I recently had an interesting conversation with Jeremy of the newly reborn Wine Will Eat Itself 2 (The Main Course) about the use of whole bunches in a particular Grampians Shiraz we were tasting together. I reacted very strongly, negatively, to the way the wine was made, because I felt the stalks intruded on the character of the fruit in a distractingly unsympathetic way. Just as some flavours naturally go together, this wine showed me that some flavours don’t, or at least that they should be handled sensitively, subtly, to enhance the overall flavour profile of the wine.
This wine reminds me of that conversation, not because it has an obvious whole bunch influence, but because it shows the clear influence of another component that has become so much more common in Australian Shiraz over the past ten years: Viognier. To my palate, Viognier can be a seductively positive component in many Shirazes, adding perfume and texture and whole layers of additional complexity. Tip it over the edge, though; and there are a few ways in which winemakers seem to have managed to do this; and it can utterly ruin a wine, cheapening its flavour profile and adding an unattractive gloss to its texture. This wine really treads on the edge for me, and ultimately tips over to the dark side. To be clear, it’s completely well made and, as these things go, a damn good drink.
The nose shows earthy, savoury Shiraz characters alongside a bit of dusty chocolate and perhaps some mint. It’s meaty and a bit peppery and all sorts of good things. Rising above it is a nice floral lilt, brightening the aroma profile and adding a sweetness to it that would be entirely positive if it didn’t, each time I smell it, seem a step apart from the earthy savouriness the wine otherwise displays.
The palate is a bit more clearcut; I simply don’t like the way its mouthfeel is smoothed out and pumped up, though I admit that it’s superbly glossy at the same time. This is where personal preference plays so much into wine appreciation; for me, the incredibly seductive savoury rusticity of the Shiraz fruit ought to be the feature here. And it is, or at least tries to be, but is consistently shoved aside by that damned Viognier, all pretty and siliconed up, smoothing away any rough edges and masking what is, for me, the very centre of attraction of this wine.
I’d be curious to taste this with others, as I suspect it would be tremendously popular with a lot of people. It’s flavoursome, clean, texturally slick and just plain generous. Alas, though, the style just isn’t for me.