Diversity of McLaren Vale Shiraz
Known for its smooth texture and intense berry flavour, Shiraz has long been McLaren Vale’s most well-known signature variety.
The diverse soil types, microclimates and winemaking techniques of our region means that McLaren Vale Shiraz cannot be typified by a singular style, but rather each Shiraz is an individual expression of terroir, style and the expertise of its winemaker.
A variety that can shine in many forms, we’ve delved into the different styles of Shiraz that can be found in the McLaren Vale Wine Region:
When picked early to retain acidity, the rich flavours associated with Shiraz can be harnessed to create vibrant examples of Rosé that typically offer a fuller mouthfeel compared to Rosé made from other grape varieties.
Shadow Creek showcases Shiraz in their Kinky Alpaca Shiraz Rosé:
“Our Shadow Creek shiraz vines were established in 1998 in the foothills of McLaren Vale. The rich red gum country the vineyard occupies is on the side of Willunga escarpment and 55–60 metres above sea level. The climate is cool and breezy at night but the shiraz is well exposed to the ripening sunshine through the latter part of the day. We support natural, sustainable farming with a focus on improving the land and manage the vineyard with organic principles. This ethos follows into our winemaking. With minimal intervention, the winemaking quietly transforms excellent fruit into drinkable wine that speaks of its terroir.
Our Kinky Alpaca Shiraz Rosé is dry in style, is fine and long and supported by fresh berry fruits and spice balanced with great vibrancy and acid length… It’s perfect for enjoying with seafood and grazing plates while lazing away the day.” ~ Shadow Creek
Shiraz grapes have been used to produce ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ in Australia since 1881. Unlike white sparkling wine, Sparkling Shiraz undergoes oak maturation to enhance the complexity and richness associated with Shiraz. Served chilled, the distinctive heady, rich and fruitful flavour of Sparkling Shiraz makes it a traditional favourite at Christmas celebrations across South Australia.
‘The Battle Axe’ by Mr Riggs is one example of how McLaren Vale Shiraz lends itself well to Sparkling styles of wine:
“The Battle Axe is a blend of premium vineyards from all around McLaren Vale. The best barrels are held back from each vintage and blended into the base mix of the Battle Axe. I do this to ensure we have a high-quality wine with lots of age behind it to avoid a confectionary fruit texture that younger wine can bring when making a sparkling shiraz. Just before bottling, we introduce a little bit of our Fortified Shiraz (Vintage Port) using the Charmat method to create a secondary fermentation. The use of the fortified shiraz in conjunction with the old shiraz wine, gives a serious and velvety texture with the appearance of sweetness without actually being sweet.
I love the taste, texture, feel and colour that Shiraz brings. It has body and feel enough to resemble a still shiraz but enough flavour to remain rich and powerful with the bubbles running through the wine. I think McLaren Vale produces world class Shiraz and I am always excited to produce a fun, delicious and quintessentially Australian expression through the use of some amazing vineyards.
It is a style of sparkling shiraz that is soft yet complex, and chilling it brings out the natural sweetness from the vintage Fortified Shiraz. It is the perfect aperitif, and well matched to a Charcuterie board.” ~ Ben Riggs, Mr Riggs
LIGHT TO MEDIUM-BODIED STYLE SHIRAZ
Fresh, primary fruit-forward styles of Shiraz are increasingly being produced throughout the McLaren Vale Wine Region. This winemaking style is typified by minimal intervention, both in the vineyard and in the winery, with the aim of showcasing the varietal characters of Shiraz and the influence of terroir.
The use of innovative winemaking techniques in this style builds texture and complexity. Often little-to-no new oak is used, with the wine commonly matured in large old oak vessels to produce an approachable, lighter style of Shiraz.
Cooter & Cooter’s Shiraz, winner of 4 trophies at the 2022 McLaren Vale Wine Show, is one example of this newer winemaking style of McLaren Vale Shiraz:
“Our estate grown Cooter & Cooter Shiraz hails from Whites Valley, on the boundary of the Willunga and Sellicks Foothills. The soil geology consists of an arrangement of red brown alluvial fan clays, sands and gravels. The vineyard is on a sustainable agriculture journey to minimise environmental impacts and inputs. It is a certified member of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia and certified (in-conversion) organic and biodynamic.
