You’re The Wine That I want
Joining the esteemed ranks of beloved Australian icons such as fairy bread, Uluru, Steve Irwin, and the footy – of course referring to the AFL, the true holder of that title – nothing eclipses shiraz as being quintessentially Australian. Produced nationwide, syrah grapes thrive in a climate that is marked by high diurnal temperatures and are granted respite by cool, nocturnal temperatures, where each bottle is characterised by the unique terroir from which it was bred. Here, Emma Warner Allen speaks with Julian Langworthy, head winemaker at Dalwhinnie Wines to decode the humble shiraz.
Hailed as, “unadulterated, iconic Australian epicness” by Langworthy, you cannot go wrong when choosing this magnificent wine as your drink-of-choice. As Australia’s most popular red grape, and with an abundance of optimum climates nationwide fostering this beautiful grape varietal – each varying in terroir – it is no wonder that the unassuming shiraz remains unsurpassable as a red wine, with such an abundance of varietals available.
Terroir is a term that all wine enthusiasts should be familiar with; intangible and subtle, terroir is a phrase that is used readily but can be difficult to isolate. The classic definition of terroir refers to the combination of sun, soil, and climate present during the grape’s growth and maturation. While the uninitiated wine enthusiasts’ main consideration is often the strains of grape that contribute to the production of each variety of wine, terroir encapsulates the unique growing conditions present when the wine is produced, that will naturally change with each winery and every passing season.
Given this, shiraz can vary dramatically depending on where it is grown. Known as both the syrah and shiraz grape, “shiraz is, simply put, Australia’s greatest grape”. “Grown across the country in a myriad of different styles it’s exciting and rewarding, and it’s the varietal that brought Australia’s wines to the world,” Langworthy enthuses. “I think our site high in the Pyrenees at Dalwhinnie is pretty damn close to optimum. Relatively high in altitude with warm days and cool nights, with an amphitheatre of hills providing a multitude of aspects and stony lean soils [which] ensure that the vines are not overly vigorous,” Langworthy notes when probed about the ideal terroir needed to produce an exquisite shiraz.
Something as fundamental as the weather can significantly dictate the flavour profiles present in the wine produced, and ultimately also contributes to the terroir. Shiraz thrives under a range of conditions, though it is generally considered to excel in warmer climes. Cooler climates often produce shiraz with marginally less alcohol content and in a manner that is closer to the customary French style. “Shiraz thrives across this great country; however, I am more than a little bit partial to the Pyrenees region of Victoria!” the winemaker exclaims.
IN GOOD TASTE
If Shiraz does indeed vary significantly depending on its unique terroir, and Langworthy explains that its versatility also allows for “an amazing range of flavours and [it can be] styled depending on where it is grown and what the winemaker decides to do with their grapes”. “At its heart, however, there is always lovely plush fruit flavours,” Langworthy explains. In terms of taste, shiraz is typically characterised as a rich wine, accented by juicy dark fruits, and undercut with zesty spice or subtle peppery notes. “The grapes taste of dark plums and blackcurrant when they are perfectly ripe, with notes of spice – just like the wines.”
“Dalwhinnie Wines has been making our shiraz in a similar fashion for more than forty years and it’s a pretty tried and true method,” Langworthy notes, before detailing the winemaking process. “Our [method] is very simple. Carefully handpicked fruit is brought to the winery where it is destemmed and allowed to ferment for ten to twelve days. Once this process is complete, we age the wine in French oak barrels for sixteen to twenty months until it’s smooth and deviously drinkable.”
Also lending itself well to being blended with other grapes and therefore forming unique and daring blends, shiraz’s versatility is endless. “Shiraz is a super blending varietal; shiraz grenache blends are great and very famous but I also love shiraz and malbec, or shiraz viognier’s too,” Langworthy affirms. Though he concludes by mentioning, “shiraz is always rewarding in my books, with dark ripe fruit flavours and silky tannin structures.”
WINE AND DINE
One of life’s greatest pleasures can be defined by enjoying a delectable glass of wine paired with carefully considered complementary food. Standing as a testament to the delights of wine consumption, which date back to ancient times, this delicious pastime was a luxury enjoyed by the aristocracy of ancient societies and has endured through to modern day. Now readily accessible, this indulgent pursuit can be enjoyed by all, and no wine is better suited to this activity than shiraz. “I would say that our wines and a lot of Victorian shiraz is distinctly medium-bodied and has fine tannins that make the wines moreish and food friendly.”
Further demonstrating its status as an Australian staple, shiraz is the perfect accompaniment to the treasured barbecue. “I love shiraz and a delicious barbecue, or even better, a smoked meats session so [enjoy] anytime with friends and some delicious local produce!” Langworthy raves. “Shiraz is great at an Aussie barbecue with lots of smoky meats, but I find it goes equally well with Tuesdays and pizza on the couch. Or super dark chocolate also on a Tuesday.” However, Langworthy cautions against pairing soft cheese with red wine which can “sometimes [be] a bit weird with red wines – the tannins don’t really work with the fatty and creamy nature of the cheese”.
Photos courtesy of Dalwhinnie Wines