It’s astonishing how many humungous Australian shiraz wines are out there. At a time when the cooler regions such as Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Mount Barker, Geelong, Mornington and even Tasmania are yielding lighter bodied, more digestible shirazes, the heavyweights are still coming out in force. Someone is drinking these wines, but it’s not often me.
Working through my latest shiraz tasting of 136 mostly Aussie wines, I was struck by the density, concentration, body-weight and tannin – not to mention alcohol – these wines display. They are wines for sipping, not drinking. And yes, it must be remembered that most of the bigger examples need time: with even five years in the cellar they will soften and become more approachable; in 10 years they’ll be starting to lighten off and will have mellowed even more, becoming more approachable.
But are people actually drinking them now? I suspect so. It’s hard to imagine all of them are finding a home in someone’s cellar, as they should.
I found myself pulling out the Craiglee (tastings), Nick O’Leary (tastings), Punt Road (tastings) and De Bortoli Yarra Valley (tasting) wines for drinking with dinner. These are more medium bodied – positively light-bodied in the case of some Craiglees – with soft, fine tannins and the balance and moderate alcohol which are the ingredients of drinkability in a young red.
I’ve reviewed several vintages of Craiglee shiraz (tastings) and shiraz viognier (tastings) this month, and all are the sort of wines I like to drink. Don’t be put off by their relatively light colours. It’s what you smell and, most importantly, taste, that matters. These are wonderfully fragrant, complex, intriguing wines with subtlety and balance, as well as intensity and palate length.
And if you are a big red lover and price is no object, the new vintage of Yangarra’s Ironheart Shiraz ($100 – tasting) 2012, is a stunner. I’ve put a five-year minimum on the cellaring guideline, and up to 25. You could drink it younger, of course (I suspect some people could even drink molten bitumen), and exactly when you prefer it depends on your own palate. But why pay that much money and not get the full reward? With great red wine, there’s no substitute for time.
For a wonderful shiraz which treads the middle ground – power, structure and potential longevity but also elegance, charm and drinkability – try the Halls Gap Estate Fallen Giants 2013 (tasting), from one of my favourite shiraz regions, the Grampians.