If ever there was a user-friendly wine, it's shiraz.
It reminds me of that verse from First Corinthians they always quote at weddings … the one that starts, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, t is not proud. Love never fails.”
Shiraz is sweet, shiraz is soft. It does not pucker with hard tannins, it does not take the enamel off thy teeth with searing acids.
Shiraz seldom fails to delight.
Known as syrah in France, where it has been a mainstay of the Rhãne Valley's best wines for centuries, the grape was planted in Australia about 100 years ago and renamed shiraz. It's grown riper there, and mostly vinified to be softer and fruitier.
It goes well with sandwiches at picnics, with Greek salads, tuna salads, egg salads, with barbecued chicken, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese … anything hearty rich and soothing that calls for a similar comfort wine.
Tasters at competitions describe it in terms that make it sound like dessert … raspberry preserves, blackberry pie, mulberry tarts, sometimes with a hint of cinnamon.
Still, it has a range. When the grapes are grown in cooler climates, the wine takes on edges of tannin and acid and is are good with red meats.
Seeking those red-meat wines, winemakers often blend in firmer grapes like cabernet sauvignon to add backbone. Throughout Australia, so many winemakers seek that perfect balance by blending grenache and mourvedre with shiraz that the combination is called … to end, as we began, on an ecclesiastical note … “the holy trinity.”
Ø 2008 Penfolds Shiraz Mourvedre, Australia: ripe, hearty and lush with flavors of black raspberries and anise; soft tannins; generous; the epitome of a friendly shiraz; $15.
Ø 2006 Chàteau Tanunda Noble Baron Shiraz, Barossa Valley: aromas and flavors of black plums, cinnamon and anise; powerful, full-bodied and intense; very smooth, youthful; $50.
Ø 2008 Yangarra Estate Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia: rich and intensely fruity with aromas and flavors of black raspberries and cinnamon; $20.
Ø 2007 Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz, Coonawarra: red raspberry and spice aromas and flavors, hint of oak, a bit lean from cool-weather grapes, lightly tannic; $26.
Ø 2007 Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz, South Australia: black cherry and dark chocolate flavors, ripe from warm-weather grapes, smooth; $22.
Ø 2008 Penfolds Bin 138 Shiraz Mourvedre Grenache, Barossa Valley: hint of oak, black raspberry and anise aromas and flavors, lightly tannic; $27.
Ø 2007 Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz, South Australia: black cherries and black coffee, hint of oak, a bit lean and youthful; $36.
Ø 2007 Chàteau Tanunda Grand Barossa Shiraz, Barossa Valley: red raspberry,
vanilla and cinnamon aromas and flavors, big, ripe tannins; $19.