As the frost deepens on the windscreen and snow threatens, I’m tucking into luscious, warming Shiraz from the other side of the world. I love it. It won’t demist my windscreen, or clear the driveway, but for my money it’s the best way to pass away the winter. (I don’t ski.)
Concentrating on younger wines and with a budget in mind, Shiraz, of all the great grapes, will offer the most pleasure. I find Pinot Noir too much of an unknown quantity when picking from the shelf; Cabernet – if good – can be too tight, and cheap Merlot is a guilty pleasure. Good Shiraz is soft and yielding with plush fruit but veined with acidity, and is approachable in the way that very few wines are.

Syrah – planted in the northern Rhône by the Romans – was taken to South Australia in the 1840s and in translation it came to be known as Shiraz. (Once pronounced She-rah; now She-raz)

In its Rhône Valley home, Syrah has been art and part in the making of some of the finest wines known to man, the greats of Côte Rôtie and Hermitage as well as some very approachable Côtes du Rhône.

These are well-structured, peppery wines but, when young, they show more tar and treacle than the soft, warm and mouth-filling blackcurrant and raspberry fruit they will yield as they age.

Shiraz develops a lot more quickly, it’s sunnier for longer in South Australia than in the Northern Rhône and the fruit ripens more fully – which ultimately means that the wine will be sweeter with lower acidity levels. It will open up more readily. The cracked pepper and redcurrant of Syrah translates to Eucalyptus and plum in Shiraz. The texture is smooth and velvety plush like no other young wine. The fruit is plumy and the palate balanced with hints of bitter chocolate and fresh new leather.

These are wines that deliver instant pleasure, almost impossible to dislike and yet they beguile. It’s a simple pleasure, and simplicity – in wine as in life – is one of the hardest things to achieve. The stitching together of luscious ripe berry fruit with sheer velvety tannins is the heart of the contradiction. These are wines that are ‘big’ yet smooth, powerful yet approachable and spicy yet soft. I could go on, but it’s time to pop a cork!


Shiraz Picks

The Backchat Blend, Flagstone winery, South Africa 2004
The first wine is not a pure Shiraz, but a blend. At London’s Adam Street Club, I ordered a glass – which didn’t last long enough. A bottle is a safer option. 7 varieties were used in this symphony of a wine, with Shiraz leading the orchestra. And at just over a fiver a bottle it simply had to be mentioned.
The wine has a deep ruby red colour, a combination of red fruit blends, an earthiness, and a chocolate spicy undertone on the nose.

£63 per case of 12 bottles
www.wineofthetimes.com
020 8838 9432

Berrys' Shiraz, Barossa Valley Australia 2003
To christen the Games room that his wife has allowed him to have, my friend Michael cracked open a case of delicious Shiraz from one of London’s most established merchants.

From Shiraz's most respected terroir outside France, this big juicy black fruit wine is laced with leathery spice, thanks to an open-top fermentation and old oak elevage.

£83.64 per case of 12 bottles
www.bbr.com

Heartland Shiraz, Limestone Coast, Australia 2003
This is a wine I wish I could keep for a little longer in the rack. It’s simply too delicious, however, to hold on to.

A dark, rich purple colour, this delicious black Shiraz has hints of chocolate, menthol and tobacco leaf on the nose. Plums, blackcurrant and spice flavours abound on the palate and are perfectly balanced by fine, supple tannins.

£95.40 per case of 12 bottles
www.wineofthetimes.com
020 8838 9432

Glaetzer Shiraz 2001
At one of our international wine challenges held in the splendour of the Law Society Common Room in Chancery Lane, we ended the evening with Glaetzer’s Shiraz 2001.

This is a wine of incredible poise and remarkable balance. On the nose it shows a multitude of aromas: ripe plums, charcoal and crushed herbs. The palate has a structured, but yielding tannin structure which supports masses of blackberry and blueberry fruit with rich chocolate and roasted coffee flavours.

£360.00 per case of 12 bottles
www.jascots.co.uk
020 8965 2000
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