Shiraz from Oz 07/07/11
I should probably admit from the get-go that my title is just the teensiest bit inaccurate: the wine I’m reviewing today is, in fact, a Shiraz-Cabernet blend, and not a Shiraz, as I so recklessly implied. It does, however, hail from the land of Australia – for which “Oz” is a (Wikipedia-verified!) nickname. Oh, you didn’t know that? What did you think I was talking about?
Shiraz, in case you’re wondering, is the same grape as Syrah (unlike Petite Sirah, which is not the same grape as either…but that’s a story for another day). Why do they call it Shiraz in Australia when Syrah would suffice just as well? Your guess is almost as good as mine. But the real story here is that like so many other unfortunate regions, the Great Down Under has yet to receive its fair share of time under the ineffable resplendance of the Convicted for Grape spotlight.
But relax! I’m obviously about to make amends for this oversight. How? The same way I always make amends – drinking! Today’s wine hails from South Australia, and is an entry level offering from one of the country’s biggest names: the Penfolds Koonunga Hill 2008 Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, composed of 71% Shiraz and 29% Cab Sauv and retailing for $10-12.
As luck would have it, I bought this wine almost immediately before reading this article, which hints that Penfolds may soon be taken over by the Chinese, possibly through legal, financial means. Will this change everything we know and love about the Australian wine industry? Yes. Yes it will. So you’d better drink up now – and Shiraz-Cabernet, a blend seldom seen outside of Australia, is really the best way to get a taste of the region.
This wine was sealed with cork, which I’m only noting because screwcaps seem to be much more popular for Australian wines, at least where I’ve been buying them. It poured a dark garnet color in the glass, with lighter crimson edges, and gave off aromas of blackberry and, after breathing, vanilla. I also thought I detected something vaguely vegetal, which I kept calling “tomato,” but it could just as easily have been red pepper I suppose.
On the palate this was a little bit hot but with soft, approachable tannins, and fruit stood out more than anything, with flavors of blackberry, plum, and some wooden spice, in addition to chocolate after breathing. It went fairly well with a Bacon Deluxe from Wendy’s (as well as any wine could pair with that monstrosity, I expect) but better with a Hershey bar.
In short, this wine was fruity and friendly, but not as complex or refined as I usually like. I’ll certainly be looking for more Penfolds though, as this is pretty much the cheapest one they have, and it wasn’t bad at all for $12.
The Penfolds Koonunga Hill 2008 Shiraz-Cabernet earns thumbs up.