Australia is clearly one of the great winegrowing regions and the Aussie wine companies have done a hell of a job marketing themselves as the Shiraz capital of the planet. If we were playing wine dork word association and I said Australia, there's a good chance you would say Shiraz immediately... Now that's great marketing. And it's also often great wine.
I received a shipment of wine from a PR company that was all Syrah/Shiraz from Australia and South Africa and I'll be reviewing them over the next few days and share with you my opinions (as I've said before, I don't alter my take on the wine just because it was sent gratis!). I love Syrah/Shiraz, so this will be a completely hedonistic experience for me, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you!
Before we get started on the review of the Hewitson Ned & Henry's 2007 Shiraz from Australia, I want to touch briefly on the whole Syrah/Shiraz issue. If you didn't already know this, they are the same exact grape. Yes, I know they taste different but that's only because, generally speaking, the names are used to connote different winemaking styles and different regional origins. Like twins separated at birth, the wines are similar but also really different from one another. If you still don't believe me, think about a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand versus one from California -- very different wines, but they have the same name. We actually luck out with the Shiraz/Syrah thing because if you prefer one style over the other, you can pay attention to the name and get what you are looking for rather than risking buying something you don't like.
So I'm blabbing on about the name but I still haven't defined the difference from a taste perspective. Here goes:
- I find Syrah, which is usually from France or the US, to be more subtle, with an earthy, barnyard (sounds gross, tastes good), and dried herb smell and flavor. It's pretty powerful stuff -- very tannic (mouth-drying) and complex (you can use lots of words to describe it and still have more to say!).
- Shiraz, on the other hand, tends to be from Australia or South Africa and is usually very fruity, soft, and goes down the hatch easily. Not too complicated, it's a good weeknight wine and one that drinkers who are new to the varietal really love. The expensive ones are so fruity that they are often hard to pair with food, but are knockouts on their own.
Ok, so now with all that information, let's get to the wine at hand:
The Wine: Hewitson, Ned & Henry's Shiraz
Where It's From: Barossa Valley, Australia
The Grapes: It's mostly Shiraz, but the wine notes say there's some Mourvedre in it too.
Color: What a color! This is just what I expect in Australian Shiraz: Dark ruby with purple undertones. All that sun down under develops lots of pigment and ripeness in grapes, so the wine is almost opaque and really viscous. What does that mean? Color like that usually points to the fact that its going to be a rich one.
Smell: All fruit and flowers, all the time. Again, sort of typical of an Australian Shiraz, this wine smelled like a bowl of purple fruit. Blackberry, black plum, boysenberry -- it was a juicy sort of smell. MC Ice and I both noticed a sort of perfumed, floral note like dried rose petal. Also, and I'm not sure why this is, but there was a chlorine-like note to the wine, kind of like a pool, which was a little unsettling (although we still drank it heartily, of course).
I was surprised at the absence of other stuff I usually like in Shiraz -- black pepper, leathery scents were not in this nose of this wine at all. I stopped being surprised when I looked at the vintage notes: 2007 was ROUGH for Barossa Valley and it explained why this wine was less interesting than I usually find Barossa Shiraz. Drought, frost, and heavy rain really affected the Shiraz and it's obvious in this wine that the vintage suffered from being small and lame (fewer grapes = fewer blending possibilities so you kind of get what you get -- a one note wine).
Taste: My first impression was that the wine was really chocolaty. All the luscious fruit I smelled was hanging around in the scenery, but not on center stage. Happily the stuff missing on the nose appeared on the palate -- light black pepper, leather, and even something like tobacco showed up in the wine. Strangely yet pleasantly, I also tasted some musky cantaloupe-like thing.
I think more than flavor though, texture dominated the wine. It was super soft and delicate. There were good tannins, but the wine lacked some acid so I think it was on the verge of flabby but not quite there (this explains to me why the winemaker added the Mourvedre -- this powerful, flavorful, dark, tannic grape, added the structure to the Syrah, which seems to have needed it!).
Food: This is a "brown food" wine, if you know what I mean. Meats, mushrooms, hearty stews -- that's what this needs. If you do buy it, be careful that the flavors of the food are rich, yet delicate. The wine could easily be overpowered by something with too much punch. I did eat it with sauteed mushrooms and it was fine, but had I put in more garlic or made my food more complex the wine would have really fallen flat.
Drink or Down the Sink?: I can't say down the sink, but I wouldn't buy this wine for this price. I think it's got promise but this vintage just misses the mark for me. Maybe a different year would produce a better result, but I think for the price you could do better. I'm open to trying future vintages of this wine and when I do, I'll let you know what I think!
I'm hoping the other bottles of Shiraz I got in this shipment are slightly more pleasing, to say the least. Tune in again to see if my Shiraz-fest meets my expectations!