In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

The monthly Wine Focus discussions are now held in the main Wine Forum (above). The forum remains open as an archive, but please post comments and questions in the Wine Forum.

Moderators: Jenise, David M. Bueker, Robin Garr

In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Mike Pollard » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:36 pm

Just a couple of comments in support of Aussie Shiraz, (and Aussie wine in general.)

First for those who are looking for information on the different regions suited to making Shiraz or Shiraz blends of different styles, check out the Wine Diva’s site.

In terms of the notion that Aussie Shiraz is Gobby Gunk, or one step down from jam. I find this to be misguided, especially when it refers to South Australian and particularly Barossa Shiraz, as it so often does. While the climate does not hold the winemakers hostage, it does influence the end result. And I for one would much rather see these riper styles coming out of the warmer SA regions than see the winemakers forced to make their wine to guidelines that dictate alcohol levels and flavors; I’d hate to see the views of Corti, Dunn, Berger etc carried across the Pacific. Australian Shiraz is distinctive and recognizable. Its not suited to everyone’s taste but then neither is German Riesling, or Bordeaux or Burgundy, etc.

I’m not so naïve that I believe all Shiraz with 15 plus alcohol are true to style or varietal, but neither am I silly enough to think the same of wines with alcohol below 13%. It is very definitely “a question of balance” and palate preference. But I do get tired of the complaints that wines with a bit more alcohol than “normal” (whatever that is) don’t go with food, have no balance etc, etc. There is a competition in Australia called the Sydney International Wine Competition (SIWC) that has been going since 1982. Each year they judge a couple of thousand wines using appropriate food to identify wines that will complement a meal. In 2007 the 2004 Neagles Rock One Black Dog Reserve Cabernet Shiraz won the trophy for its category of fuller bodied dry red plus trophies for “Best Red Table Wine of Competition” and “Best Wine of Competition”. It has 15% alcohol. This is not meant to imply that 15% Shiraz blend is a great food wine, just that some of them can be. Perhaps ironically 2007 is the first time that medium bodied reds have had the most wines in the Top 100 wines of the competition; apparently fuller bodied reds have previously held this spot. Over 40 of the 2007 Top 100 were Shiraz or Shiraz blends, including something called Casella Yellow Tail "The Reserve" Shiraz 2005; the judges comments on that are either laughable or display the great diversity of wine palates - depends on where you sit.

In fact reading the reviews by the international panel of judges and their reflections on the competition can be both interesting and instructive. The 2007 committee was Prof Ivan Donaldson (NZ), Tony Allen (UK), Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW (USA), Neil Hadley MW (AU), Kym Milne MW (Chairman of Judges. AU), Martin Moran MW (IRE), Stephen Harris (AU), Dr Paul White (NZ), Steve Flamsteed (AU); Gyles Webb (SAF), Adrian Atkinson (UK), Robin Moody (AU), and John Ellis (AU).

Another thing that worries me about critics of Australian wine (in general) is their predilection for dumping on so called industrial wine. [yellow tail] seems to be the favorite target. Its very much akin to the treatment that Charles Shaw (AKA 2 Buck Chuck) gets. I know it is hard to grasp, but there is a very large group of people out there who find it simply beyond belief that anyone would spend $20 on a bottle of wine let alone several hundred. So its no surprise that this industrial swill, as some call it, is vastly more popular than any wine consumed by “them wine coin-a-surs”. The excuse is that the folks that drink inexpensive wine don’t have sophisticated palates, and I’ll go along with that. But from that group will come the sophisticated palates of tomorrow. Sadly, every now and then they visit wine forums only to find how insignificantly they are regarded.

Also the idea that the [yellow tail] phenomenon is an American thing is simply wrong. [yellow tail] is sold all over the world; in mid 2006 some 300,000 bottles were being consumed daily worldwide. Roughly a quarter of the bottled Australian wine going into Germany is [yellow tail].

