Black Opal Barossa Cabernet/Merlot 1999
Color: Rich, deep crimson.
Palate: Classic berry from the Cabernet Sauvignon complemented by the Merlot mulberry flavors and complex chocolate.
Food Suggestions: Rich, fully flavored dishes, including pasta, red meats or well-aged cheddar cheese.
Serving Temperature: Serve at room temperature.
Cellaring: 5-10 years.
Historically and presently the most important wine-producing region of Australia, the Barossa Valley is set in South Australia, where more than half of the country’s wine is made. Because the climate is very hot and dry, vineyard managers work diligently to ensure grapes reach the perfect levels of phenolic ripeness.
The intense heat is ideal for plush, bold reds, particularly Shiraz on its own or Rhône Blends featuring Shiraz, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. Often Shiraz and Cabernet partner up for plump and powerful reds. While much less prevalent, light-skinned varieties such as Riesling, Viognier or Semillon produce vibrant Barossa Valley whites.
Most of Australia’s largest wine producers are based here and Shiraz plantings date back as far as the 1850s or before. Many of them are dry farmed and bush trained, still offering less than one ton per acre of inky, intense, purple juice.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
Tasting Notes for Bordeaux Blends
Bordeaux Blends are dry, red wines and generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, black cherry plum, graphite, cedar and violet. Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines, modeled after the Right Bank, are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure.
Perfect Food Pairings for Bordeaux Blends
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.
Sommelier Secrets for Bordeaux Blends
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.