Unsung Hero Shiraz 2014

I noticed that the current Monthly Wine Writing Challenge has “travel” as it’s theme.  While this is not my entry into the fray on that account, I will say that the South African wine country is one of those bucket list places I would love to experience for myself.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity.  And, right now, it doesn’t seem to be in my near future.  So, I’ll just have to content myself with sampling the selections I can find in my area and imagine what it will be like some day when I get the chance to check that trip off my bucket list.  Sigh!

Winemaker:  Unsung Hero
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Western Cape, South Africa
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Pretty as you please in the glass, the color reminded me of a velvet couch in an old Victorian house.  But it didn’t smell like an old Victorian house, instead the bouquet held scents of tangy berries, meat, and hints of mushroom.  It was light-bodied with bright acidity and moderate tannins.  Alcohol clocks in at 13.5%.  On the palate I found it to be rather zingy (if I may use that word) with dark berries, rubber, and cola coming to a close on a tart note.  You should let it breathe some as the flavors definitely open up after a bit.

Rex-Goliath Shiraz (2015)

Sometimes I just can’t pass up a sale.  This already cheap bottle of red was on sale not too long ago for a bargain basement price.   I hadn’t tried the Rex-Goliath Shiraz in about 5 years, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Vineyard:  Rex-Goliath
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price:  $6.49

Notes:  This dark, opaque purplish wine had an interesting if fairly gentle bouquet including what seemed like butterscotch, minerals, dark fruit and wood.  Acidity was pretty high and alcohol was 13.5%.  Weight on the tongue was on the light side of medium.  I found flavors of plum, pepper, oak, a hint of raisin and a lingering dark currant on the finish.  It was a little bitter for me, so I didn’t think it a very good wine for sipping on it’s own.

Yellow Tail Shiraz 2015

These Casella wines are everywhere in my area.  I can find them just about anywhere I can buy wine.  And I see them at a lot of house parties, too.  Maybe that’s because they are so easy to find.  Maybe that’s because they are so easy on the wallet.  Or maybe it’s because folks like their approachability.  That’s definitely a term I would use for this Shiraz – approachable.  It even says so on the label!

You may have noticed that I have strayed from using my usual photo style for this post.  Instead, I’m trying a slightly more artistic (I think) treatment in an effort to add a little more fun and interest to my posts.  I hope you can still recognize the label sufficiently to be able to pick it out at a store.  Everything is basically the same except the coloring.

Winemaker:  Yellow Tail
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $6.99

Notes:  It was an easy-drinking wine.  Medium-bodied with a smooth feel across the palate, it had good acidity and 13% alcohol.  Flavors were not overly complex – largely dark cherry and ripe red plum fruit, some vanilla, a dash of pepper, a tad of bitter woodiness as the light tannins kicked in.

Clos du Bois Shiraz 2012

Thanksgiving was an all day affair in my house this year.  That was basically because work was so hectic – they kept me working until late the night before – that we did pretty much all the cooking on Thanksgiving Day.  The only dish done prior was our homemade cranberry sauce!

All tolled, the dinner was a big success.  Being in an adventurous frame of mind this year, we decided to try out several new recipes.  Every single one of those extremely tasty, successful recipes took longer than the instructions said they would!  Luckily it was just our family, so we didn’t have to worry about hungry guests waiting for the slow cooks to get their act together.  We at late, but we ate well.  Keeping the adventure going, we decided to throw our wine choice to the fates.  We had two red wines in the rack, so we tossed a coin.  It was heads!  And that’s how I ended up having a Clos du Bois Shiraz with my Thanksgiving meal.

Winemaker:  Clos du Bois
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:   North Coast, CA
Price:  $16.49

Notes:  The color of this Clos du Bois was a dark purple.  The bouquet held scents of berries and menthol.  It was a medium-bodied wine with good acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors I found were dark berries, plum, a distinctive leather note throughout, and menthol on the finish.  It was what I’d call a friendly and approachable wine with some fun complexity to boot.  I wouldn’t normally have paired a Shiraz with my turkey, but we were being a little daring.  This time, at least, it worked out just fine.

The other wine was a more traditional choice – a Pinot Noir.  Guess I can have that with the leftovers!

 

 

Presswork Shiraz 2011

The Barossa Valley is well known as a major wine producing region in Australia.  It is particularly (but not exclusively) known for it’s production of red wines.  In fact, one of Australia’s most famous wines – Penfolds Grange – contains a large proportion of Barossa Shiraz.  With so much potential, then, I was keen to give this Presswork bottle a try.  After all, reading a label can give you plenty of information, but it can’t tell you what’s truly important — if you like this wine.  That only your taste buds can tell you.

