From the Wine Bible: Shiraz is to Australia as Cabernet Sauvignon is to Bourdeaux. That should give you some idea on how prevelent the shiraz is in Australia, but what the grape itself means to the wine industries down there. It currently represents 40% of the total red grape crush and constitutes one fifth of all wine grape production in Australia. Shiraz is a big deal.
But what defines a shiraz? Typically, they are more fruity than their cousin, the syrah of the Rhone region. In fact, one critic has dismissed Shiraz as “big fruit bombs that are easy to drink”. Shiraz has been known to have syrupy plum and boysenberry flavors, sometimes with a taste of violet or mocha (mocha often indicative of the oak barrel), and an undercurrent of spices, often a dark black pepper taste.
The wine I chose was no exception to this. Finding a bottle of 2000 Howard Park Scotsdale shiraz on the bottom shelf of my local Whole Foods, I snapped it up,hoping it would be enjoyable.
Howard Park is a relatively new winery,having only been around since 1986. Located in the Great Southern region of Australia, what they lack in tradition, they make up for in commitment to excellence. At least that’s what their mission statement on their website said.
They said that the 2000 Shiraz was a stroke of good luck, after two cyclones hit the area right before growing season. How that affected the grape, is still being discovered. The described their own wine as “A dense wine with a black heart and a youthful purple rim. The nose is deep and intense with ripe cherries and wonderful hints of black pepper so distinctive of Shiraz from the Great Southern. Spicy tones from the oak complement the regional fruit characters.”
It is a remarkably dark wine, near black after you pour it into a glass. It is also extremely syrupy, as evidenced by the slow streaks left on the sides of the glass after a swirl or two.
The taste however is wonderful. It is exceptionally peppery, to th epoint where I felt the spiciness on the inside of my throat and nasal passages. That was an odd feeling. But it’s a sweet spiciness, the sweetness of the grape supporting the primary flavor, working together with it to create something very unique. The fruity undercurrent was more of a currant (no pun)than a cherry in my opinion, but that’s to its benefit.
I like this wine a great deal, as it’s not as dry as most reds, and the tannins work in concert with the rest of the tastes, rather than sticking out individually. The ideal meal for this would be a nice mexican carne asada, or other spicy beef dish where the meat was the focal point.