The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei
Australia is comprised of 6 states; one of them, South Australia, is home to several of the most internationally recognized wine regions and Australia’s most significant wines (in quality, not quantity). In 1993 Australia instituted the Geographical Indication (GI) system for classifying wine growing regions. In 1997, McLaren Vale, one of Australia’s oldest wine regions (established in the early 19th-century), was assigned its own GI status.
McLaren Vale encompasses multiple mesoclimates affected by proximity to mountains, distance from the climatic effects of the sea, and varying soil conditions. A large variety of grapes grow well here, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mouvedre, and – of course – Shiraz, the grape that put this region (and Australia in general) on the world’s wine map.
Shiraz is the Australian name for the Syrah grape, most commonly associated with the northern Rhône Valley region of France. Shiraz is a dark-skinned grape that adapts well to challenging growing conditions and thrives even in some of the least hospitable soils. Typical flavors associated with this grape range from smoky and meaty to rich jammy berries and licorice depending on the terroir.
This particular wine is a blend of Shiraz with Viognier, a white wine grape (92% and 8%, respectively). Though this sounds a bit unusual, it is actually a long established practice begun in the Côte-Rôtie (an appellation in the northern Rhône Valley). The role of the Viognier in the blend is to liven up the color of the Shiraz and to contribute a more complex aroma (Viognier is quite aromatic in its own right). It is traditional to ferment the red and white grapes together from the start; d’Arenberg continues this tradition in the making of this wine.
The d’Arenberg family has been part of Australia’s winemaking history since 1912. The d’Arenberg’s own label was launched in 1959 by Francis d’Arenberg Osborn (aka d’Arry). D’Arenberg may be best known for their “The Stump Jump” series of wines, or their iconic “The Dead Arm” Shiraz – most of their wines are given clever names that in no way belie the quality and passion that go into their creation.
Aromas of ripe raspberries, cloves, and wintergreen dominate with a touch of hearty meatiness developing as it opens in the glass. This wine is juicy and lush with ripe dark berries, black plums, and rich dark cocoa. Beware a bit of alcoholic punch (14.6% ABV) and rather intense tannins – on the up-side, both are factors that will contribute to this wines potentially long aging ability – decant and aerate a bit for maximum immediate enjoyment. This is one vintage older than current (though still available in the US), so you’ve already got one year of additional aging checked off. Break out that rarely (or never) used decanter and enjoy this wine with grilled steak, herb-crusted lamb chops, duck confit, or braised short ribs and polenta. For the vegetarians out there, I recommend a hearty mix of dark leafy greens, chewy grains, and roasted/grilled root vegetables and winter squashes.
Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.
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