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Of all the different wine varietals, Shiraz has delivered the best drinking experiences for me personally. This red grape is also one of the most reasonably priced varietals. Shiraz, as it’s known when it’s grown in Australia, (Syrah elsewhere) is widely available, and great wines can be found at bargain prices. There are two Australian growing regions which should be specifically noted when discussing Shiraz: Barossa Valley and Mclaren Vale. These two regions in Southern Australia produce wines of the greatest quality. Shiraz is a great accompaniment to any red meat. I especially enjoy it with a good steak.

Barossa can be considered to Shiraz what Napa is to Cabernet. Barossa Valley Shirazes are very flavorful, and can even be described as powerful. To those of us who enjoy these fruity wines we refer to them as “fruit bombs.” Generally, these wines have a jammy quality and various fruit accents. Raspberry, cherry and blueberry flavors all can be present. Chocolate, tobacco and licorice are also found in many of the wines. Barossa Valley Shirazes tend to be more refined and flavorful than Shirazes labeled as being simply from Southeastern Australia. Penfolds, Thorn Clarke and Tait are examples of some vineyards found in the Barossa Valley. Thorn Clarke’s Shotfire Shiraz provides a delightful variety of fruit flavors. Hints of plum, raspberry and cherry make this wine a must try.

Mclaren Vale is slightly south of Barossa Valley, and wines from here exhibit a little more elegance than those produced by its neighbor to the north. Many of the same vineyards make wines in both regions, but stylistically they are very different. Some of the leading vineyards in Mclaren Vale include Rosemount, Mollydooker and Two Hands. Rosemount Balmoral Syrah is a benchmark wine from Mclaren Vale, which exhibits the more elegent Mclaren Vale style. This wine exhibits an inky color and has hints of blueberry. The vines for this wine are over fifty years old, and this can be exhibited in the depth of the flavor of this great wine.

On a personal note, I will be traveling to Napa Valley in October, so I’ll be sharing my experiences with you in my November column. Also, any feedback or suggestions for wines I should try would be greatly appreciated.

Thorn Clarke Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2005
Hints of cherry, plum and raspberry will please the palate. Varied fruit and excellent balance make this one of Barossa’s best values.

Mollydooker The Boxer 2005
A very dark wine with blackberry flavor and hints of cherry.

Tait The Ball Buster Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2005
Big, bold and distinctive describe this fruity attack on your senses.

Joe “Wine” Giordano