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Jim Barry McCrae Wood Shiraz 1999
"Looks menacingly dark and young, with aromas of jammy primary fruit and the flavors of plums, blueberries, and white chocolate. This is a dense, yummy wine, with thick young tannins and juicy acidity. It's appealing now, and should develop in the bottle."-Wine Enthusiast, December 2002
The Clare Valley is actually a series of narrow north to south valleys, each with a different soil type and slightly different weather patterns along their stretch. In the southern heartland between Watervale and Auburn, there is mainly a crumbled, red clay loam soil called terra-rossa and cool breezes come in from Gulf St. Vincent. A few miles north, in Polish Hill, is soft, red loam over clay and is influenced by westerlies blowing in from the Spencer Gulf.
The differences in soil, elevation, degree of slope and weather enable the region to produce some of Australia’s finest, aromatic, spicy and lime-pithy Rieslings, as well as excellent Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec with ripe plummy fruit, good acid and big structure.
Clare Valley is an isolated farming country with a continental climate known for its warm and sunny days, followed by cool nights—perfect for wine grapes’ development of sugar and phenolic ripeness in conjunction with notable acidity levels.
Marked by 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.