Sheer arse in the Barossa: continued

I say potae-to and tomah-to. I also say shiraz. I don't really see the need for the posh 'shirah-z'. When it comes down to it though, shiraz or shirahz are both just sheer arse. Who cares how you say it? That which we call a rosé by any other name would smell as sweet.

Enough with these frantic semantics though- it's wine time.

Continuing from here, where we'd entered the Barossa and found a lovely spicy shiraz at Gibson:

Next stop is Kabminye. Before you can meet any of the wines, you need to meet Ron. He used to be an architect, then left all that behind and started a winery a few years ago. The building is glorious (he designed it himself), full of air and light, and quite at ease among the vineyards. Ron walks out from the kitchen- his hands are the size of dinner plates, and his girth takes up the majority of the space behind the counter. He looks like he could make wine just by staring at the grapes hard enough. Unlike Gibson, the shiraz here is hidden among a magnificent list of frontignac, grenache, pinot, and one of the rare zinfandels in the valley. Wine must be strongly genetic, because all his take after him- without fail, every bottle is a serious affair. You wont find anything nuanced or gentle here- it's WINE, fool, drink it! The flavours are huge, the alcohol is huge, and the tasting amounts follow the trend (which is dangerous for the desi). The shiraz though- where Gibson kicks off with the spices, Kabminye follows up with the dark, decadent richness of plums and blackcurrants. The spice is still there, but it sparks the front of the tongue for only a moment before the warmth of the fruit rolls over to the middle of the palate. Things are beginning to balance. We've got a winning first act, and Kabminye delivers the bulk of the plot, but the story needs a conclusion.

It's not too far though- Turkey Flat is just around a corner or two. The cellar hand here is actually engaged to Ron's daughter, so if he wasn't already guaranteed a life of delicious wine, he certainly is now. You enter Turkey Flat through a flimsy screen door that rests like a drunkard on its one workable hinge. The list here is shorter, but has a much higher signal to noise ratio- you'd be hard pressed to find something you don't like. Their shiraz is an elegant, refined wine to Kabminye's uncouth brashness and Gibson's juvenile energy. The pepper you tasted at Gibson is still there, and it melds seamlessly into the juicy, succulent plumminess that you found at Kabminye. Turkey Flat takes this a step further though- the note of spice in the opening bar finds its harmony with the rich fruit that comes next, and both of these are then reinforced and sustained when the tannin comes in with its lower register. The surprise here is how the flavour stays, swells, develops, and recedes long after the wine has been swallowed. The dry, smoky tannins pull this orchestration together and show you how the whole ensemble has a chance to live for decades. This is Barossa. This is shiraz. This is how (time for
capitals) it's Meant To Be.

And just when you've found your masticatory mecca, you'll stumble onto Two Hands. It's not that the shiraz here is better, per se, it's just that you can see how much can be done with it. Two Hands pride themselves on their shiraz list (and rightly so)- they have twelve different straight shiraz wines, not counting their several shiraz blends. Three of these are from the Barossa, the rest all highlight the strengths of their particular wine region (Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Langhorne Creek, etc). The lovely thing here is that each of these wines is unique, each has its own character. The Barossa Valley sets the benchmark for what a shiraz should aim to be, but even within that goal there are infinite variations.

Which one suits you best? Do you want it to knock you for six with each sip, or would you prefer the flavour to creep up on you from behind? Should the biteyness be strong enough to counter the juiciest steak, or would you rather it be so gentle that it could accompany a pan-seared salmon? Do you want to drink it now? Or in twenty years? There are a lot of decisions to be made here. Fortunately, as those followers of Moore's Law would agree, it is a task that is central to the enjoyment of life itself. Go forth, and multi-buy.

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