Winemaker:  Presswork
Varietal: Shiraz
Vintage:  2011
Appellation: Barossa Valley, Australia
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The Presswork was a very deep ruby color in the glass.  In the bouquet I found scents of tangy berries, earth and a touch of cola.  Acidity was good, the body was light, and tannins were gentle.  Alcohol was at 13.8%.  Flavors I found included pepper, cherry, cola, some eucalyptus and a hint of chocolate cake on the finish.  Despite that chocolate cake (because who doesn’t like chocolate cake), I thought this Australian pleasant but lacking in body and overall oomph.

A Naming Convention For My Wine

There are times when I find the “name game” in wine labeling just a bit frustrating.  That’s because there are a number of varietals that are known by numerous titles.  At times it just feels like folks are trying to make things hard to suss out.  I can appreciate that much of it may stem from long-held, local traditions, but it still feels a bit like secret code sometimes.  On the other hand, there are instances when a naming convention provides important information about what a person may reasonably expect from the wine they’re choosing.  Shiraz v. Syrah is just that.

Consulting the Wikipedia Page on the subject of the Syrah grape and Syrah wine we find “As a general rule, most Australian and South African wines are labelled Shiraz, and most European wines (from such regions where varietal labelling is practiced) are labelled Syrah. In other countries, practices vary and winemakers (or wine marketers) sometimes choose either Syrah or Shiraz to signify a stylistic difference in the wine they have made. “Syrah”-labelled wines are sometimes thought to be more similar to classic Northern Rhône reds; presumably more elegant, tannic, smoke-flavoured and restrained with respect to their fruit component. “Shiraz”-labelled wines, on the other hand, would then be more similar to archetypical Australian or other New World examples; presumably made from riper berries, more fruit-driven, higher in alcohol, less obviously tannic, peppery rather than smokey, usually more easily approached when young, and possibly slightly sweetish in impression.

Having seen but never tried a Little Penguin wine, the question remaining for me was, “Is the Little Penguin selection exemplary of this Shiraz v. Syrah delineation?”  Well …

Winemaker:  The Little Penguin
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $6.99

Notes:  The color of this medium-bodied Shiraz was dark ruby.  On the nose I found pepper, spice, berries and damp earth.  It showed good acidity and a certain “coat-the-tongue” quotient that was reflected in very present legs on the glass.  Tannins were moderate, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors for me were straightforward and engaging, including plentiful oak, pepper, plum and tea leaf.  I’d call it a simple, casual wine that would be fine with some take-out pizza.

And, yes, I think the use of Shiraz on the label followed the convention nicely.

Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2012

No experiment is valid without a control.  Right?  Something to compare the experiment’s results to.  So after having tried that Penfolds Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz Cab that I happened upon recently, I decided to grab another Australian blend of the same grape varietals for a comparison.  Admittedly, they aren’t from the same vintage and the wines aren’t blended in the same percentages.  Not exactly a true scientific method.  Still, I was curious.

Winemaker:  Jacob’s Creek
Wine: Shiraz Cabernet
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $6.99

Notes:  Jacob’s Creek has blended 56% Shiraz and 44% Cabernet Sauvignon for this selection.  Color was a … drum roll, please … dark garnet.  OK, no real surprise there.  The bouquet?  Well, it held aromas of earth, mushroom, eucalyptus and dark plum.  Body – medium; acidity – fairly high; tannins – medium with an aggressive attack (some use the term grippy); alcohol – 13.9%.  Flavors?  Yes.  LOL  No, seriously, the major player on the palate was oak.  It’s what hit me first and kept on coming.  In addition there were plum and pepper with hints of cocoa and bitter coffee bean on the finish.  Bottom line – it was OK, but I would have enjoyed it more had it not been for the preponderance of oak.  Of course, that’s based on my own personal preferences.  You may enjoy the starring role that oak plays at the Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabaret – I mean, Cabernet.  Then again, maybe this is a wine that needs a little time in the bottle for the flavors to balance out.

