January 28, 2012

Morse Code Shiraz

You probably know Australian Shiraz. You may even have a bucketful of it kicking around somewhere just in case someone drops by with an armload of bacon cheeseburgers or you want to demonstrate to a friend what it was like to get hit in the face with a fruit pie when you went to clown school.

Cheap, plentiful and easy to drink but usually lacking in character, complexity or any sense of place beyond "Wine Lake, Australia". What a nice surprise to find a bottle with a flavour profile that over-shoots its low-end price tag.

Morse Code Shiraz
Henry's Drive
Padthaway, Australia
$14 in BC

A slick, eye-catching label on a $14 wine is usually a sign that more money went to the graphic designer than to the grower or wine-maker. But we decided to give it a try based on some tasting notes we read in the store.

When we found that this company also makes Pillar Box our hopes rose, since Pillar Box has a similarly bold, stripped-down label wrapped around a delicious value-packed wine.

The nose had the kind of power that might be expected, but was in no way just a poke in the eye with a fruit pie. Along with blackberry there were more complex aromas of tar, spice, Christmas cake, graphite, mint, eucalyptus and peppercorns. The eucalyptus was particularly interesting, since we were taught to look for it in wines from other South Australian areas quite near Padthaway: Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.

The palate matched nicely, with concentrated black fruit, cooked plum, spice and Christmas cake flavours. The scores were "medium/medium-plus" across the board for acids, tannin, fruit and finish. We were impressed by the balance, which belied a high alcohol level, and how the fruit-and-spice flavours were uncluttered by oak characteristics.

The wine kept its balance nicely over 60+ minutes of drinking time, not falling apart or turning flabby in the slightest. In fact, the nose developed wonderful complexity over that time.

We drank it with big bowls of garlicky mabodofu, which matched very nicely indeed.

For a very different take on this wine, take a look at this dismissive review by a man in a tuxedo. He tasted the 2008 vintage, although I doubt there is much vintage difference in a "product" wine like this.

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