Australia is producing a wide range of wine from many sub-regions, but it’s probably most well known for its Shiraz production. Why is this the case, what makes Australian Shiraz stand out, and what regions are producing the best wines? What foods go well with it and what producers might you recommend visiting and tasting?
The wines of Australia are as varied as there many climates and terrains. Whether it be for bargain or premium wine production, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, sparkling wine and dessert wine are all made from specific regions that have climates and soils seemingly tailored for those specific varietals. One commonality in nearly every wine region in Australia is the presence of Shiraz.
Shiraz is synonymous with Australia. It’s popularity came about with the harmony of a global wine culture that was looking for something new and a country looking to export and showcase a wine that it had been making for over a hundred years. The very warm days, cool nights, and long growing seasons that are common among most of the climates of Australia’s wine sub regions are ideal for Shiraz. It would succeed where other grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir would fail. Those that grow the grapes and make the wine work to preserve the heritage of being a Shiraz producing country. Australia has the oldest Shiraz vines in the world (1832) and has more of that varietal planted than any other country. Shiraz can be easy to produce if making a bulk wine, but it also responds to the skilled attention of those looking to create a quality product. All these wines needed was a global audience.
The French Paradox was a phenomenon that began in the late eighties that boasted of the health benefits of red wine. With this heightened interest came a global desire to try new wines. The rich and bold flavors and supreme drinkability of Australian Shiraz consumed the wine market. Deep and dark fruit flavors, a full body and soft tannins were different and appealing to someone new to wine. Shiraz is at once simple and complex which provides something for wine lovers no matter the seriousness of their palates. Shiraz represented something not only new in respect to style and flavor, but new in respect to being a global consumer. This model of Australian Shiraz has been retooled by other wine producing countries and regions to create a distinct identity. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Argentinian Malbec and even Napa Valley Cabernet have all followed this model. Many know that a wine’s origin is important to quality and this simple method has changed how many wines are marketed and sold.
To aid its rapid popularity was Shiraz’s ability to pair with food that people love to eat. Barbeque, steak, burgers, lamb and most anything grilled or charred is great with Shiraz. The boldness of the wine calls for heavy satisfying dishes that can be as simple or as complex as the wines themselves. When it comes to those that are more complex, I recommend trying those from producers that have been making Shiraz longer than most. Yalumba is the oldest family owned winery Australia, and like many Australian producers, has many tiers of quality. They are known for their full bodied wines with thoughtful complexity. From their Patchwork to their Octavius they continue to produce excellent wines from Barossa and South Australia. They also blend many of their wines with some cabernet sauvignon such as in The Signature. From the Yarra Valley in Victoria, I recommend Yarra Yering whose wines have a lighter and dryer approach to Shiraz. I also recommend the wine of John Duval. He was once the winemaker at Penfolds and has only refined his craft in making approachable and affordable quality Shiraz.