And just to end on a contentious note! How important is terroir to Australian Shiraz? Well there is no doubt that climatic conditions do influence the wines. A simple comparison of Shiraz from Barossa (call them fruit bombs, if you want), Coonawarra (wonderful natural acidity, at least in the past) and Mornington Peninsula (great potential for cool climate Syrah) will prove that. But it is worth reading a recent post by David Farmer of Glug commenting on an article by Warren Moran (Professor of Geography, University of New Zealand) titled “Terroir-The Human Factor”. Also check out the Land Surface Studies by David Farmer on the Glug site. Enjoy!

Mike
Mike Pollard
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 201
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2007 7:53 pm
Location: San Diego

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:59 pm

Welcome to the forum! We have had some very interesting posts this month especially on the various areas of production, as well as the dreaded "T" word. You Glug reference is of value but seems to relate to Pinot Noir production in NZ. That is of great value too!
I am not into "Goggy Gunk" mode right now and I am keen to get out there and see what is on the shelves. I hope my posts will reflect that interest (wink). It is a fact that altho` Oz wines are everywhere, many wine drinkers are looking elsewhere and are activily looking for shiraz alternatives.
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9556
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:00 am

Mike, welcome to WLDG.

I was bragging up your blog and tasting notes just the other day; in case folks missed my post, here are the links:

And, probably not finally, but nonetheless a wonderful Shiraz resource is Mike Pollard's blog

http://shirazshiraz.blogspot.com/

and his Shiraz tasting notes:

http://tastingnotes.blogspot.com/

Again, welcome. Regards, Bob
User avatar
Bob Ross
Wine guru
 
Posts: 5862
Joined: Sun Mar 26, 2006 11:39 pm
Location: Franklin Lakes, NJ

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:24 am

Agh yeah, remember. Good blog!! Thanks Bob R. Some interesting TNs there..3 Rings, Mitolo etc. Have to spend some more time there.

Mike wrote....... But from that group will come the sophisticated palates of tomorrow. Sadly, every now and then they visit wine forums only to find how insignificantly they are regarded.

Funnily enough last month we had a Yellow Tail tasting on-line for a newbie. It was a lot of fun and quite educational (somewhat). It was the YT Riesling.
I think this forum is a very good intro for those just getting interested in wine, lots of encouragement here eh.
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9556
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Mike Pollard » Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:49 pm

Hi Bob and Bob,

Thanks for the warm welcome.

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Welcome to the forum! We have had some very interesting posts this month especially on the various areas of production, as well as the dreaded "T" word. You Glug reference is of value but seems to relate to Pinot Noir production in NZ. That is of great value too!


Bob P,
I apologize as I didn’t really make it clear that the links to the articles by David Farmer and Warren Moran are not on how terroir influences Australian Shiraz; in fact I don’t know of single piece of work that covers that area. However what is important in the Farmer and Moran articles, especially the latter, is the argument that Over the centuries humans have intervened and modified the relationship between the grape and its natural environment continuously - selectively breeding plants, planting them in different climatic conditions and altering radically the physical conditions in which they grow. Vineyard management is only the most visible practice in a much wider set of interventions. And then we make wine - aiming to produce different characteristics and using different techniques in different areas and at different times. To attribute priority to the physical environment over the cultural is also a mistake.

Moran makes a strong case that rather than use the word terroir, The expression of a place and its people in a particular wine is better captured in the term typicité - the distinctiveness of a wine from a particular place/appellation.

In my opinion these arguments can be applied to wine anywhere, even Shiraz in Australia.

I am not into "Goggy Gunk" mode right now and I am keen to get out there and see what is on the shelves. I hope my posts will reflect that interest (wink). It is a fact that altho` Oz wines are everywhere, many wine drinkers are looking elsewhere and are actively looking for shiraz alternatives.


