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Good wine is a necessity of life for me - Thomas Jefferson

This winter, we are sharing a ski cabin with some friends and for our first dinner together, I brought four medium-priced bottles of Australian Shiraz, thinking that it would be the perfect type of wine to drink after a long day of skiing. The wines were tasted blind.

Characteristics of the grape

Shiraz is the Australian name for Syrah, a grape widely planted in the Rhône Valley in France as well as in California and South Africa. Viticulturally, it is the same varietal but Australian Shiraz usually exhibits sweeter and riper fruits than its French counterpart. Shiraz is the most widely planted red grape variety in Australia where it is sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre or Grenache.

The wine regions of Australia

http://www.xs4all.nl/~verbeek9/australi.htm

The wines

The first wine we tasted ended up being the winner of the evening. The 2002 Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz comes from McLaren Vale, a maritime-influenced wine region in South Australia producing excellent Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The wine displayed a very dark color. Its intense, fragrant nose was full of fruits and spices. On the palate, it was opulent and rich with a smooth lingering finish. It went very well with the spicy hummus we had for appetizer and with our main dish, a roasted chicken rubbed with Tandoori spices.

The second wine had a tough position and was clearly everybody's least favorite, even when we tried the wines in the reverse order. The 2002 Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvèdre was sourced from a variety of regions in South Eastern Australia, incuding Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. Mourvèdre grapes were added to soften the blend. The wine showed much less complexity than the Angel's Share. The nose was fruity but straightforward. On the palate, it was noticeably alcoholic with a short finish. I tasted it again the day after and it seemed rounder and less aggressive.

The third wine was the 2001 Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz, with fruits coming from the Coonawarra region. Thanks to a Mediterranean climate with some maritime influence, Cabernet Sauvignon is the star of this region but Coonawarra also produces quality wines from multiple red and white grapes. The wine had a dark color with a spicy, peppery nose displaying ripe black fruits. The palate was firm and elegant with a pleasant finish. Overall, we found it to be a well-crafted wine that went well with our spicy food and the majority of the group ranked it #2.

The fourth wine happened to be the most different one of the tasting. The 2000 Best's Great Western Bin No.0 Shiraz comes from Victoria, a area where Shiraz tends to be more peppery than in the other Australian regions. The wine displayed a distinctive nose with strong mint and anise aromas followed by a round and nicely concentrated mouthfeel. It was one person's favorite and was ranked #3 by the rest of the group.

See our other tasting reports.