It’s Shiraz, but not as you know it!

wine wankers shiraz week rachel voorhees
Source: @RachelVoorhees on Twitter

I often hear people say “I love Australian Shiraz” but what does that actually mean? There must be a common style of Shiraz that brings people to say what seems to me to be a very general statement even though it is a positive one.

It has been Shiraz Week this week, or as it is on social media… #shirazweek. I’ve noticed that a few lucky North Americans have received beautifully personalized wooden boxes of Australian Shiraz from Wine Australia and these contain mostly South Australian wine (primarily from the Barossa Valley) with the odd non-SA bottle thrown in.

So I’m getting the feeling that “I love Australian Shiraz” often means a love for those big bold but deliciously juicy wines from South Australia (think Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale). These wines can be exceptional but there is so much more to Australian Shiraz, like one of my favourite ‘acquired tastes’… the earthy dusty leathery and savoury Hunter Valley Shiraz.

Then there’s a whole range of cool climate Shiraz and these, quite often, display refined elegant and exquisite characters of spicy floral rolling meadows with bushes of gentle subtle berries. I’ve tasted quite a few exceptionally good cool climate versions lately and it’s these wines I’m going to cover off here.

Moppity Vineyards Hilltops Reserve Shiraz 2013

wine wankers shiraz week moppity reserve shiraz 2013We may as well start with a wine that has been rated as one of Australia’s best Shiraz. This wine won Australia’s Best Shiraz late last year at the 2014 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge. It’s the first time a Shiraz from NSW has won the award in its 21 year history (often it’s the big boldies from South Australia that knock off the trophy). Hilltops is a region that sits on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range in NSW and is about 4 hours drive from Sydney. It’s cold but more importantly it’s quite dry at the end of the growing season.

I had the privilege of tasting this wine the night before the award was announced and it’s a stunner. Displaying the spicy characters often found in cool climate Shiraz, it was a delicious and attractive wine that still let you know it had a tough, strong and bold interior. Extremely complex and very long-lasting in the mouth. Not cheap at $70 but well worth it for a special occasion although give it a couple of years to calm down.

Orange Mountain 1397 Shiraz Viognier 2012

wine wankers shiraz week orange mountain 1397 shiraz viognier 2012This wine comes from Orange, another wine region on the western side of the Great Dividing Range and about 3 hours from Sydney. The “1397” represents the height (in metres) of the largest peak in the area, Mt Canobolas. There’s no higher peak west across the whole of the continent of Australia. It gets very cold in Orange and there’s often the challenges of frost as well as gaining a long enough growing season that is dry. Good vintages lead to exceptional wines but this wine is not from one of those vintages. Still, Terry Dolle has worked magic and created one of the best Shiraz Viogniers I have had.

There’s a trend in cooler Shiraz regions to perfume up the wine by adding a dash of Viognier and this wine has about 5% (co-fermented). It probably doesn’t even need to be on the label but why miss out on this trend? It’s a beautifully fragrant wine that draws you in to discover a lightly peppered spicy wine with lovely berry and dark fruit characters all in more-ish balance. At $42 it’s well worth the money. Oh, and if you visit the winery let Terry know we sent you and if you ask him nicely he might show you around. He’s genuine!

Levantine Hill Syrah 2012, Yarra Valley

wine wankers shiraz week levantine hill syrah 2012The Yarra Valley is only an hour or so north-east of Melbourne in Victoria. This region is known for producing quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and good Aussie bubbles. It also produces some beautifully elegant cool climate Shiraz. Levantine Hill are following a little trend that’s slowly happening in Australia where some wineries are labelling their more elegant and refined premium Shiraz as Syrah. This award-winning wine well and truly makes the grade. It’s very elegant, smooth, soft and refined with well-balanced fruit characters layered over lovely cedar notes and finishing long and complex in the mouth. The 2012 is hard to find now. I’ve also had the 2013 and it too is a great wine. At $80 a bottle it’s a special wine.