Point taken. As an Aussie with some 30 yrs of Shiraz drinking behind me I have found myself looking more toward places like Spain (for excellent value in reds, whites and fortifieds) and New Zealand (for great potential, not only with Syrah but Pinot as well). The big problem with Aussie Shiraz is that the range of exported wines is really quite small compared to that available downunder. There are obvious reasons for this, and both Parker and Wine Spectator bear some of the responsibility for their promotion of the bigger, riper style. But that focus has put Aussie wine, especially Shiraz, center stage in the wine world and its really up to the Australian wine industry to work at maintaining that visibility.

Bob Ross wrote:Mike, welcome to WLDG.

I was bragging up your blog and tasting notes just the other day; in case folks missed my post, here are the links:

And, probably not finally, but nonetheless a wonderful Shiraz resource is Mike Pollard's blog

http://shirazshiraz.blogspot.com/

and his Shiraz tasting notes:

http://tastingnotes.blogspot.com/

Again, welcome. Regards, Bob


Bob R,
Thanks for spreading the word. The Shiraz blog has always been a work in progress and I never get enough free time to give it the attention it deserves.

The Tasting Notes blog started out, like all tasting note blogs, as my attempt to show the wine world what is good in wine (with a focus on Aussie Shiraz) but I soon realized (once again) that my tasting notes are really only relevant to my palate and no one else should really care about what I can smell and taste. The problem is that I need a place to store all these tasting notes that have been accumulating in various notebooks, and so I may go back to adding my TNs there in the future.

BTW, please keep me updated on your research into the names "Shiraz" and "Syrah.

Mike
Mike Pollard
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 201
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2007 7:53 pm
Location: San Diego

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Oct 12, 2007 1:38 pm

Mike Pollard wrote:Just a couple of comments in support of Aussie Shiraz, (and Aussie wine in general.)


Mike, thanks for a great post, and a warm, if belated, welcome to the forum. You have added real value to this month's Wine Focus discussion with your comments and links, and they're appreciated.

In my own small defense, I would note only that I've judged at the Sydney International twice (2000 and 2003) and that Warren Mason is an old and dear friend. Although I haven't spent as much time in Oz as I'd like, I have taken as much advantage as I possibly can of these opportunities, not only to taste thoughtfully with judging peers at the Blue Mountains event but staying around before and after to meet Oz pals, tour the wine regions and taste wine.

My comments about "gobby gunk" are based in considerable measure on those experiences: It simply seems to me that the influence of some American critics and importers gives us a distorted sense of what Australian Shiraz is really all about. It's not only the high-alcohol issue; we have similar challenges in California these days, and it's indeed not <i>always</i> a problem, only when balance is lost. More to the point, it seems to me, is that <i>much of</i> the Shiraz here falls either into the high-points blockbuster category that too often reminds me of alcoholic blueberry milkshakes, or into the Yellowtail category, which is certainly commercially successful but tends to be too simple and sweet to be to my liking.

When I travel in Australia, and when I judge at Sydney, I taste a lot of Shiraz that simply doesn't seem like that. There's a fair chance that simply drinking in the country with heightened enjoyment is an element here. But I can't help but believe that the marketplace somewhat distorts the overall picture from Australia for those of us who buy it in the US.
User avatar
Robin Garr
Forum Janitor
 
Posts: 17147
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:44 pm
Location: Louisville, KY

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Mike Pollard » Fri Oct 12, 2007 2:49 pm

Hi Robin,

Thanks for the warm welcome and kind comments.

I agree with the fact that we don’t see the diversity of Aussie Shiraz (or wine in general) here in the US. As I noted in my reply to Bob P, there are obvious reasons for this and Parker and Wine Spectator must bear some of the responsibility. But it has been great for the Australian wine industry in terms of exports. How they handle the future will be the big question. The push, at least by Wine Australia, is toward promoting regional Australia. I believe that is a good thing for those drinking at the top end of the market, but it will need to be handled carefully for those at the lower end of the market – where most of the wine drinkers are! Most of those folks either are not interested in learning about regional character, or feel intimidated by the detail needed to appreciate “fine” wine.

