternally thrilled about the multifaceted nature of this classic red grape, and the potential for continued innovations with Shiraz across our ranges. Whatever the ancient past, we do know that one James Busby brought the first Shiraz cuttings out to Australia in 1832. This undoubtedly began the nation’s love affair with the hardy, deep purple grape. And to that we say – thank you, Mr Busby!
A Maestro among reds
Shiraz is a flexible, elegant and deeply rewarding wine variety. Due to the depth of alluring aromas and complexity in the mouth, this commanding red certainly holds its own as a single varietal. Take for instance our 2013 Estate Shiraz, which recently garnered a Platinum Medal in The Winemakers’ Challenge International Wine Competition over in San Diego. Here we see the fruits of the 2013 season deliver a wine with dark ruby hues, rich, ripe fruit and mocha flavours. In service to the fruit-led flavour integrity of Shiraz, we focused upon those vinification techniques that intrinsically highlight the raw beauty of this hardy purple grape: initial stainless steel tank fermentation for most along with open barrel fermentation for the prestigious St. Andrews shiraz and dual-source oak fermentation, just to name a few.
Shiraz is an equally remarkable performer as part of a blended red wine. In fact, across the centuries, winemakers have discovered that the robust, fruit-filled character and supple tannins of Shiraz are effective in balancing the lighter character of many other varietals. Like the best of musicians, Shiraz is commanding in all situations – whether working as a solo wine or as part of a well-orchestrated blend.
In our award-winning 2013 Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet for example, the rich plums and spice of Shiraz work beautifully in concert with the lighter body and herbaceous aromas offered by the Cabernet. In this and other blends utilising Shiraz, we look for complementary natures – lightness to counter rich depth, heady fruit aromas as a counterpoint to lengthy tannins – in order to offer wine lovers the perfect combination of profiles.
The temperature of… which room?
It’s important to clear up some common misconceptions around the ‘right’ way to enjoy a flavoursome red like Shiraz. First, in warm countries like Australia – room temperature is a bit of a misnomer. Shiraz is best served around 12-15 degrees Celsius, to get just the right balance between taste elements, aromas and refreshment. It’s the average medieval food hall temperature, apparently! That means on a nice warm spring day such as in Queensland, you’ll almost certainly need to create some cooling action before serving your delicious Shiraz. And unless you are specifically enjoying a sparkling Shiraz, try to also make sure that your Shiraz isn’t too chilled down. There’s simply too much fruity, spicy goodness that can be missed if this red isn’t at the right serving temperature. And we truly don’t want that because, among other things, you might not reap the benefits of matching Shiraz with a diverse range of cuisines.
A gourmet serenade
Ok, so there are certain clichés around the ‘right’ way to food match a character-filled red like Shiraz – ‘it’s red, so you must choose dark meats’ or ‘it’s flavour-filled, so the meal should be very flavoursome too’. Look, this thinking isn’t without some merit. And you can certainly get some terrific matches happening between Shiraz and dark meat dishes such as BBQ beef, Hungarian goulash and so on. Yet it pays to push the envelope with Shiraz in order to expand your repertoire of brilliantly matched food options. For example, Cajun-style bouillabaisse has enough spicy depths to heighten Shiraz’s peppery palate. And it’s not unknown at Christmas time to find a glass of delicious ruby-hued, cassis-driven Shiraz working companionably beside a rich and plummy fruitcake. Just think round texture, luscious berries and a long warm finish whenever considering the perfect food companion for your Shiraz.
And as for the red/white meat rule? Well, let’s just say that a clove-studded turkey or red Malay chicken curry would both welcome your Clare Valley Shiraz with open arms. And because of the many nuances of plum, berries, chocolate, pepper, tobacco and mocha that Shiraz can present, you would also be forgiven for skipping dessert, and simply savouring a luscious glass with that special someone at the meal’s end instead. Food matching problem solved!
At the winery we love knowing when a fresh batch of purplish Shiraz is coming in, filled with fruity complexity. Single varietal? A blend of reds? Either way – our winemakers jump at the chance to get working with the deep colours and full characters of Shiraz, in order to deliver a premium drop to discerning lovers of a great Australian red.