In Australia the Syrah grape is known as Shiraz. The warmer temperature and ideal growing conditions allow full ripening and a bold, blockbuster style.
Australia Rocks Shiraz
We are enormous fans of Syrah. Whether it is from the Rhone region or Washington State, it is a grape that delights us with often earthy and brambly flavors. In many New World countries, especially Australia, the grape is called Shiraz. It’s unclear where the name came from. Perhaps it was believed that the grape originated in the Persian city of Shiraz and somehow migrated to France.
Shiraz is an iconic Australian wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon is to Napa Valley. The Shiraz in Australia is bursting with berry rich flavor, whereas Syrah in other countries can be bottled with heavy tannins. If you, like me in days past, had a mental image of Australian Shiraz as being a sweeter red wine – it’s time to make that thought go “poof.” We explored a pair of Shiraz from Down Under during a recent Wine Studio online learning program.
Two Hands Winery was founded in 1999 by Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz. Today, Two Hands is owned by Michael, together with Colorado native Tim Hower. The goal then and now is to make the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized growing regions throughout Australia. Determined to be different than the formulaic style of Shiraz sold internationally, Two Hands turned the focus on spotlighting the regional and vineyard characteristics. In short, they are focused on the fruit.
Two Hands has several wine ranges. The Flagship is their top tier, with a strict classification process that only allows the use of the best barrels of wine in production. The Garden Series is a super premium range from six of the finest Shiraz growing regions in Australia. In addition to the Single Vineyard series, the Picture Series is the point of entry with unique and regionally distinctive wines.
We explored two bottles from the Picture Series paired with handcrafted pizzas.
A hallmark of the Picture Series is the irreverent attitude. The two wines we sampled were Angel’s Share and Gnarly Dudes. The Cabernet is dubbed Sexy Beast.
Angel’s Share refers to the small amount of wine that evaporates from oak barrels during aging. Medieval winemakers assumed that angels were watching the process and they took their share. Luckily they left enough for us to enjoy with our pepperoni, green pepper and Colby cheese pizza.
Angel’s Share is from the famed McLaren Vale appellation. In the glass, the wine is dark red with a purple edge. This is a vibrant wine that bursts upon the palate. On the tongue there are deep cherry flavor notes. There is also an herbal aspect to the wine punctuated with notes of spice.
The wine is aged for 12 months in a combination French and American oak. The ABV is 14.5%, but this is a beautifully balanced wine with no feeling of extra “heat.” It retails for about $42.
Green Dragon cooked up two other gourmet pizzas, a thin crust barbeque chicken and spinach pizza and a basil, tomato, feta Mediterranean pizza. Clearly we needed more Shiraz!
Gnarly Dudes was inspired by the Cohen Brothers movie The Big Lebowski and is also named for the gnarly old Shiraz vines used. The grapes are from Barossa Valley, Australia’s most famous wine region. In the glass, as you can see in the above photo, the Dude is a much darker purple. While the Angel’s Share was all about red fruit and herbs, the Gnarly Dudes is rich and plush with deep blackberry flavors. This is a refined and integrated wine.
The aging is done for 12 months with 15% in new French oak and the remainder in one to six-year-old French oak barrels. The alcohol is 13.5%. Not only did the Dude stand up to a spicy pizza, it had great length –with a finish that lingered mightily. This wine retails for about $32.
From the first sip, the care that went into the growing of the fruit and the winemaking are evident. Both Shiraz are solid enjoyment from the word “go.” They are available in the US and can be found online.
Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.