Let’s face it, we all love a good wine; but have you ever wondered why a particular variety of wine tastes different depending on the wine region it is grown in?
True to name, I, “The SA Wine Guy” will give you a simple, yet useful guide through South Australia’s most notable wine variety, “Shiraz.” I will talk about the two main regions the Shiraz grape thrives, (Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale) and the difference in wine style between the two regions.
Let us start with a term that will help you understand what I am going on about. There is a word in the wine world which comes from France and the old wine world called “terrior”. Although there is no true English meaning, it roughly means ‘a sense of place’. In order for a wine to develop certain characteristics we look at:
If you can understand this term, then you are well and truly on your way to understanding why different regions produce different flavors in their wine on the nose and palate. This also tells us that wine is agricultural, and every vintage produces different wine flavors, dependent on its annual vintage conditions. E.g. sun, rainfall, wind etc. No single year are going to be completely alike.
Therefore, we can now look at how Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale Shiraz compare to each other.
Barossa Valley wines, due to the warmer climate and northern winds from being inland, produce a Shiraz grape that displays a bigger fruit character on the nose. McLaren Vale on the other hand, has a cooler climate and a breeze coming off the ocean, and displays more red fruit characters with spice; most famously to the region ‘pepper’.
Starting with the Barossa, the most prominent smells you will find on the nose are smells of black fruits.
- Strewed Fruit (resembling a nearly a jammy quality)
- Dark Chocolate
- Fine tobacco
- Slight hints of smoke
Compared to a Shiraz from McLaren Vale where you can expect smells of red fruits
- Earth and soil (herbaceous elements)
- Black, green and white pepper
Now we shall move to the taste of wine, and another word in the wine world, “tannin”. In the simplest terms tannin is the bitter flavor that is left in your mouth when you might eat an under-ripe fruit or drink a young wine that hasn’t quite had a chance to settle down and for things to mellow out. Due to a warmer climate in the Barossa, we get riper (grape) fruit, and the tannin is balanced and usually softer and the fruit comes through. Barossa wines will rely on tannin from the aging in oak to balance the wine out and subdue the acid and tame the sweetness of the fruit.
McLaren Vale Shiraz will display a tighter more ‘chewy’ tannin due to being in a location with cooler climates, meaning we find grapes that are not as ‘ripe’ compared to the region up north. We therefore find the tannin plays a bigger role in wines from this region due to the fruit spending its life cycle in a cooler climate and therefore the fruit is not so forefront in the wine.
I hope this small, (although this is my biggest post to date) helps you in understanding our South Australian wines a little bit more.
I will begin to post more insights on wine, hints and understanding grapes varieties and terms, along with my usual wine reviews in the future.
The SA Wine Guy