Legit just took some Tums right now because the ride home was a sketchy acidic one. Maybe ask the woman who sat to my right at the seminar because she didn’t spit anything she tasted, but I guess that weird cheesy number I had for lunch didn’t really do me any favours. But yes: I wasn’t exactly super stoked about a seminar that had to do with 12 glasses of mouth-destroying Shiraz, but sometimes the best way to appreciate something so seemingly daunting is just to go for it. Just jump right into the pool of tannin and rip the bandaid off, maybe packing a toothbrush in your bag for later. Which I almost legit did, because I want my teeth to look decent and not like they belong to a Disney villain. Instead my Lips Are not Movin’ for the ride home, Meghan Trainor.
Weird title. Obviously, the whole point of such a thing is to display different styles of Australian Shiraz, shown by the gradient from sparkling, to lighter styles, to more concentrated and stereotypical examples. The panel makes up four Masters of Wine so I’m really stoked about that.
The last time I bought a sparkling Shiraz, I could have sworn it was exactly what I was craving, but I’m almost sure it was flawed and I haven’t bothered touching the thing since then. In this form as the Majella 2008 Sparkling Shiraz, it’s vintaged, from Coonawarra, and has traditional method bubble to it. It’s weird and backwards and very Cheshire Cat, with a bit of sweetness (~23 g/L RS) and thankfully enough sparkly lift to avoid jelly stickiness. Not super aromatic or too intense, but I guess you can’t be everything. Settle down, sparkling Shiraz. Settle down. Some comments about how well it goes with breakfast.
Next is the Clonakilla 2012 Hilltops Shiraz. “Clonakilla” sounds like a rapper, but apparently it translates to “meadow of the church”??? This one’s from Hilltops, and my first note is that it’s really floral, to the point where I thought that someone around me was deserving of some bitchy side-eye for wearing perfume. But apparently there’s a bit of Viognier in there. A bit of vanilla and something gamey and peppery and maybe a bit stale, but in an appealing way. Forcefield of finesse on the tongue, and it’s markedly not sticky. Also, the woman to my right sniffs her wine in a way that makes it sound like she’s snickering every time. It’s weird. But I mean, you do you.
At first, the McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant 2011 Maurice O’Shea Shiraz smells a bit like a swimming pool, but then I realize I’m probably just having visions of summer, and more dark berries come to mind. Another lighter style of Shiraz with weirdly high but attractively refreshing acid. Juicy and zingy. There’s a story about how this wine was really inspiring to one of the Masters of Wine on the panel, but I’ve forgotten why and at this point I’m too afraid to ask. Also, the woman next to me is taking a lot of photos with her high-quality phone but for some reason she whips out a compact digital camera. This is my life, you guys. Tasting wine and judging people like a Desperate Housewife.
Less chlorine and more berry-focussed licorice in the Fowles Wine 2012 “Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch” Shiraz. A bit more body than the first 3 but there’s still searing acid that complements the black pepper and flowers. Again with the flowers. Barbara Philip MW says that she’s excited about the lighter styles of Shiraz from Australia because there’s so much potential for people to grasp onto it, since Syrah and Shiraz are apparently wines that are pretty steady in our market. After hearing this I shrug in my mind and I feel bad about it.
We’re finally moving onto something with a bit more girth. The Tahbilk 2009 “Eric Stevens Purbrick” Shiraz has a developing savoury and meaty nose along with its dark berry fruit. And there’s a floral character here, but it’s neither fresh nor dried. It’s more like a bouquet of flowers that someone has been beaten with. You know. Oh, and acid, again.
Next is the De Bortoli 2012 Single Vineyard Section A8 Syrah from the Yarra Valley. It’s the most leafy and stalky so far. Reminiscent of the herbaceous Rhône versions prompting the moderator to deem it almost Campari-like, which makes my soul crave even more for a cocktail. SIX MORE TO GO, Y’ALL! Fuck the 12 days of Christmas. Right now it’s the 12 days of Shiraz.
I’m tired. I mostly just hear a buzzing of Australian accents and the odd English voice that cuts through the air like a knife or like a high-acid Shiraz (ugh), but I’m doing this for the sake of – well, I don’t know, something – so I puff up my chest and suck it up (because ugh my life is so hard tasting wine etc etc). The woman next to me is clearly getting a bit sloshed and she’s literally apologizing to her wine glasses as she accidentally makes half of them clink. The Shaw + Smith 2012 Shiraz from the Adelaide Hills shows unsurprising flavours here, looking at everything else in our flight so far, but it’s a bit more warming, has a bit more body, and either acid is a bit more subdued or my salivary glands are throwing in the towel. It’s quite savoury, though, and I’m into it.
Never did I ever think I’d say it, but we’re finally moving onto more hedonistic and potbellied mouth-coating versions of Shiraz: the d’Arenberg 2012 “The Dead Arm” Shiraz is showing a bit of an iodine character that we saw a couple of wines ago, with olives, blackberries, and some smoke hopefully giving weird biblical visions to some people in the crowd. Waiting for a masturbation joke that never came, but I’m an optimist.
You see that it’s cloudy and bring an umbrella just like you look at a purple-stained glass of thick Shiraz and prepare your mouth. Maybe a couple of tears gentle fall down your cheek. The last four are from the Barossa: the St Hallett 2012 “Blackwell” Shiraz provides the first majorly full body in this flight of wines. It’s a bit deceiving on the nose because it’s not super aromatic, but then it gently smacks you in the face with structured dark chocolate and blackberry jam. The Thorn-Clarke 2010 “William Randell” Shiraz is similar in frame but there’s more bramble and blue fruit and bits of herbs.
The Peter Lehmann 2010 “Stonewell” Barossa Shiraz shows a bit more evolution with baked blueberry and more pronounced greenness and earth compared to the previous two. The Yalumba 2008 “The Octavius” Shiraz is the most evolved of the four, with cushioned texture, dulled acid, and some sweet black fruit: so we’ve come full circle from sunrise to sunset.
“Shiraz isn’t going anywhere” is the conclusion we come up with. People applause as if it’s the pious message they’ve been waiting for this whole time, and after today it’s really not hard to see. I munch on the complementary crackers to rid my mouth of purple and rush out of the room, cursing the heavens because I didn’t bring an umbrella, and because I’m suddenly craving a Shiraz.
Mark Davidson – Global Education Manager, Wine Australia
Aaron Brasher – Regional Director – Asia Pacific, Wine Australia
Barbara Philip MW – BCLDB
Rhys Pender MW – Wine Plus
David Lemire MW – Shaw + Smith
Laura Jewell MW – Regional Director UK/Europe, Wine Australia