Penfolds Shiraz Cabernet 2011

A little serendipity can go a long way.  Just the other day I was on my way to the gym … Yes, I sometimes exercise more than my drinking arm.  lol  Anyway, I was walking past Trader Joe’s on my way to the gym, so I decided to just drop in even though I didn’t need anything.  Just a spur of the moment kind of thing.  Of course, I went to the wine section to browse where I came upon a display of this Penfolds selection.  Intrigued, I picked up a bottle and stood there mulling over the fact that I was looking at a Penfolds wine for $3.99 and thinking, “What gives?”  That’s when a helpful staffer walked past and told me that he had tried it when it first came in.  The next day, he bought a case.  With that for a recommendation, I nabbed one.  Before you ask, I did go to the gym afterward – with my purchase tucked away in my backpack.

Oenophilogical_PenfoldsShirazCabWS2011Winemaker:  Penfolds
Wine: Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz Cabernet
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $3.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This Aussie blend is made up of 77% Shiraz and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The color was a translucent (i.e. not cloudy) dark burgundy.  The nose held aromas of pepper, earth, cedar, and dark berries.  The body of this wine was medium with a nice, interesting roundness to it on the tongue.  Acidity was fairly high but not what I’d call “racy,” and alcohol was at 13.5%.  Tannins were medium – a definite presence yet not biting.  For flavors this very budget-friendly red brought me primarily pepper, black cherry, and oak.  As it wound down, the finish had more pepper, some boysenberry and a tart green flavor I couldn’t quite nail down (lemon grass is close but just not quite right).  Overall I’d say this is a great value.  I’m not sure why this is priced at $3.99, but that won’t stop me from going back to get more.  I hope they have plenty in stock.  Planning an informal party soon?  Run on out and snap up some of this.  Sure, it’s relatively straightforward as red wines go, but it’s completely drinkable and head and shoulders above most of the wines I’ve had at this price point.  I’ll have to thank that helpful TJ staff person, too.

Yellow Tail Shiraz-Grenache 2012

There is a tradition that’s been going on for years now among some of my extended family around Halloween time.  It’s called the Pumpkin Patch Party.  [Gotta love the alliteration, right?]   I’ve heard about it year after year, but this was the first time I was able to attend.  What fun!

Attendees all carve pumpkins – some freehand, some using stencils, some talented folks using designs they have drawn up themselves.  As this was my first time, I chose to play it safe and do the usual triangular eyes, etc.  But I did mine freehand — no stencils for me!  One of the artists in the group drew a symbol for the Decepticons from the Transformers and his brother used it on his pumpkin.  Now that’s cool: a Decepticon jack-o-lantern!  Wish  I’d gotten a good picture of that one.

Since it was a party, I brought along some liquid refreshment for the adults to enjoy.  This is what we had (in cautious moderation, of course, since folks were wielding sharp implements) in the Pumpkin Patch.

Winemaker:  Yellow Tail by Casella Wines
Wine:  Shiraz-Grenache
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Australia
Price:  $9.49

Notes:   Color in the glass was a deep purple.  On the nose I smelled berries, barnyard and menthol.  It was light-bodied, tannins were quite light and alcohol was at 13%.  Flavors I found while sipping this inexpensive red blend from Down Under included dark raspberry and bell pepper with menthol on the finish.  It was a very simple wine yet drinkable.  By the way, I managed to snap up the bottle on sale for only $6.99.  Even so, I always quote the store’s retail price in my summary just in case folks don’t happen to run across a similar sale.

Lost Vineyards Shiraz-Cab

It looks as if this inexpensive Argentinian red blend is made by the folks at Trapiche and imported by Lost Vineyards.  It’s interesting that the appellation they give is just Argentina.  Of course, that is a bit more concrete than some wines I’ve seen that say they are “American.”  That always makes me want to ask, “North American, South American or all of the above?”  But getting back to the wine at hand, the label clearly indicates that it is a mixture of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Winemaker:  Lost Vineyards
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Argentina
Price:  $4.99

Notes:  This wine showed a deep ruby color in the glass.  On the nose I found dark cherry along with hints of spices and herbs.  It was a light-bodied red with moderate tannins.  Alcohol is at 12.5%.  On the palate this blend brought me sweet dark cherry, pepper, clove, oak, and anise.  Sounds good, right?  But here’s the catch: it wasn’t a well-balanced glass of wine.  The oak and the tannins were the major players on the tongue and relegated the other flavors to the background.  Except for the sweetness!  The residual sugar had a tendency to come on a little strong.  The result was a strange back-and-forth on the palate between astringent wood and sweet.  Again, the other flavors were there but fighting a losing battle for my tastebuds’ attention.  Maybe I should have had a hunk of spiced meat with this Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, and all would have been well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.