The Terroirist: Winter Warming Wine
One in a continuing series
It's winter, and as days grow colder (and counterintuitively, longer) a young wine geek's fancy turns to thoughts of heavy, brooding wine. While there are many grapes that can accomplish this feat such as Grenache, Tempranillo, or Malbec, perhaps the grape most well known to Torontonians is the noble French grape Syrah. Syrah, also known as Shiraz in the southern hemisphere is responsible for some of the biggest, most long lived wines around. One need only mention the names of Hermitage (in France) or Grange (in Australia) to conjure up images of inky-black wine, sitting undisturbed in a cellar for decades, waiting for the moment that they are right to drink.
While the name change is purely one of tradition and marketing, there do tend to be differences between the new and old world Syrahs. In the new world Shiraz tends to be very fruit driven, with dollops of cherry, rasbperry, and mint; in the old world Syrah is more reclusive, offering up tones of currant, tar, and black pepper. Syrah was the popular grape de jour of a few years ago (now it seems to be Malbec and Viognier), so there is still a lot of it out there, and its prices have started to level off. Definitely worth a look for a cold winter day.
And now, the recommendations.
Ferngrove Shiraz (Frankland River, Australia) $15.95, 694463
Not all Syrah are made to be cellared for a generation. The Ferngrove Shiraz from Western Australia is one that is ready to drink now; although a few years of rest would make it even better. This Shiraz is a deep ruby-garnet in colour, with a nose of raisins, cinnamon, cedar, vanilla and pepper. The body has a very extracted quality to it, almost reminiscient of a good Amarone, with flavours of dried fruit, tomato, and leather coming to the fore. Very old-world style, but with a distinctively Aussie twist. Perfect with homemade chilli. Absolutely wonderful.
Laurent Miquel Viognier 2004 (Oc, France) $16.95, 673236
Twenty years ago Viognier was nearly exclusively grown in a few small areas in the northern Rhone Valley. In the last five years though, it has rapidly sprung to prominence in vineyards around the world, most notably in France, Australia, and Ontario. This Midi wine is a great example of why Viognier is causing such a fuss. Nearly water white in colour, the nose is forward, with notes of peach, white plums, and apricots. In the mouth, the wine is surprisingly full bodied for a white, with apricot dominating the palate, and floral undertones completing the expression. Drink it soon with a chicken in cream sauce type dish.
Maurice B Mechelany Arak-Al Jouzour (Lebannon) $24.95, 659658
I'll admit it. I was a bit hesitant when this clear, viscous liquid was first poured into my glass. Arak is one of those drinks that you hear horror stories about from people who just got back from the Mid-East. But then I poured some water into it, and watched as it turned a milky white. The scent, full of liquorice, lemon, and allspice was quite plesant to my nose. The palate was similar, if slightly alcoholish - nothing that a bit more water wouldn't cure. This is not something I'd want to drink everyday, but if I've had enough wine for the week, and I've just picked up a falafel or chicken heart sandwich from Sababa on Steeles, this would go wonderfully.
As always, happy drinking and keep your ice in the freezer.
The Terroirist is published fortnightly on Thursdays
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