Shiraz (often called Syrah outside Australia) is widely perceived as Australia’s premier grape variety. Although Australia has produced many excellent examples of wines made from other grapes, Shiraz is the one that has captured the imagination of wine lovers and experts the world over.
In the Know Your Wine series, we will be looking at all sorts of things to do with wine. From food pairing, to correct storage and how to introduce wine to a non-wine drinker. To kick off the series, we are profiling the most widely grown variety in Australia, and one of our personal favourites, Shiraz.
Shiraz in Australia
Australia is known for Shiraz. Across Australia, the vast array of regions, soil types and Australian microclimates produces a broad range of expressions and styles of this popular variety.
The Barossa and McLaren Vale regions of South Australia are the most famous, possibly due to highly prized old vineyards producing intensely flavoured, rich and earthy red wines. The Hunter Valley has a long history with Shiraz, while Victoria combines some proven historic regions like the Grampians with newer, rising stars like Heathcote. If Shiraz grapes are picked late, they will often shrivel, become raisin-like and produce concentrated, dried fruit flavours. The big flavours of Australian Shiraz are suited to American oak, although a recent trend has seen a move to French oak, particularly in cooler regions.
Shiraz in the Hunter Valley
Hunter Valley red wine is dominated by Shiraz grapes. The region is considered warm climate, with summer temperatures often pushing towards 40 degrees Celsius, though cooling breezes from the ocean are often pulled into the Hunter Valley region. The warm weather suits the Shiraz vines and the resulting wine is well regarded.
Shiraz is the top Hunter Valley red wine. Originally planted almost two hundred years ago, Shiraz is synonymous with red wines of the Hunter Valley region. The best modern examples are fresh and vibrant with pure fruit character, are medium weight, show some spice and careful oak handling, typically bottled at 12% to 14% alcohol. The Hunter produces elegant Shiraz wines that are great young, but can be bottle aged for ten plus years.
Pairing with food
Winery-sage describes Shiraz as “one of the most versatile wines when looking for food pairing.” Typically Shiraz is recommended for red meat however Hunter Shiraz being a lighter style matches well with a range of grilled food and spiced cuisine.
We believe the basics for enjoying any red wine with food are:
- For strong flavoured food including red meat dishes – serve wine at room temperature
- For lighter style food including fish – particularly in summer chill the wine
- Just small sips of wine while eating well-matched food
- If you don’t like the food and wine match (this happens!), stop eating or move to a different wine
- Whenever possible, open more than one bottle and a different glass for each wine. By alternating the wine with the food you will soon learn which wine you like best with the food you are eating
- Take care if driving – wine can be enjoyed when sipping just a small amount – more is not always better
Shiraz at Broke Estate
We have set high standards and aim to produce Shiraz that ranks among the best in the Hunter Valley. The wine is matured in oak barrels; we avoid the very expensive oak barrels so we can keep our bottle price below $35 and provide good value to our customers.
We assess the grapes as they ripen and after laboratory testing of the fruit we plan the harvest with the winemaker. If the grapes will not produce wine to our standard, they are fed to cattle. We anticipate that despite our best viticulture efforts, seasonal weather conditions, will mean that around every fourth or fifth grape crop will not be harvested. If there is a threat of excessive rain, and the grapes are high quality, the fruit may be harvested early to produce rose or sparkling wine.
After fermentation is complete the wine is assessed and it’s journey to the bottle mapped out with the winemaker. Adding small amounts of other vintages or varieties can greatly enhance the style. Individual oak barrels are chosen to suit what the year has to offer.
With a trifecta of best viticulture, innovative winemaking and favourable weather, most years will achieve top ranking Hunter Shiraz. Who knows, every ten years or so we should achieve a cracking wine at the pinnacle of Australian Shiraz.
Hard work, good science and optimism in every bottle.
The Broke Estate 2016 Shiraz is available now.