Moving from South America to Australia, we find another amazing wine that may be new to some of you…Shiraz. They’ve been making Australian Shiraz for over 150 years, but it has really come to international prominence since the late 1970’s. Shiraz is the Australian name for Syrah, a french grape that is most associated with the Rhone Valley, but is also grown in many other places, including the United States. Legend has it that Syrah is an ancient grape that dates back to biblical times.
Shiraz (or Syrah) is spicy, smoky, peppery, full-flavored and bold, and some of them can be really complex, which means there are a variety of flavors at once, complementing each other. Australian Shiraz is typically a little fruitier than French Syrah. Shiraz is great by itself or with food, and works really well with spicy foods-barbecue, italian, mexican. I also love it with Manchego cheese, which is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese
Penfolds is the best-known and largest winemaker Down Under (as well as one of the oldest-1844!). Their Grange Shiraz is legendary (check out the video on the Grange link narrated by Russell Crowe!), and the 2008 Grange was even awarded a rare 100 points by Wine Spectator. But at $850, Regular Wine Guy has clearly not tasted a bottle (It sometimes shows up in a locked case in Costco that calls out, “You can’t afford me”). But Penfolds makes a staggering number of wines, from Shiraz to Chardonnay, Riesling (a sweet white that we’ll get to in Germany), Cabernet Sauvignon and several red blends, and you see at least one of their wines almost anywhere you go. They range from under $10 to thousands per bottle, and are at almost every price point in between. Here’s a rule of thumb I’ve found to be helpful-if it says Penfold’s and it’s over $40, it’s really, really good. If it’s $20-$40, it’s good to really good, and if it’s under $20, it’s solid and drinkable. How’s that for a rating system?
But you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy Australian Shiraz. There are 3 wineries from Australia that you will find in virtually every grocery store in America-Rosemount, Yellow Tail and Lindemans, and most of the time, you can buy them for under $10. They are all very good values for the money. With Yellow Tail, you want to look for their Reserve wines, which are a different color label than the $6 variety, but are usually a couple of dollars more, and they are significantly better than the entry level wines. Rosemount makes great Shiraz blends, especially their GSM (Grenache Shiraz Mourvédre-which is the classic French Southern Rhone blend), and Lindemans tends to make better whites than reds. Greg Norman (yes, the golfer, also a vineyard owner) also makes a really nice Cabernet-Merlot blend that is in the $14 range.
Finally, I want to highlight two of my absolute favorite wineries-Mollydooker and Two Hands. I’ve written about Mollydooker before-see the profile here. Both wineries make powerful, flavorful, just plain awesome wines! They both have whimsical wine names-Two Hands has among their brands “Zippy’s Block”, “Bella’s Garden” and “Gnarly Dudes” and Mollydooker makes “Velvet Glove”, “Two Left Feet”, “Gigglepot” and “Carnival of Love”, among others. All of their wines are exceptional, and they run anywhere from $20-$200. Mollydooker’s website is not to be missed-it makes me happy just to go on it!
I had Two Hands’ Angel’s Share ($30) about 9 months ago, and it was one of the best $30 wines I’ve ever tasted. Ditto for Mollydooker’s Two Left Feet and The Boxer (both $20-25)-I’ve had them both (The Boxer multiple times), and they are consistently good, across many vintages. I had the 2013 Two Left Feet (a blend) at a restaurant by the glass and it was incredible-really complex flavors, beautifully crafted. Trust me, go to your local wine store and ask if they have anything from Mollydooker or Two Hands. You won’t find them in an ordinary grocery store (you will at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s), but wine stores and Costco sometimes have them.
Australian Shiraz has become one of my go-to $20 and under wines, and if you’ve never had one, grab a bottle, throw the proverbial “shrimp on the barbie”, turn on some Men at Work, and go for it!