As an example, Wine Australia had several days of events here in San Diego earlier in the year. The best event was a tasting with B-B-Q style food. Interestingly the [yellow tail] table was hardly visited suggesting that those in attendance had moved up the quality ladder but two later events, one on regional differences and another on wine and food, had to be cancelled due to lack of interest!

And I agree that "gobby gunk" is not restricted to any particular wine or location of origin. I’ve had some (California) Pinots in recent times that I would have hard a time identifying as Pinot but I could see how they might be found enjoyable. One was a Dierberg (forget the vintage). I put it up against a 2004 Felton Road pinot (NZ) in a blind tasting at a dinner party and while everyone liked both wines, it was the Felton Road that came out the winner.

I’m not entirely sure how the issue of the sameness among wines (esp. Aussie Shiraz imported into the US) can be resolved. Its obviously the marketplace speaking, with help from certain voices. With wine, education and experience has always been the key to developing appreciative palates. But that takes both time and a desire to learn. And I don’t see that in many of the younger folks I know.

Mike
Mike Pollard
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 201
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2007 7:53 pm
Location: San Diego

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Oct 12, 2007 3:54 pm

Mike Pollard wrote:I’m not entirely sure how the issue of the sameness among wines (esp. Aussie Shiraz imported into the US) can be resolved. Its obviously the marketplace speaking, with help from certain voices. With wine, education and experience has always been the key to developing appreciative palates. But that takes both time and a desire to learn. And I don’t see that in many of the younger folks I know.


It seems we're not in any disagreement at all, Mike!

You might enjoy a reminiscence from the 2003 Sydney International, though: I took over an excruciatingly gobby, and highly rated, Central Cost Pinot Noir (one of Brian Loring's big boys) and shared it with the judges at dinner one night.

Everyone was clearly gobsmacked ... "You say it's a ... <i>Pinot Noir</i>?" Then followed one of those awkward moments in which everyone tried to think of something to say that wouldn't imply ingratitude. Finally someone - I think it was Kim Milne - muttered, "It's quite an interesting drop," and, relieved, we all moved on. ;)
User avatar
Robin Garr
Forum Janitor
 
Posts: 17147
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:44 pm
Location: Louisville, KY

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:22 am

Helped out at the Grill tonite as Gen Manager had his wedding anniversary and lots of bookings. Nice to wear a suit for a change!
Regular customer carried in 2 bottles of the `02 Elderton Shiraz Command. "Try this Bob" and I needed no encouragement. Cannot post as Gobby Gunk extremo!! We did have an interesting `04 Shotfire from Thorn-Clark and a lively chat about Schild Estate (Barossa). Some of the wines from here are on the shelves here in select stores. Might go for the Riesling and the Frontignac but believe the Shiraz is up there at 15.5%alc. Stay tuned!

Mike, any thoughts?
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9556
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Mike Pollard » Sun Oct 14, 2007 2:40 pm

Bob,

Just briefly.

Have had the Thorn Clarke 2005 Shotfire (14%) ($15USD) and their 2004 Terra Barossa (13.9%) ($9) . Both of these wines are quite good value but I had the Shotfire down as a little over done and uninspiring. The Teraa I thought better value and a more immediate drinking style. Also tried their 2004 William Randell (13.9%) ($46USD). Like the previous wines they get a lot into this Shiraz, but it has much more presence on the palate than its cheaper brothers, but it was not anywhere near the quality of the 2002; the WR is not made every year.

Have only had reds from Schild, and then only the Cab and the Shiraz. I was never able to taste the 2004 Shiraz, so I can't comment on their biggest claim to fame. On a trip to Barossa in 2004 it was not a winery on our list to visit. The 2005 Shiraz (14.5%) ($20UDS) was a pretty average Barossa Shiraz to my palate.

