The minute the chilly weather sets in, our natural inclination is to reach for a bottle of red. But how do you decide which wine and which type to drink?
Shiraz is the perfect variety to get you started. It’s spicy and a little smokey, with lots of dark and brooding fruit flavours and just begs for a crackling fire and some comfort food. It’s a style that’s growing in popularity because of its versatility – it pairs well with almost all types of food and is suited to most occasions. It’s important to note that Syrah (pronounced “suh-rah”) and Shiraz are the same thing: Syrah being the French word. Many people put it on the label to denote that the wine is made in a French style, but some people use the term just because they think it sounds good (which it does).
Here are a few examples of different style of Shiraz you might enjoy – you’re guaranteed to find one you like:
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah: Marc Kent, the master Shiraz maker from this Franschhoek farm put this wine on the map. It’s now almost impossible to get your hands on it, but if you do see it, even though it is pricey, do try a bottle. The grapes come from Wellington and have a very particular aroma of violet, plum, spice and pine needles. This wine is usually one of the most highly rated Shiraz in SA, receiving either 41/2 or 5 stars in Platter’s Wine Guide.
Black Pearl Wines’ The Mischief Maker Shiraz is made by the dynamic Mary-Lou Nash on her farm in Paarl. She was on the short-list to win “Winemaker of the Year” last year for her red blend and her Shiraz is just as good. This one she secretly blends with a small amount of Mourvèdre (only amounts over 15% need to be declared) to make it really juicy and luscious. This is a full-bodied and rich style.
Cederberg prides itself on having some of the most elevated vineyards in SA, at 1 000m above sea level. With the elevation comes cooler climates, which produce excellent fruit flavours. David Nieuwoudt’s name is whispered in wine circles for the excellence he produces and his Cederberg Private Cellar Shiraz is no exception. This Shiraz is spicy with fresh red fruit flavours.
Eagles’ Nest Shiraz, once acclaimed as the best Shiraz in the world after winning the top Shiraz trophy at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, comes from the slopes of the Constantia hills. The cooler climate makes for a very delicate variety which has black pepper and fynbos on the nose. It’s an elegant and feminine Shiraz.
It’s worth looking at the different styles of Shiraz from different climates. You’ll find your preferences, as well as learn a lot. But, best of all, you’ll drink some fantastic wines.
Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright is a cape wine master and wine consultant.