Monday, June 28, 2010

Can Barossa Shiraz Express Terroir?

The Grape Observer had an interesting post and discussion a couple of weeks ago on the topic of 'Barossa Valley Unsuitable For Shiraz?'. Andrew Jefford, the British wine writer, was quoted with his view that Barossa Shiraz cannot express terroir, because basically the added acidity would nullify the specifics of a particular place. There has been a good discussion with the main views being that you can identify Barossa Shiraz in blind tastings, but that the suppression of natural acidity might not be a good thing.

In this context, I enjoyed reading an article by one of the most intelligent columnists of the Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer, who argued that one should visit the places of the wines one drinks, because the wine makers inject their set of values and reflect their civilization. This reflects their approach to winemaking and how he or she wants the wine to behave. This is why, as we've seen in California, Australia, Chile, Oregon and elsewhere, French winemakers often create different wines than the locals. They bring another set of values, which may not always be appropriate to the grapes they're working with...Wines aren't great simply because of good dirt. Expression of place doesn't just happen spontaneously. A profound wine civilization, which is to say an articulated and insightful set of values, is also required.

This gelled with me, because I found Australian wines made by French winemakers different, but not overly remarkable.

Another interesting guy is Manfred Krankl, the winemaker of cult winery Sine Qua Non, who has this to say: If you wanted to be taken seriously 15 years ago you had to make wines that were kind of French. That's why you have a lot of phony chateaus on California wine labels even though nobody had a chateau... If you want to be true to terroir you have to look at what you've got. We'll never make a Cote-Rotie here. But you try to make the best Central Coast or Napa wine.. Within that context I want to make wines that are inevitably riper and larger scale than their European counterparts, but not obscene.

Well, maybe some of our Barossa Shiraz is obscene, but not all of it. Barossa Shiraz is distinctive, it is big (Australian culture likes 'big'), and I am also convinced that within the Barossa, it can express different sub-regions.

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