d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2002
The 2002 season was characterized by a cold wet winter and spring, which produced lower yields with good, thick-skinned berries. The cool and completely dry summer ripened fruit gradually and a warm and also completely dry autumn allowed the grapes to ripen fully, producing grapes with some of the best and most exotic characters seen for many years. Upon release, d'Arenberg's The Dead Arm Shiraz has a vivid, young, dense purple-red color. The nose shows Intense and complex cedary, fig, blackberry, blueberry, and pepper aromas. Attacking spicy dark cherry, plum and blackberry fruit dominate the taste with a complex, slightly acetone, liquorice, prune richness and silkiness leading to a slight cedar, mineral and svelte array of tannins. The length comes right back to gritty, vibrant fruit tannins giving the wine great ageability. After time in bottle, the d'Arenberg Dead Arm gains a biscuity, cinnamon, caramel and eucalyptus based bouquet on top of rich blackberry pie smells. Tobacco, mushroom, malt and earth aromas play a part on the long, fleshy, chocolate mint and spice flavors. Restrained tannin and acidity coupled with rich alcohol produce a seamless, peppery, velvety, rolling length.
d'Arenberg is one of the undisputed kings of Australian Shiraz and other Rhone varieties that have historically defined the region. A century on, their vineyards have grown to some 450 acres in McLaren Vale, including Shiraz dating back to d'Arenberg's first plantings in 1912, and nearly one-third of McLaren Vale's old bush-vine Grenache. Fourth generation winemaker, Chester Osborn, recently converted all of the family's vineyards to organics and biodynamics and moved to solar energy in the winery. All the while, in terms of winemaking, not much has changed--all the wines are basket-pressed, the reds foot-trodden during fermentation; everything is done in small batches, leading to an impressive array of bottlings every year, each showing a different facet of McLaren Vale terroir. Having been inducted into Wine & Spirits Magazine's Hall of Fame for earning a place on its Top 100 Wineries nine times, this accolade is a reflection of d'Arenberg's revered reputation worldwide.
Known for opulent red wines with intense power and concentration, McLaren Vale is home to perhaps the most “classic” style of Australian Shiraz. Vinified on its own or in Rhône blends with Grenache and Mourvèdre, these hot-climate wines are deeply colored and high in extract and alcohol with signature hints of dark chocolate and licorice. Cabernet Sauvignon is also produced in a similar style. Whites, often made from Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc tend to be opulent and full of tropical, stone and citrus fruit.
Marked by an unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.