Mike

FYI: Tried a taste of the Killikanoon 2005 Testament Shiraz (McLaren Vale) (Approx 15%) ($33USD) yesterday. A little to jammy, but that is a character I love as long as its not overdone. Great structure and balance; the juicy acidity and the fine tannins carry the wine on the palate very well. Great presence of flavors on the palate as well, and excellent length. My kind of Shiraz.
Mike Pollard
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 201
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2007 7:53 pm
Location: San Diego

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Jenise » Sat Oct 20, 2007 1:24 pm

Mike, I too have enjoyed reading through your blog.

Something I wanted to ask about, though:

"One point to note is a comment by Mike Officer (of Carlisle Winery & Vineyards) that it's virtually impossible to get syrah to taste pruney or raisiny. Our syrah last year was around 31 brix as well. Not a trace of overripe character. I'm not sure why syrah behaves like this but might have something to do with phloems cavitating around 22 brix. It's definitely a physiological issue unique to syrah.

"I must admit that I don't recall finding overt prune character in Syrah/Shiraz except for the 2004 Massena The Eleventh Hour Shiraz (Barossa Valley)."

Really? I've found overt prune character in a number of syrahs. Off the top of my head it's hard to name names, but Tobin James (Paso Robles) comes immediately to mind. I wonder if our different sensitivity to jamminess (I never like it) is involved, that not liking any cooked fruit flavors means I would identify a wine's character as pruney where you wouldn't.
Jenise
FLDG Dishwasher
 
Posts: 26384
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:45 pm
Location: The Pacific Northest Westest

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Sue Courtney » Sat Oct 20, 2007 3:17 pm

Mike Pollard wrote:Also tried their 2004 William Randell (13.9%) ($46USD). Like the previous wines they get a lot into this Shiraz, but it has much more presence on the palate than its cheaper brothers, but it was not anywhere near the quality of the 2002; the WR is not made every year.


Here's an example of people's palates differing, because the William Randell Shiraz 2004 is one I just absolutely love and I think the quality is superb. It's a big wine for sure, but it's going to be a long term proposition. In the bottle I tried, I was totally seduced by the heady sweet oak and the fleshy, rich ripe fruit, the hints of chocolate, the spiciness and the underlying savouriness. I loved the harmony of the components and the tannin structure of this massive wine.

I taste a lot of wines and there are boxes of partially consumed wine in my house. We are pretty bad at throwing wines out - or finishing the bottles off. The bottle I had was opened the second week of September, but last Thursday, on bottle recycling day, it was another chance to fill the small recycling bin up. This wine was still hanging in there. For a wine with a cork closure (but very firmly jammed in) I couldn't believe how good and harmonious it still tasted.

2002 was such a different vintage year. Cold and late. It introduced some different and/or 'cooler climate' flavour profiles into many of the wines. The 2004 WR had everything that made me fall in love with Barossa Shiraz.

Just another POV.

Cheers,
Sue
User avatar
Sue Courtney
Wine guru
 
Posts: 1967
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:33 pm
Location: Auckland, NZ

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Ian Sutton » Sun Oct 21, 2007 11:28 am

Mike
Good interesting comments.

I do have a general preference for the slightly cooler regions in Australia - Marg River, Yarra for instance. That said, there are times where a bigger wine is just what's wanted - I love having the option and I'm glad my tastes aren't easy to nail down... hence leading to a nice wide range of styles.

For me, table wines at 14.5+% start to become more risky in terms of the balance I'm looking for. There's no definitive limit, just the odds start to shift perceptively away from me enjoying it as the alcohol creeps up to and beyond 15%.

Oak treatment is on the whole improving, though there are still some who think a heavy toast of american oak is the way to critical and commercial success. I'm pleased to see more subtlety emerging over recent years.

