To start wine assignments in 2016 we are starting similar to how we started 2015, with Shiraz/Syrah, Australia’s most planted 1, and arguably most known grape varietal. Australia is known for blending Shiraz with other varietals, notably Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia’s most famous Shiraz, the Penfolds Grange has a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in most vintages), and these blends fills in the gaps where a straight shiraz cannot (be it aroma, taste, body, texture etc). In France, where the varietal is known as Syrah, it can be found in blends with Grenache (southern Rhône) and Viognier (northern Rhône). In general, Shiraz/Syrah blends with white varietals, such as Viognier, tend to enhance the aroma of the wine while blends with other red varietals tend to change the body and taste on the palate.
The aim of this assignment is to try and taste what other varieties bring to the table in a Shiraz blend. For this you might even want to have a 100% Shiraz/Syrah tasted side-by-side with your blend to assess what’s added to the experience in a blend. For example you might find the aroma on a Shiraz Viognier blend quite different (enhanced even), compared to a straight Shiraz but on the palate the difference is more subtle.
I’ll suggest a few wines fitting the assignment in case you need ideas. Feel free to ignore these and just find something new or something you want to revisit with the assignment in mind.
*d’Arenberg The Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier – A good value wine from McLaren Vale showcasing a warm-climate style. Look for aromatics from the Viognier.
*Lark Hill Shiraz Viognier – Similar to the above in terms of what you should be looking for but also a different style of Shiraz coming from the cooler Canberra district.
*Teusner The Independent Shiraz Mataro – Another good value wine but from Barossa Valley region. Look for characteristics on the palate you might not expect from a Barossa Shiraz.
*Henschke Henry’s Seven Shiraz Grenache Viognier – A bit of something extra both on the palate and the nose. See if you can pick them out.
*St Hugo Shiraz Cabernet – A classic Australian blend.
*Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier – Cool-climate from the Canberra region. One of the best (if not the best) SV blends in Australia.
*Guigal Brune et Blonde – A famous northern Rhône producer known for Syrah Viognier blends.
Who doesn’t like a good bargain? Wine, like all other consumer products, have hidden gems that are ridiculously low priced but still a great product. Find these gems require lots of trial and error where you may run into a lot more duds than keepers. So the aim of this assignment is…
Taste bottles of any variety that costs below $15 and share your thoughts on where it’s a bargain or not. Some varieties will be easier to find cheap compared to others (i.e. Cabernet vs Pinot Noir) but the point is to share your experience of whatever you try. Think of it like crowd-sourced tasting to pick through all the <$15 bottles to find the gems worth buying. If it’s a bottle that’s not usually <$15 but you found it on sale for less, then feel free to use it for the assignment but just note the original price and how much you ended up paying. Get tasting!
No suggestions for this assignment. There’s plenty to explore at your local bottleshop!