By Jen Pfeiffer
Research taken has shown that Australians drink approximately 25 litres of wine per person per year. That doesn't seem like much to me, but I don't think I'm the average wine drinker!!
Shiraz is clearly our favourite wine to drink, with over 40,000 hectares of Shiraz grapes planted across Australia. This is followed by Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, with around 30,000 hectares of each variety planted.
What has led to the rise of Shiraz in Australia?
Shiraz originated in the northern part of the Rhone Valley of France, located in the south east of the country. Like most varieties, it is the offspring of two other varieties, namely Dureza (a red variety with lots of colour) and Mondeuse Blanche (a white variety).
Shiraz arrived in Australia in 1831, when James Busby (a viticutural lecturer) returned from a trip back to Europe with cuttings from vines from France and Spain. One of the varieties that he collected was Shiraz. The cuttings were planted in the Sydney Botanical Gardens and in the Hunter Valley. In 1839, cuttings were moved from Sydney to South Australia, and by the 1860s, Shiraz was established across the wine growing regions of Australia as an important variety.
Shiraz is mainly used to make table wines – as a straight varietal (simply labelled Shiraz), or in blends with other varieties. Shiraz – Viognier blends and Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre (GSM) blends originated in France, where they have been blended for hundreds of years. Shiraz – Cabernet blends originated in Australia, and have been a popular wine ever since.
Shiraz is also used in the production of fortified wines in Australia, particularly in the production of port style wines – both vintage and tawny. It is also used in the Aussie favourite – Sparkling Shiraz.
The great thing about Shiraz is that the flavour profile of the wines produced can be very different depending on the climate and soil of where it is grown – thus a Rutherglen Shiraz will have its own unique characters as compared to a Barossan Shiraz or a Tasmanian Shiraz.
Generally speaking, Shiraz has a wonderful purple red colour and makes medium to full bodied wines. Flavours range from red berries, spice, white and black pepper, black cherry, plums, clove, licorice, black berry, chocolate and smoked meat.
Shiraz wines have a generosity of fruit flavour on the mid-palate and display firm, yet ripe and smooth tannins, which makes the wines very approachable as young wines but with the capacity for long term bottle maturation.
When it comes to matching food to Shiraz, think strong, rich flavours. Shiraz is great for grilled or barbequed meat or vegetables, especially if used as part of the marinade. Beef and lamb pair particularly well to Shiraz, as does fattier cuts of pork. Stews, casseroles and roasts will all work very well. For the vegetarian among us, a rich and hearty tomato based pasta sauce will work very well with Shiraz, or a Moroccan stew with its sweeter spices also will compliment the variety.
With all its delicious flavour and its versatility, it's not surprising Shiraz is Australia's favourite.....it's one of my "pfavourites" too!!!!