Saturday, October 9, 2010

Nugan Estate Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia

To my European cousins, it is challenging to understand settling a land; plowing, tilling, clearing, building, suffering. To my Australian friends and colleagues, it is simply a fundamental part of being Australian, much like being Canadian.

     McLaren Vale, Australia, was first surveyed by a European in 1839 by John McLaren. The men working for him were so impressed by the valley (so the story goes) that they instantly voted to name it for their intrepid leader. And so began the arduous journey to build a new home.

     As I said, I know people in Europe whose family homes are that old, or older.

     I find myself, now that I am about to move into my first home, having a greater respect and affinity for these brave souls who risked so much. It is easy, I think, to stay with what is safe and comfortable, even if the comfort is cold... but when I think of the new winemakers in BC, Oregon, Australia, who walk away from their "safe" worlds of banking and lawyering and restauranteuring, to till the soil, and bring a winery to life; I am inspired. As well I should be.

     And so I propose raising a glass, to bravery everywhere, in every action. Being polite when we are tired, to me, is a small bravery that makes the world a better place. How will I choose to be brave today?

2008 Nugan Estate Shiraz, McLaren Vale
McLaren Parish Vineyard, NSW, Australia
15%, $25 CAN (BCLB) Very Good Value
  • visual: deep plummy garnet centre with light cherry rim, no orange or brick tones, very viscous
  • nose: slightly hot alcohol opens the nose with bright red berries & fruit (cherries, currants) followed by old leathery oak & baked earth, the end notes are tinged with something floral I cannot name
  • palate: moderate+ (bright red berry) acids, moderate+ (slightly chalky) tannins, moderate++ intense flavors mimicking well the nose; red currants burst on the tongue, followed closely by the very heavy oak notes and finishing with a return to the currants and a slow release of what must be pure terroir (that baked earthy goodness) with the indefatigable pepper
  • PAIRING: acids like this demand fat of some kind, in my opinion, grilled meat is best. Use this wine for your ribeyes. The char from the grill will accentuate terroir notes, the pepper in the wine plays off of the beef and ribeyes have a great amount of fat (without gristle or sinew) which will soften the acids.
I would, of course, also reccomend decanting for an hour or longer. The first 5 minutes in the decanter barely allowed the wine time to stretch its legs, and by 30 minutes the wine was beginning to warm to the idea of being consumed. After an hour, the aroma was starting to stretch throughout the room, and my wife was asking for more pasta Bolognese.

Was this what the pioneers had in mind when they settled the McLaren Vale 170 years ago? Yes, I believe it was. When I talk with modern winemakers, about the joy they find in their work, the inevitably respond something like:

     "My greatest joy, in winemaking, is knowing that someone truly appreciates what I do... that for a few moments in someone's day, they sat with their wife, or husband, or their dog, or a good cigar/book/movie and they savored. They savored that moment, with my wine."

CIN CIN Vinificatore!!  SLAINTE Bean an ShilĂ©ir !!

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