Big Wines with a Light Touch


If your taste in wine runs to full and fruity reds then perhaps you should look out for Shiraz. The dark red grapes that make Shiraz (SHEE-raz) originally became famous in France, or to be more exact the northern parts of the Rhône Valley where they’re known as Syrah (see-RAH). The biggest, fruitiest Shiraz wines tend to come from Australia where the grapes have become a huge favourite among winemakers. They’re relatively easy to grow too and they can produce many styles of wine ranging from fruity easy-drinkers to richer, more concentrated wines resplendent with dense flavours of red and black berries, violet, pepper and spices.

Wines made from the Shiraz grape are invariably rather full-bodied. And just in case you’re new to these things, perhaps I should mention that the “body” of a wine refers to the texture and “weight” of the wine in the mouth. Full bodied wines tend to feel rather more viscous, in the same way that full-cream milk feels “thicker” in the mouth than non-fat milk. Full bodied wines get their weighty quality in three ways; through higher residual sugar content, higher alcohol and lower acidity. Actually, alcohol content is the primary contributor to the body of a wine, which it why high levels of alcohol are found in many wines today, in order to meet perceived consumer demands for heavier, fruitier products. Although big fruity Shiraz wines tend to be dry, they often have sweetish overtones because of the low acidity and they may also be oaked to infuse them with secondary aromas and flavours. Some grape varieties contain more sugar than others, which leads to higher residual sugar content and of course, more alcohol.

Winemaker John QuarisaWinemaker John Quarisa

But you know, full-bodied wines don’t have to hit you in the face like a sack of cherries. Some of the better quality full-bodied wines can also have a beguiling lightness of touch and gentleness to their character. This week I’ve found two such wines that might interest you. They’re available at Wine Connection which incidentally, opened a new branch in Jomtien some time ago, fairly close to Pattaya Provincial Court.

30 Mile Shiraz 2012 (red), Australia (Bt. 590 @ Wine Connection)

This wine is a rich, dark crimson with hints of purple and a slightly oily appearance, which always seems to me a good sign. The aroma is quite complex with rich black cherries, spices and fresh pepper which will probably come through first. If you concentrate you might pick up wine gums and raspberry jam. I thought I could detect a whiff of licorice too. Open the bottle about half an hour in advance, so that the wine has a chance to reveal its aromatic secrets.

The wine was made by the lively and enthusiastic John Quarisa who has consistently been recognised for his winemaking skills for over twenty years. He has received some of Australia’s top wine honours. He’s made wines for some of Australia’s largest and most well-known brands and developed a reputation as a committed, quality winemaker who knows how to make a wine that people will enjoy drinking.

The wine showed every sign of being a super-powerful Shiraz and I was expecting it to hit the palette like a torpedo. To my surprise and delight, even though it’s full-bodied it has a lovely gentle touch. The wine is very dry of course but it has a soft, almost silky mouth-feel and a satisfying smooth foundation of tannin with beautifully balanced fruit flavours. There’s a long, soft and satisfying dry cherry finish too. This is a real beauty, no doubt about it. If you like a big, bold and luscious Australian Shiraz with over 14% alcohol content, give this a try. You will not be disappointed.  Neither were the wine professionals, for it has already won several prestigious awards. Try it with grilled red meat or bring it out for that special barbeque.

Rook’s Lane Shiraz 2013 (red), Australia (Bt. 549 @Wine Connection)

Rook’s Lane wines hail from the Murray Darling wine region in New South Wales, a state on the East Coast of Australia. This vast area is named after its two major rivers, the Murray and the Darling. The wine is dark red and looks inviting with a concentrated, sweet aroma of ripe black fruits, especially black cherries, blackberries, herbs, mint and a faint reminder of chocolate. A little later in the smelling session (for mine are always rather prolonged) the characteristic spicy and peppery Shiraz aromas come through as well as a hint of vanilla. If all this sounds a bit fanciful, these aromas are quite common for Shiraz. It’s a complex aroma considering the price of the wine, and smells a good deal more expensive than it actually is.

There’s a very smooth mouth-feel and the flavour is packed with fruit, giving it a sense of sweetness. It also has an attractive dash of acidity and a framework of soft tannins which help to give the wine a sense of balance. It’s a medium bodied wine and there’s a persistent fruity and herb-like finish. In many ways it’s a really well-crafted wine with a touch of elegance. One Australian reviewer wrote, “Dollar for dollar, this is as good as it gets…the nose is all ripe berries, black cherries, vanilla and spice…flavours are rich and juicy and there is a nice savoury aftertaste to the proceedings.”

At 13.5% ABV this seems to me something of a food wine and I’d be happy to drink this with my very successful oven-baked lasagna, which is becoming a favourite of the dogs. It would go a treat with dishes like roast beef or roasted rack of lamb. Although I prefer Italian wines with pizza, this Shiraz was perfect with a home-made pizza turbo-charged with capers, spicy salami and bits of those hot little red Thai peppers. Incidentally, one of the wine-trade websites claims that this wine also has the aroma of mulberries, but quite honestly I really can’t remember what a mulberry smells like.