We like to play wine games with our friends!
Almost two years ago, the six of us got together for the first “Somm Night” a regular tradition in which blind taste various wines attempting to discern if we can pick out anything from the tasting notes that actually allows us to identify what the wines are. The first iterations of this looked like trying to pick a zinfandel from a merlot from a cabernet sauvignon (or any other three varietals of whites, reds, sparkling, etc.) Since those first Somm Nights, the variations have changed to include price points and regions.
Tonight midsummer Somm night…and thus your wines for your weekend…features Shiraz, and a ‘one of these things is not like the other’ spin on the game. Three wines, exact same price point. Three wines, two from the McLaren Vale, and one from Barossa. Three wines, two from 2016, and one from 2015. Pick the odd wine out!
The Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, both located in southern Australia, are located only 113 km (about an hour and a half car ride) away from each other. Barossa, to the north of Adelaide and more towards the countryside, is often considered the pinnacle of southern Australia’s wine regions, a small area featuring a high variation of grape varieties and a diverse range of growing conditions, allegedly producing wines with a flavor profile unlike anything else in the world. It’s where you’ll find many of the large, southern Australia wineries.
The McLaren Vale to the south of Adelaide and more towards the coast is seen as an up and coming wine region, particularly in red varieties, due in part to there excellent soil and growing conditions, but also because they’re on the cutting edge of clonal experimentation. Wine industry experts assert that the wines coming out of the McLaren Vale in the last five years are some of the best the region has ever produced, and a testament to the potential the area has to make an impact on the global market.
Of course, if you know anything about how countries are parsed into wine regions, you’ll know that there are a dozen other little pockets all carved into the same geographical area. For reference, the southern Australia wine regions look like this:
For our purposes we’ve just selected the two areas to compare.
Our wines for the evening will be as follows:
Jester, 2016 Shiraz – McLaren Vale
Kangarilla Road, 2016 Shiraz – McLaren Vale
Shotfire, 2015 Shiraz – Barossa Valley
All three bottle range between $15-$25. I happened to score them all on a summer bottle sale for $13.99.
The Shotfire is obviously meant to be the odd wine out, but will it come across that way in the blind taste?
Shotfire, 2015 Shiraz – Barossa Valley is the descendant of a legacy. The 2005 vintage of Shotfire Shiraz was named the 18th best wine in the world, and the 2015 vintage is an award winner itself collecting over 11 international awards including the gold medal and the 2018 Asia Gold Trophy event. 2015 was marked initially by a drought followed by warmer than usual temperatures which concentrated the flavor of the grape and the color of the wine produced. It’s described as being distinct in it’s dark fruit flavors (primarily plum), which rich notes of chocolate and oak. This wine is dense, intense, and shows balance all the way through it’s long finish.
Our two offerings from McLaren Vale are interesting in the similarities described in their tasting notes with the Barossa, but all the subtle ways in which they’re supposed to be unique.
Jester, 2016 Shiraz – McLaren Vale is bright and aromatic, with a fruit first aroma that hints of blackberry and plum. It’s described as “spicy” though not in the peppery way some wines bite. Rather licorice, anise, cinnamon and mint, compliment the slight oakiness of the wine’s finish. It should, be less oaky than the Shotfire as it spends both less time in the oak overall, and more time in old oak barrels rather than new.
Kangarilla Road, 2016 Shiraz – McLaren Vale is actually a wine for your weekend repeat as we enjoyed this bottle a few months ago. However, at the time we had the 2017 vintage, so it will be interesting to see if any part of that initial taste helps us out on this go around. This wine is also very fruit forward, with an almost zinfandel like “jamminess” in the way the flavors present themselves. It two is described as “spicy” with a bit of “zing” on the finish that includes a heavy overtone of oak.
At the time, I suggested the 2017 vintage would be great paired with something off the grill. Tonight, all three of our wines get paired with grilled lamb, an excellent pairing suggestion for any vintage of Shiraz.