Over here Jacobs Creek get some awfully negative comments, but often over-deliver. Yes, they're commercial, but not IMO over-simplified for their price bracket. Sometimes it's difficult to manage the negative reaction to a successful commercial wine.

regards

Ian
User avatar
Ian Sutton
Spanna in the works
 
Posts: 3652
Joined: Sun Apr 09, 2006 3:10 pm
Location: Norwich, UK

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Mike Pollard » Wed Oct 31, 2007 7:12 pm

Jenise wrote:Mike, I too have enjoyed reading through your blog.

Something I wanted to ask about, though:

"One point to note is a comment by Mike Officer (of Carlisle Winery & Vineyards) that it's virtually impossible to get syrah to taste pruney or raisiny. Our syrah last year was around 31 brix as well. Not a trace of overripe character. I'm not sure why syrah behaves like this but might have something to do with phloems cavitating around 22 brix. It's definitely a physiological issue unique to syrah.

"I must admit that I don't recall finding overt prune character in Syrah/Shiraz except for the 2004 Massena The Eleventh Hour Shiraz (Barossa Valley)."

Really? I've found overt prune character in a number of syrahs. Off the top of my head it's hard to name names, but Tobin James (Paso Robles) comes immediately to mind. I wonder if our different sensitivity to jamminess (I never like it) is involved, that not liking any cooked fruit flavors means I would identify a wine's character as pruney where you wouldn't.


Jenise,

I think the real problem may come down to two things. First, is the accurate identification of flavors, and second is the recent information that people smelling the same odor can have different responses to it (pleasant versus unpleasant) or not smell it at all. So, yes my prune may not be your prune or even Mike Officer's prune. I definitely like a jammy note in Barossa Shiraz but the same note may not be all that appealing in say a Syrah from NZ or the Northern Rhone. I haven't tasted the Tobin James (Paso Robles); maybe I should try to source a bottle.

Mike
Mike Pollard
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 201
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2007 7:53 pm
Location: San Diego

Re: In defense of Big and Bold Aussie Shiraz

Postby Mike Pollard » Wed Oct 31, 2007 7:20 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:
Mike Pollard wrote:Also tried their 2004 William Randell (13.9%) ($46USD). Like the previous wines they get a lot into this Shiraz, but it has much more presence on the palate than its cheaper brothers, but it was not anywhere near the quality of the 2002; the WR is not made every year.


Here's an example of people's palates differing, because the William Randell Shiraz 2004 is one I just absolutely love and I think the quality is superb. It's a big wine for sure, but it's going to be a long term proposition. In the bottle I tried, I was totally seduced by the heady sweet oak and the fleshy, rich ripe fruit, the hints of chocolate, the spiciness and the underlying savouriness. I loved the harmony of the components and the tannin structure of this massive wine.

I taste a lot of wines and there are boxes of partially consumed wine in my house. We are pretty bad at throwing wines out - or finishing the bottles off. The bottle I had was opened the second week of September, but last Thursday, on bottle recycling day, it was another chance to fill the small recycling bin up. This wine was still hanging in there. For a wine with a cork closure (but very firmly jammed in) I couldn't believe how good and harmonious it still tasted.

2002 was such a different vintage year. Cold and late. It introduced some different and/or 'cooler climate' flavour profiles into many of the wines. The 2004 WR had everything that made me fall in love with Barossa Shiraz.

Just another POV.

Cheers,
Sue


Hi Sue

No problems with the quality of the 2004 WR. But every time I taste the 2002, and I still have a few bottles left , it blows me away. To my palate, it has what Halliday calls line (an Australian term referring to the ability of a wine to present an unbroken sensation from the attack through the finish), and depth and concentration. The 2004 may well be as good or better in years to come, but it does not have the same balance as the 2002 did at the same stage of its life, at least to my palate.

Mike
Mike Pollard
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 201
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2007 7:53 pm
Location: San Diego


Return to Wine Focus

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron