Browsing the archives for the Shiraz tag

Varietal Voyage No.20 – 2007 d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viogner

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Varietal Voyage

Our second syrah is an Australian shiraz.  Yes, syrah and shiraz are the the same grape.  Even though there are many theories, nobody really knows where the name shiraz (rhymes with pizazz) came from.  So, in the Aussie spirit (and for the sake of simplicity) we’ll stick with shiraz for this post!  When in Rome…

d’Arenberg has made wine in Australia for almost one hundred years.  The winery was founded by Joseph Osborn in 1912, but the d’Arenberg name didn’t come about until Francis d’Arenberg Osborn created his own label in 1959 to honor his mother, Frances Helena d’Arenberg.  Now, in the fourth generation of family ownership, they are guided by Francis’ son, Chester d’Arenberg Osborn as chief winemaker and viticulturist.

The 2007 Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viognier ($20) comes from d’Arenberg’s Osborn Estate in the heart of South Australia’s McLaren Vale.  Brought to Australia in the 1830′s it has become the most popular grape down under.  McLaren Vale has a warm, Mediterranean climate, perfect conditions for heat-loving shiraz.  The soils in this area are a mixed bag of terra rosa, chalk, with sandy or clay loam depending where you are in the valley. Viognier, a white grape that also thrives in this climate, is a variety that has made its way from the Rhône valley and is growing in popularity around the world.  Viognier, with its peachy tropical fruit aromas,  is often added to the wine to boost the aromatics of the shiraz/syrah.

In the glass this young shiraz has a lovely ruby color with intense aromas of stone fruits, blackberries and black cherries.  After a short time, tobacco and cedary cigar box aromas unveiled themselves.  Spicy, dark cherry flavors and subtle amounts of blueberries and plums are balanced with mouthwatering acidity.  This medium-bodied shiraz has a soft, tannic edge that finishes off quickly and cleanly so it won’t overpower your palate.  We paired this with a hearty pizza and the Italian spices really helped accentuate the soft tannins in the wine.  I can see this going really well with a grilled burger or steak.

2007 d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viogner ($20)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Midwest Wine School Experience – WSET Intermediate Level – Class 6

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Midwest Wine School Experience

Class 6 of the WSET Intermediate Level course, led by Jessica Bell, was a foray into the world of Rhone-style wines and the varieties that make them so delicious including grenache and syrah/shiraz.  In addition, we spent a short time delving into the riesling variety, discussing where it grows best and the remarkable styles of wine it creates.

Grenache and syrah (or shiraz in Australia) are very different grapes that winemakers have been using for centuries to make single varietal wines or blended wines using variations of the two (or more) varieties.

Grenache, a large thin-skinned grape that originated in Spain (where it’s called garnacha).  It loves hot climates and does well in warm places like Spain and France’s southern Rhône Valley.  It has made its way around the world and can be found anywhere that syrah thrives.  On it’s own, grenache makes full-bodied wines with lots of ripe red fruit and spice, but it gets better when it is blended with other varieties that add some more complexity.  Syrah is just one example.

Syrah is a dark, tannic grape that makes full-bodied wines with dark fruit flavors and complex animal and vegetal chracteristics.  Like grenache, it also does well in warm regions and is usually found in a blend.  Wines from the northern part of the Rhône Valley are made primarily from syrah with grenache and many others filling out the rest of the blend.  Examples of syrah can be found in warm places around the world, inlucding the United States and Australia.  Shiraz, as it is known in Australia, is made into bold, spicy, fruit-forward wines with intense black fruit and sweet spice.

