John Duval Plexus Red 2011
Blend: 59% Shiraz, 31% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre
John Duval is one of Australia's most highly regarded winemakers. Raised on a South Australian farm with three generations of grape growers before him, his vinous path was fated. However, it was during his 28-year tenure with Penfolds that his passion for the famed Barossa Valley flourished. As Chief Winemaker and custodian of Australia's most famous wine, Grange, he was instrumental in establishing Penfolds as one of the world's great wineries. His accolades include being named UK Wine and Spirit Competition's International Winemaker of the Year, Red Winemaker of the Year (twice) and receiving Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year award. In 2003, John embarked on his own label, John Duval Wines, inspired by the best of the Barossa Valley's low-yielding, old vine vineyards. With a deft touch he crafts intense wines that are as complex and distinctive as the diverse terroir of his treasured Barossa Valley.
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 must be careful so that grapes do not become overripe.
The intense heat is ideal for plush, bold reds, particularly Rhône blends featuring Shiraz, Grenache, and Mataro (Mourvèdre). White grapes can produce crisp, fresh wines from Riesling, Chardonnay, and Semillon if they are planted at higher altitudes.
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.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.