As mentioned briefly on Monday, the origins of the grape variety Syrah remain contested. While some believe that it originates in the Rhone region of France, others maintain that Syrah reaches back to what is now Iran. DNA testing has confirmed Syrah as the daughter of two now-uncommon grapes from the area of Southern France. Many see this as confirmation of the grapes Rhone heritage while others remain unconvinced.
What we do know is that the grape now celebrates an appreciation around the world as both a varietal, and a blending grape. Though there are challenges in growing Syrah within varied climates, it has even so been successfully developed in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Australia.
The grape was introduced to Australia in the 1830’s and by 1860 had already established itself there as an important agricultural product. The name for the varietal was in flux in the Southern-Hemisphere Continent, however, until the late 1900s when the title Shiraz was settled on in honor of one of the two possible origin stories–that the grape originated in the Shiraz region of Iran, and thus Shiraz was its proper moniker. This name is now also commonly used in both Canada and South Africa.
As discussed, different wine growing regions are often understood to have their own particular character, and style of flavor, though it is important to remember the variation still found between particular wines in any one region. Australian Shiraz is generally thought of as full-bodied, and fruit forward, showing more fruit than smoke, and with lighter tannins but higher acidity than their Northern counterparts. There is of course though great variation between particular wines. It is also generally understood that while French versions of Syrah do well with aging, Australian Shiraz tends to be drinkable young. Australia has been very successful commercially in their production and export of wine generally. The country is well-known for its Shiraz, and as such has influenced how other industries market their varietals as well, with the name Shiraz becoming more popular globally.
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I count myself lucky in having gotten to taste the Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz. The quality to be had in this wine is fantastic at the price. It really has a lot of sophistication, and complexity to offer considering the cost. But even better, it’s a wine worth drinking regardless of the price.
As mentioned last week, one of my favorite elements of wine is the story behind it. Torbreck founder and wine maker, David Powell, has spent his life since college striving to learn wine making practices around the world. He originates in Southern Australia, positioning him to understand the unique climates and cultural elements of growing wine in the Barossa Valley. But further, he has deepened his understanding of wine growing techniques by working in the wine industry in both the United States and Europe. Charmingly too, his website celebrates his experience laboring as a wood cutter in Scotland, and names this experience as the inspiration behind his Woodcutter’s Shiraz.
As the story goes, Powell has spent time in the Rhone as well, connecting to wine makers there like Louis Barruol (the negociant for Kermit Lynch’s “La Dore’e” reviewed Monday of this week). Truthfully? I felt I could taste the influence of such friendship and study in a glass of this wine. I like the idea of some of the sophistication found in its bouquet and flavors being not only complexities of taste, but more deeply also layers of esteem integrated in from Powell’s time in California, his travels in Italy, and his friendships in France.
Though Australian Shiraz wine is generally thought as fruit-forward, and low in tannins, as mentioned above, this Shiraz displays a different texture, and flavor complexity. It showcases blackberry and cherry, as is known to flavor the varietal, and brings in too smoke, meat, and touches of licorice as well. The flavors are wonderfully balanced, with a long finish, and a pleasing texture in the mouth. This wine really does hold excellent value. It’s a varietal to be enjoyed–good with food or on its own. Drink now, or age it all the way into fantastic.
Thank you to @TorbreckBarossa for discussing aspects of the wine’s history with me.
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