Massoni Shiraz 2008, Pyrenees Ranges

wine wankers shiraz week massoni shiraz 2008The Pyrenees is about 2 hours west of Melbourne in a hilly and cool region and is known for producing more intense Shiraz, both in colour and flavour, than a lot of the other cool climate regions. That’s exactly what this wine is by being almost black in colour and displaying intense dark fruit characters that really drive home at the end of each sip. With a bit of age on it the lovely cedar characters are well-integrated into the wine and there’s a lovely savoury background. At $30 per bottle it’s the best value amongst these wines.

Clonakilla O’Riada Shiraz 2007, Canberra District

wine wankers shiraz week clonakilla oriada shiraz 2007Canberra is Australia’s capital city and is a few hours south-west of Sydney. The wine region itself is mostly scattered across the border in NSW but less than an hour out of Canberra. Anyone who has been to Canberra in winter knows how cold it can get and the Shiraz from here displays that climate by producing spicy, soft and smooth wines. Like the Orange Mountain Shiraz above, the O’Riada is co-fermented with a dash of Viognier and is the sibling to a wine regarded as Australia’s best Shiraz Viognier. This O’Riada is a beautiful wine that oozes style and substance. Packing loads of character it keeps you coming back for more. It’s about $40 for the current vintage.

So there you go… cool climate Aussie Shiraz. It’s a more elegant softer style of wine than what most people are used to in Shiraz but clearly by the price points of these wines they aren’t mass-produced everyday drops. Although, you could happily drink them all the time if you’ve got the coin to shake.

Author: Conrad


  1. I became a Shiraz lover a while back. I love good wines from Australia, but the offer here in USA is limited. So I swing back and forth between Italian wines (birth-defect), Australian wines and some unknown wines that I explore at wine tastings. This week I fell in love with a wine called “19 crimes* and if you can get in Australia and will try it one day I would love to know what you think about it. Great Post always

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this. My first AU Shiraz that I completely loved was the Colonial Estate Emigre (2004). It was not predominantly fruit…very balanced between earth, savory, fruit and mineral and I fell in love. I have never been able to find an earthy AU Shiraz again, although I see that most of my purchases have been from the Barossa Valley. We do (in Oregon at least) seem to get a lot of the more fruit forward styles. I will be on the lookout for anything from the Hunter Valley, since your description seems to be similar to my taste preferences but very much appreciate your breaking down the regional differences for us. Do you have any specific vineyard recommendations (again, it’s hard to know what I’ll actually be able to find in the U.S.) from the Hunter Valley? Or any other very earthy/savory wines you’d add to this list?


  3. Recently tried the Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz from the Victoria region while I was doing media coverage at the Vancouver International Wine Festival. That was a treat. Wasn’t a huge fan of the old vines Barossa Shiraz…too jammy for my tastes. But give me a cool climate Aussie Shiraz and I seem to be set. Have you tried the LWSTL, Conrad?


    • Hi Valerie! No, not that particular wine but it is from quite a cool region of Victoria. I’m glad you’ve got a taste for Shiraz beyond the “jammy” South Australian drops. Oh, and that festival looked like a lot of fun! I saw a few photos of you out on social media.


  4. Yeah, it’s a bit frustrating. I work in a winery that is known for Shiraz but I often get a bit of disappointment from people that it doesn’t taste like they perceive Shiraz should taste. That is, it is cool(er) climate with fresh fruit rather than jam and compote. The Canberra district (not where I work) has some of my favourite wines around. Lovely to see you writing about them.


  5. Conrad, let’s not forget the Great Southern Region in WA! Howard Park, Plantagenet, Frankland and our superstar wine maker Larry Cherubino all make terrific cool climate Shiraz. But you are spot on when you say that the Aussie Shiraz’s epicentre is no longer the Barossa. Now as it’s Friday arvo what can I find to drink! A cool climate shiraz, maybe slightly chilled (it’s hot here in Perth today).


  6. If you cant find the Massoni, try Summer Hill Wine Shop, Sydney. They have a good supply and it is $19 in a half dozen buy.


  7. Finally someone has found a map that has the rest of Australia on it and not just the Barossa or Margaret River.
    There are so many regions in Australia that are producing different styles of Shiraz, all great in their own right.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. We are doing a Syrah / Shiraz tasting this week. The Shiraz from Barossa and the region around it are very much representing the varietal from Austraila. After reading your post, maybe we should reach out for cooler climate ones that you described. They all sound too good to be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

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