There’s been of lot talk this past year, both in print and on-line, over the fate of Syrah (or Shiraz, as the Aussies call it) with regular wine consumers. The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and many wine bloggers have weighed in on (essentially) “What’s Wrong With Syrah?”
It seems that Syrah/Shiraz isn’t selling like it used to; Pinot Noir seems to still be the darling red and consumers are going back to old stand-bys like Cabernet and (gasp!) Merlot. Meanwhile sales of Syrah/Shiraz have flat lined or are in negative territory, particulalry those pricey ($25+) single vineyard offerings.
The explanations for the current state of Syrah/Shiraz are many (and better left for another day) but suffice it to say that if wine consumers tasted Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2008, they would wonder what all the negativity is about. For the price of around a Jackson or less, this Aussie is one absolutely delicious and multifaceted red wine.
It has a meaty nose of aged beef, shoe polish, saddle leather, cigar box, iodine and, of course, dark blackberry and bluebery fruit. The aromas are amazingly interesting and complex, accurately fortelling what’s to come on the palate. This Shiraz is juicy, sassy and vibrant in the mouth, not like a gooey, goopy, low rent Aussie Shiraz, dolled up with residual sugar at the core. No, this is old school Shiraz with deep and dark fruit flavors—the kind you can’t fake—from 15 – 40 year old vines, though this vintage also includes grapes from 120+ year old vines. Rich and opulent with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry and mulberry, which are very pure and true, the wine also has brighter streaks of raspberry/strawberry running through the middle of it all. But wait there’s more! Savory elements, like aged hanging beef, beef jerky, beef bullion, iodine, sea salt and a latent minerality, contribute to the wine’s complexity, adding more depth.
This wine plays well out of its league and that’s because 2008 turned out to be a difficult vintage for winemaker Dave Powell at Torbreck (and most of Barossa Valley). After a picture perfect year of grape growing, a sudden heat spike caused three weeks worth of final ripening to happen in three days. When all the fermentations had settled down, Powell decided the juice destined for his RunRig Shiraz ($225 a bottle) didn’t make the cut. So he didn’t make a RunRig Shiraz in 2008 and many of those barrels were blended into his entry level Woodcutter’s Shiraz. If you’ve never had the opportunity to taste a really expensive red wine, this will give you a limited sense of how glorious and wondrous it might be, at about one-tenth the price.
Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2008 ($21.99) is available at Gomer’s, Lukas Liquor, Riverside Red-X and Royal Liquors.