Tasting: McClaren Vale Shiraz (and Grenache)

April 9th, 2006

Its been a while since I have found the time to post a tasting. In the next week or so I hope to catch up. Our most recent jaunt has taken us to the McClaren Vale in South Australia. Probably one of the coolest regions in South Australia, it is still quite warm. It is also home to some big name producers such as Rosemont, d’Arenberg, and Hardy’s Tintara.

I found this tasting interesting for several reasons. The popular criticism of Australia comes on the heels of ‘Mondovino’ and is similar to the bashing Merlot received in ‘Sideways’ (”I’m not drinking in f@##%@$ Merlot”). It goes something like this: Australian wines are technical wines, wines of process not place, and all taste the same. Well, many of these wines did have similar characteristics, but they were also from a similar place. In fact, three of them ended up being sourced from vineyards along the same road. We realized we needed to be careful in using the common criticism becaue any differences were likely to be subtle regardless of the winemaking. In addition to that, if most people are using the same winemaking techniques, whether they are wines of ‘process’ or made more ‘naturally’ (define that how you like), then the major differences will be from the differences in the fruit source (terroir?). But that is another entry. Suffice it to say we did notice that the wines had plenty of acidity and were less tannic and big than we anticipated from Australia, is this part of the McClaren Vale Terroir?

(Quick reminder: Scores presented are the average of the group rounded to the nearest 0.5 followed by the low then high individual score for a wine).

Yangarra Old Vine Grenache, 2003, $17 (Avg: 7, 6 and 8 ) I won’t get into how a Grenache snuck its way into a Shriaz tasting but I will say this was a widely accepted wine with no score lower than 6. Aromas and flavors of chocolate, blackberry, cola, cedar, and some soy with a very pleasant mouthfeel - seamless with good length. Probably one of the best wines we have tasted labelled Grenache. I would definately buy this again.

d’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz, 2003, $16 (Avg: 6.5; 4 and 7) One person rated this wine below 6. This wine received five 7s. I really enjoyed all aspects of this wine. Nicely balanced mouthfeel plus interesting, complex aromas of mince meat, blueberry, and mint. I have tasted this wine in groups several times and it always does well.

Pirramimma Grenache Old Bush Vine, 2003, $18 (Avg: 6; 5 and 7). Maxwell Wines, Four Roads Shiraz, 2000, $24 (Avg: 6; 4 and 7). d’Arenberg, The Laughing Magpie, Shiraz/Viognier, 2003, $20 (Avg: 5.5; 4 and 8 - that’s my 8 and I defend this wine - its tasty but maybe does lack a little in the mouthfeel as noted by others). Forefathers, 2003, $22 (Avg: 5, 3 and 6).

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