Riesling, on the other hand, is the polar opposite to grenache and syrah.  Riesling is at home in cool regions like Germany, Alsace and Austria.  It can even be found in the cooler regions of the United States, Australia and New Zealand.  But Germany is by far the premier location for riesling.  The Germans have mastered the art of coaxing this grape into ripening under some of the most challenging growing conditions in the world.  The cold northern latitude force the winemakers to leave their grapes on the vine longer so they can fully ripen (if at all).  Steep rocky vineyards along rivers like the Rhine, with their east facing slopes, are difficult to manage but necessary to capture the warm sunlight needed to ripen the grapes. Dry riesling wines can have floral aromas, white fruit and bright citrus flavors with bracing acidity and steely mineral notes.  Riesling can also be made into delicious sweet dessert wines such as beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese and eiswein.

Rendell Thomas will present sparkling and sweet wines later this week

Wines Tasted (Class 6):

  1. Perrin et Fils Reserve 2006 (Côtes du Rhône, France)
  2. Domaine la Clotte-Fontane 2006 (Languedoc, France)
  3. Calcareous Tre Violet 2005 (Paso Robles, California)
  4. Layer Cake Shiraz 2008 (South Australia)
  5. Weingut Johann Peter Mertes Riesling 2006 (Saar, Germany)
  6. Buried Cane Riesling 2006 (Washington State)

Shingleback “Black Bubbles” Sparkling Shiraz

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Tasting Note

Several months ago I learned about sparkling shiraz from a friend. The concept seemed interesting, so I filed it away in that dark place somewhere between my ears for future reference. As luck would have it, I spotted a bottle of Shingleback “Black Bubbles” Sparkling Shiraz at the Grapes & Tastes, the new wine shop that just opened in Cedarburg.

Shingleback Winery, in Australia’s McLaren Vale, produces many different wines, but Black Bubbles is their only sparkler. The winemakers at Shingleback blend together several vintages of shiraz to create a fruit-forward wine with relative complexity.

I brought this bottle to Thanksgiving dinner with my parents, where we enjoyed it as an aperitif. The first thing we noticed were the aromas of blackberries carried by the bubbles. The bubbles weren’t quite black, but definitely on the deep purple side of the spectrum. Very ripe, sweet flavors of blackberries and currants balanced well with its mild acidity. The spicy character and soft tannins of the shiraz really came through in the finish. Make sure to keep it well chilled. We noticed the flavors begin to fall flat as it warms up.

Not bad for the first sparkling shiraz I’ve tried. This is an easy drinking wine, perfect for a summer barbecue or a nice pairing to a sweet chocolate dessert.

Shingleback “Black Bubbles” Sparkling Shiraz ($30) 

Varietal Voyage – The Beginning

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Varietal Voyage
For sometime now, I have wanted to expand my knowledge of the vast viticultural world of wine. I have tasted a fair share of wines, but always seem to gravitate to the same familiar varieties. Not that there is anything wrong with liking a few good wines, but there is so much more to experience!

I recently read in Karen MacNeil’s “Wine Bible” about a plan for expanding your knowledge of wine. She spoke of a systematic plan, sampling different wines over a six month time frame. This was exactly what I was looking for. With a little research and some consultation with Sue, the plan was hatched!

Over the next six months, Sue and I will partake in a voyage of varietal discovery. The first three months focuses purely on white wines. The following three months are devoted to reds. Throughout each trimester we will explore four varieties and three different regions for each.

Month 1-3: The Whites

  • Sauvignon Blanc (US, New Zealand, France) – VV1, VV2, VV3
  • Chenin Blanc (US, France, South Africa) – VV4, VV5, VV6
  • Chardonnay (US, France, Australia) – VV7, VV8, VV9
  • Viognier (US, France, Australia) – VV10, VV11, VV12

Month 4-6: The Reds

  • Cabernet Sauvignon (US, France, South America) – VV13, VV14, VV15
  • Merlot (US, France, South America) – VV16, VV17, VV18
  • Syrah/Shiraz (US, Australia, France) – VV19, VV20, VV21
  • Petite Sirah (US, France, Australia)

So that’s the grand plan – twenty-four wines over the next six months. Stay tuned. This blog will be the travelogue of our adventure!