May 1, 2011

The New Cool

01 May 2011 | by Andrea Frost

Wine is a thing of fashion. Full of starlets and superstars, new looks and season trends, striding onto the scene and twirling to the world’s sighs and adoration. For every trend posing in front of a media wall with one shoulder forward, eyes smoking and pout seducing, another waits quietly in the wings for their AAA pass and a shot at being the Next Big Thing.

Cool climate Australian Shiraz is one such style looking down the runway at impending popularity. Not precisely new, it has been grown and made in Australia for decades, this modern, subtler and more refined style is increasingly taking the limelight from the bigger, bolshy warm climate Australian Shiraz that have attracted plenty of attention in the Australian wine industry’s look book. These warmer climate Shiraz include some of our most popular, most expensive and most admired wines – Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace and Torbreck – but their dominance as the ultimate Australian Shiraz is being challenged by the offerings from cooler climates.

The difference? Wine made from Shiraz grapes grown in cooler climates – think Canberra, Southern Victoria, Tasmania and southern WA – is generally lower in alcohol, subtler in style, has more perfumed aromatics, is less robust and is often described as elegant and refined. Think savoury, spice, red fruits and acid as opposed to the mocca, tar and rich, ripe dark sweet fruit in the palate of the warmer climate versions. Cool climate Shiraz give a nod to the French style of wine produced from Shiraz in areas from the Northern Rhone. These wines often use a very small portion (5-10%) of Viognier, a white grape that gives them a lushness, fullness and juiciness.

A softer wine, it is an excellent food wine and one that will happily take your arm and lead you from the crispness of autumn to the rich, hearty dishes served in the depths of winter.

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2009 $99 – Recognised as Australia’s best version of cool climate Shiraz Viognier, Clonakilla was the first winery established in the bracing continental Canberra District. This wine style, which the Kirk family started making in 1992, is heavily influenced by the same blend of Shiraz and Viognier made in the Northern Rhone. A perfumed nose with hints of Viognier-derived apricot, the palate is a harmony of spice, silky tannins, and subtle perfume all delivered with the gentle weight of cool climate Shiraz.

Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2009 $40 – Shaw + Smith do cool climate well. Based in the Adelaide Hills, the elevated altitude of the hills provides the ideal conditions to make a range of refined and stylish cool climate wines. The Shaw + Smith Shiraz is made of several components of fruit from the Hills in a beautifully delicate wine. A perfumed nose gives way to a lovely palate of spice and red fruit with silky tannins and subtle acid woven throughout.

Wildwood Shiraz 2008 $35 – Wildwood started as a part-time hobby for the Stott family in an area just outside of Melbourne. This wine shows aromas and flavours typical of Shiraz grown in this cooler region – red fruit, berries, spice, pepper and liquorice with pleasing tannins, length and plenty of potential to age.

Pimpernel Syrah 2008 $42 – Some Australian wineries are using “Syrah”, the French term for Shiraz, on their labels to indicate they have made their wine in the Northern Rhone cool climate style. This wine is just that. A recently new addition to the Yarra Valley, the wine is full of ripe fruit, mixed with savoury flavours, pepper and gentle tannins.