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There's no stopping Australian shiraz

Publish Date: 13 Jul 2017

Authored by: Campbell Mattinson

You name it, shiraz has it covered. From light and fragrant to the biggest, boldest and baddest, Australian shiraz just keeps on giving – and growing.

The juggernaut of Australian shiraz will not be slowed. From the cool of Tasmania to the warm of the Barossa, the heart-throb variety of Australian red wine – grown on our lands for more than 175 years – isn’t just buoyant, it’s expanding. And what a remarkable fact that is.

“Australian shiraz is still far and away the number one choice for Australian red wine drinkers with Barossa being the most recognisable by a fair margin, followed by McLaren Vale,” says Dan Murphy’s Peter Nixon. The proof? In the past 12 months, the retailer has added no less than 53 new shiraz wines to its range. Go you good thing.

“Shiraz is the king of varieties,” says Allister Ashmead of Elderton in the Barossa. “Consumers here and abroad still relate to it as the best Australia has to offer. The Barossa as a whole is [still] madly planting the variety for expected continued success. We would be really surprised to see Barossa shiraz hit a serious downward slope any time in the near future.”

From Grange to Clonakilla, Hill of Grace to Maurice O’Shea’s finest, shiraz has long since had many strings to its bow. But it’s adding a few more. It’s playing both country and western, and becoming even more versatile as a result. Think cool. Think spice. Think shiraz inspired as much or more by pinot noir than by, say, cabernet.

While shiraz’s famous rich, ripe, voluptuous fruit flavour – what Allister refers to as its “cuddliness” – is still as in-vogue as ever, cool-climate shiraz is now going bananas too. Variety is the spice of life, but spice is adding life to the shiraz variety.

“Shiraz in Australia is divergent along many axes – cool climate versus warm; blends versus single vineyards; whole bunches or not; French or American oak – it goes on,” says Dan Buckle, senior winemaker at Chandon in the Yarra Valley.

“Many friends of mine who gave up shiraz because they discovered other things are now coming back and being surprised when I show them something from Ben Haines or Syrahmi, for example. They are coming back and this might be where the growth comes from.The evolution of style in South Australia shows this as well. While there are producers with a steadfast adherence to a certain Aussie recipe [and these wines have their own merit, of course], there is clearly interest in making shiraz that goes beyond fruit, power, oak and weight. The SA producers are not standing still, which is awesome.”

Indeed, if explanation was needed of shiraz’s charms – and going by the sales numbers, clearly it’s not – then Dan nails it better than most. “Shiraz can quite reliably produce lovely fruity dry reds in most places. Juicy, fruity, darkly coloured and easy-to-make wines aplenty. But that’s not the whole story. There’s pepper. Spices. Florals – think little purple flowers. Savoury elements, Grandma’s lamb roast pan and the elusive garrigue and dry herbs – plus Persian spices, jasmine and ginger blossom, and graphite. This is where it gets exciting for me,” Dan says.

“[It’s] not surprising then that Victoria, and Great Southern, and Tasmania are showing growth. Cool climates, in theory, give us grapes with longer ripening and therefore more complexity of flavour and more development in the grapes.” From show-stoppers to spice temples, there is no stopping shiraz. And while spiced-up shiraz is nothing new, its wider appeal to Australian drinkers certainly is – and so too are its new territories.

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