Shiraz, the Large and Small of It

Thorn-Clarke, Terra-Barossa Shiraz, 2009

I have a friend who knows a lot about wine.  She’s a certified wine specialist, she studies wine, works with wine, and has tasted many wines.  Whenever I ask her advice on a wine selection, without fail, she guides me toward the small winery wines.  This is especially true with imported wines.  Her feeling is that larger wineries, while often producing very good, consistent wines, are lacking in character.  Their wines are too consistent which makes them uninteresting.  I suppose that’s true for people who know a lot about wines.  I’m still learning about them.  I haven’t, yet, mastered what a Shiraz should taste like.  Because of this, I feel ill equipped to appreciate the nuances of a Shiraz with character.

The top wine producer in Australia is, not surprisingly, a multi-winery corporation, Foster’s Wine Estates.  They own Penfolds and Lindeman’s among others.  Penfold’s has garnered awards from professionals.  Lindeman’s is consistently solid and affordable.  Being owned by a large corporation hasn’t hurt the quality of the wines.  I think it’s fair to say, it has cemented the consistency of the wines.

Thorn-Clarke is a family owned winery in the Barossa region of Australia.  While it’s not a small winery, neither is it in the top 20 of Australian wine producers.  The Barossa region is known for its Shiraz-friendly climate.  When I tried the Thorn-Clarke, Terra-Barossa, 2009 Shiraz last night, it was easy to appreciate the wine’s earthy nose, with a beautiful, vibrant, dark cherry flavor and just a hint of kalamata olive in the back of my throat.  The black cherry flavor is typical for an Australian Shiraz.  If I had let the wine age a little longer, it would have taken on more chocolate and anise flavors that I have detected in Yellow Tail, Penfold’s, and Lindeman’s Shiraz.  Each of these wines displays the qualities of the Shiraz grape, yet each wine tastes a little different from the others.  I can’t say that the smaller winery wine is better or not as good as the big, corporate winery wine.  To me having so many different interpretations of the same grape is what makes wine interesting.

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