Various techniques in the winery were utilised to reveal the texture and build complexity, such as whole bunch and whole berry fermentation. The wine was fermented with indigenous yeast in open-top fermenters, then gently pressed into seasoned puncheons (100% 4-year-old French oak), then matured for a further 8 months.
The resulting wine speaks entirely of the site in the Willunga foothills and its proximity to Gulf St Vincent (5.5km as the crow flies). Consumers can expect a bright, pure fruited expression of McLaren Vale Shiraz with lovely fine tannin. It would pair beautifully with a rich pasta dish, such as with truffles and mushrooms, or an array of barbequed meats.
Our intention is to create refined wines with drinkability. We love to drink bright, fruit-driven reds with a bit of texture, so we strive to make wines that embody this.” ~ Cooter & Cooter
FULL-BODIED STYLE SHIRAZ
Full-bodied styles of McLaren Vale Shiraz commonly exhibit bold, complex flavours through wines with structure and smooth velvety mouthfeel.
Mollydooker is a family owned and operated winery in McLaren Vale led by celebrated winemaker Sarah Marquis. Mollydooker is known for challenging traditional winemaking with their quirky labels and left-handed tales, and for their passion is for bold expressions of McLaren Vale Shiraz.
“Across the world, Mollydooker is best known for their unique expression of the quintessential McLaren Vale Shiraz. Mollydooker produces five different Shirazes which account for almost 70% of their total production each vintage. Big, bold, fruit-forward wines bursting with flavour and personality at every sip, Mollydooker’s Shirazes are the highest expression of their innovative growing and winemaking techniques, and the typical characteristics of the McLaren Vale region.
Intense in colour, flavour and aroma, our 2021 Carnival of Love Shiraz captivates the palate from the first sip. Powerful yet delicate, lifted aromas of red cherry, blackberry and Turkish evolve, while subtle hints of mocha linger. Infectious chocolate cherry, fresh plum and liquorice add to the complexity, while creating a seamless structure and lingering finish.
The Carnival of Love pairs beautifully with a good piece of rib eye steak and garden vegetables. Of course, it’s also amazing on it’s own.” ~ Mollydooker
From the mid-1920s until the late-1960s, Shiraz grapes from the McLaren Vale Wine Region were predominantly used to make fortified wines, to suit consumer tastes at the time.
Shiraz could be blended with other grape varieties to create tawny-style fortified wines, or made into single-variety Fortified Shiraz. Sweeter and higher in alcohol than its table wine equivalent, Fortified Shiraz is produced by adding small amounts of spirit - usually brandy - to partially fermented Shiraz grapes to stop the fermentation process and capture the luscious fruit sweetness.
Although today the McLaren Vale Wine Region is best known for producing fine table wines, these historical fortified wines – made largely from old vine Shiraz - can still be found at a number of the region’s oldest wineries.
Patritti was founded in 1926 by Giovanni Patritti and is Adelaide’s only remaining 100% family owned, fully operational urban winery. Each year Patritti produces a Vintage Fortified Shiraz from their Blewitt Springs Vineyard:
“McLaren Vale is famous for producing rich varietal Shiraz, perfect for making a fortified wine. A small parcel of premium fruit was selected to make this single vintage wine, a tribute to both the old vines that produce our McLaren Vale fruit and 95 years of continuous winemaking at Patritti.
This vintage fortified was made from family grown, old vine Shiraz in the Blewitt Springs area of the McLaren Vale wine region. Partially fermented in open fermenters, the wine was fortified using a blend of spirits then matured in seasoned French oak puncheons for 18 months. After blending and bottling the wine was aged in our historic cellars before release.
Dark red in colour, the wine shows an abundance of dark chocolate and plum cake aromas. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is more dark chocolate, rich plum and spice. The fortifying spirit is clean and well balanced, keeping the sweetness in check. This wine will continue to develop and gain complexity as it ages. Drink now or cellar for 10+ years.
Our 2018 Vintage Fortified Shiraz is perfect with an after-dinner cheeseboard with some bold flavoured cheeses like Pecorino or Parmesan. Add your fruit paste of choice and some crackers, always best shared with friends.” ~ Patritti Wines