A Shiraz Awakening

Besides a plethora of industry bodies, the South African wine industry is awash with organisations representing ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ or purporting to represent ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ a specific wine made from one grape. There is a Pinotage Association, a Chardonnay Forum, Just Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group, Pinot Noir Interest Group and even a Merlot Forum. To name but a few.

Barring the Pinotage Association and the M+¬thode Cap Classique Association, most of these producers’ forums keep things pretty secret. Perhaps they are dissecting fluffy animals with Medieval secateurs in dank dungeons or practising their secret brotherly handshakes, but one would expect a bit more openness and enthusiasm surrounding what is, essentially, a fun topic.

Others, like the Chenin Blanc Association, have loud, demonstrative talk-shops in exotic locations without coming up or actioning any reason for their existence.

All-in-all, a pretty shoddy state of affairs.

Shiraz SA I like, despite me not being the fondest Shiraz drinker this side of the Atlantic. Shiraz SA has cool public tastings, insightful seminars and a bunch of members from diverse wine regions. They seem to be able to throw the kitchen sink and the Riedl duck decanter at promoting Shiraz wine. I also really like its chairperson, Edmund Terblanche, whose commitment to the variety is exemplary in its professional seriousness. Plus, his wife Hetta has a very pretty smile.

In fact, last week’s public tasting organised by Shiraz SA at the Vineyard Hotel has rekindled my interest in this big, brooding, spicy grape ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ mostly due to the infectious spirit and camaraderie displayed by the SA Shiraz brotherhood, with a few sisters and one or two queens thrown in for good measure.

The thing I find challenging about Shiraz as a wine, is texture. Mouth-feel. Palate-weight. They way it strokes your (oral) pink bits.

I haven’t gobbed a bit of Shiraz under a microscope, but if I did I bet I’d find it to be a far denser bit of juice than a Cabernet or Merlot. This denseness in the mouth causes havoc in the transporting of flavours as the texture of the wine suffocates the sensorial effect of the wines’ inherent taste profile.

Think of soup, for example. The texture of a thin, clear Thai broth makes it easy for flavours to cruise through the soup, ending-up intact when they reach the taster. Coriander and ginger will easily, thus, find their mark.

On the other hand, a thick Germanic pea-soup will not allow the flavours of a decomposed guinea-fowl to pass through it, never mind the perky fresh zest of a sliced green pepper or a bit of truffle oil.

“Thinner” wines, such as Pinot Noir, are ideal at conveying delicate flavours. While a lot can get lost in a dense Shiraz. But Shiraz , if well-made, has an alluring, rich and evocative presence of its own.

Over 80 Shiraz wines found their way to the Shiraz SA tasting, and there wasn’t a hope in hell I was going to get halfway. But after about 10 wines, tasted while considering the bold nature of Shiraz, I hit my straps and by wine 15 I was ready to claim honorary citizenship of some stone-walled town next to a river I think they call the Rh?+¦???+¦?+¦????ne.

Likes about Shiraz: Aforementioned velvety texture that hits all the nice bits your mouth has forgotten it has; the perky pricks of white pepper that moonwalk over the tongue; the smokiness, all sultry and sexy, found in Shiraz wines that have been boldly oaked without causing offence or leaving splinters in your gums; a sudden cool, mineral slant offered by one in every 15 wines, one which shakes out the cobwebs and freshens up the old tasting crevice; the nostalgic aromas of crushed mulberries that jump out at you; smooth and sensually textured wines that would be best enjoyed out of Kate Winslet’s belly-button (although you’d need a Magnum to fill it).

All these, and more, popped up at Shiraz SA. My top three wines – Shiraz that is – come from Eagles’ Nest, Boschkloof and Waterford. Diverse is not the word. Confidently elegant is the Eagles’ Nest; cool and mineral and rocky ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ Boschkloof; Waterford is plush and spicy with an assertive grape of confidence.

A drop in the spread of fantastic Shiraz wines. If this is newly converted, I can’t wait to become seasoned.

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One thought on “A Shiraz Awakening

  1. So a group of producers put their own time and energy into helping the cause of Chenin (without payment of course!) and we get this kind of comment! By all means crtiticize our efforts and offer advice, but why insult us! Is there something I’m missing.
    Tyrrel Myburgh

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