Sheer arse in the Barossa.

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.

In bridge, it's considered prudent to lead with your winners. Get the trumps out, play your aces, then you can jostle for the scraps. With that in mind, there is no better wine to start with than a Barossa shiraz.

The Barossa Valley is about an hour's drive north of Adelaide. About four hundred million years ago, the Delemarian Orogeny built a serious series of mountains that have now come to be known as the Adelaide Hills. In an inspired moment, the Barossa Valley was thrown in. A relatively small drainage depression between the moutains and the coast, it is close enough to the ranges to receive the rich erosional soils and sands, but close enough to the coast to rely upon a bit of natural AC. If one believed in Intelligent Design, then this would be your cornerstone: surely such a perfect shiraz growing region is the result of a supreme being?

Holy history or not, the Barossa is hot for shiraz. They were made for each other. Together, they make wine that defines what a shiraz should be. Other regions can try, and some do a great job. Coonawarra makes a soft and subtle shiraz, very demure and rounded. The Adelaide Hills give it a good shot and generate some warm, rich, heady bottles. Even for those who prefer these variations, they are still judged in comparison to the Barossa.

The best place to start your education is Gibson. Walk in the door and you'll be greeted by... no one. Wait a moment, and a scruffy lad in flannellette will follow you in from behind. He's got dirt on his hands, sun in his eyes, and cares not for the mud his scuffed boots track in to the cellar door. He'll show you their whites happily enough, and lead you through the reds, but there's clearly a goal here. The shiraz is where it's at. They release them young here, only a year or two old, so the wine's still growing into its boots. It can be a tad awkward, not yet used to civilised company, but it clearly shows its pedigree. The Gibson shiraz is big, bold, and boistrous. It's yummy. Your mouth fills with spice and pepper, but the flavour is gone as soon as the wine is. It's time to move on.

I mean that literally- it's time for you to move on. I've got to head off, so you may as well too. The rest of the Barossa shall have to be covered in a day or two.

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