Back when I was first getting interested in wine, Australian Shiraz was just starting to develop some serious hype. It was easy to understand why. In the years around the turn of the 21st Century, Shiraz from Downunder was regularly a great value buy. It had a long history of success in the country, but it had fallen out of favor in the 1970’s and 1980’s before making a comeback in the 1990’s. Plenty of customers at the restaurant I worked during this time were unfamiliar with the grape and suspicious of Australia as a quality producer. Those are the kinds of factors that can lead to a varietal getting undervalued and overdelivering for the price. That was Shiraz 15-20 years ago, at least as I remember it.
It is not the case anymore. Wide-release brands like Yellowtail are out there now, giving everyone a sense, or better or worse, of Austrialia’s place in the winemaking world. At the other extreme, Penfold’s “Grange’s” perfect rating for its 2008 varietal put all the big spenders on alert. Shiraz now has to compete with the Old World Syrah’s that proceeded it and New World regions in California and Oregon that have embraced the grape as well. Now it is also far less likely to be undervalued and all too likely to underwhelm. Personally, my tastes have veered toward the Old World more and more as I have gotten older and more experienced with wine. Together, my taste and the downturn for Shiraz has moved me away from buying it regularly.
But the tasting notes from Wine Enthusiast for the 2013 Rubus Shiraz from the Barossa Valley region caught my eye, as did the 92-rating, which is high for a $14 bottle of anything, let alone Shiraz from one of the warmest regions. The WA tasting notes caught cedar and mocha notes, but I caught more tobacco and something almost caramel-like on the nose. There is a good amount of alcohol on the nose as well, which told me that a little time between pouring and drinking was for the best.
The real revelation here, however, comes on the first taste. I was hit with salt. Right out of the gate, that’s what I got and it was both surprising and welcome. The effect was along the lines of an Islay scotch, a touch of brine to kick things off. After that, I got a good deal of earthy tones, tobacco, ash, very dark chocolate and a hint of blackberry, all dressed in casual tannins and leading to a long, dry, and slightly tart finish. I am not sure this will send me back to the store to dig for other Shiraz bargains, but I would buy this wine again in a heartbeat.
Scouting report: Nose: 55, Mouth-feel 65, Taste 65, finish, overall 65, value 70