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Wine

Best Shiraz

One of the most popular grapes in the world, Shiraz, which is also spelled Syrah (and is always pronounced "sir-rah") is a full-bodied grape that's used to make fruit-forward wines that typically have bold, jammy flavors. In Australia, where Shiraz is one of the most popular varietals, the warmer climate leads to wines with big fruit flavors, subtle notes of spice and earthy flavors, and plenty of tannins to stand up to decades in the wine cellar. In Rhone, France, and other cooler wine-growing regions, Shiraz tends to have softer flavors, and slightly less body, though these wines still have enough tannins that they age very well.

A good Shiraz should always have enough body to support the variety of flavors in these dark-purple grapes. Light-bodied Shiraz with simple red fruit flavors shows a flaw in the wine and unfortunately, many inexpensive Shiraz wines fall flat because of poor growing conditions or overly watery grapes. When looking for a good Shiraz, you'll want to choose a wine with a complex flavor profile that packs a huge punch of fresh fruit, whether it's fresh blackberry in a cool-climate wine or dark fruit jam in a warm-climate wine. The tannin should be big and bold in a young wine, though markedly softer in a wine that's been given time to age.

d'Arenberg The Footbold Shiraz '11

d'Arenberg The Footbold Shiraz '11

Footbolt may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of great Shiraz, but that's just what d'Arenberg The Footbold Shiraz '11 is. Named after the winery founder's prized racehorse, this wine is produced from old vines that are able to pull a lot of complex flavors from the soil. It's peppery and fruity on the nose, and can seem like it's going to be a relatively light wine at first. After taking a sip, however, you'll find lots of deep, dark fruit on the palate, as well as rich earthy flavors characteristic of old vine wines. It consistently scores in the 90's with professional critics, and is big enough to last a number of years in the cellar. One thing you should note is that this wine is both old vine and unfiltered. Decanting is definitely recommended.

Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz '10

Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz '10

Made by one of Australia's most well-known winemakers, Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz '10 is one of our Best Picks. This wine was grown in the McLaren Vale, a region known for producing some of the country's best wines. This wine has notes of blueberry, spice, and plum, all flavors which work together to create a well-rounded wine representative of the softer Shiraz grown in cooler climates. Though it's medium-bodied and has incredibly soft tannins, this wine still has plenty of structure and is ready to drink now. If you'd like to cellar it for a couple more years, it'll still be at its peak until 2017.

Beso De Vino Selection

Beso De Vino Selection

France may be better known for producing world-class Shiraz, but Spain also makes good use of these grapes. Beso Devino Selection is an excellent representative of an Old World, warm climate Shiraz. The vines are 15 years old, and though they'll continue to evolve rich, earthy flavors as they get up towards 25 years old, they are already producing grapes with great complexity. The nose of this wine has blueberry and cherry. The palate is dense and full-bodied, with lots of big fruit flavors and, thanks to velvety tannins, not a bit of harshness. In order to add to the wine's complexity, its blended with Garnacha, another common Rhone varietal and a favorite grape in Spanish wines. The best thing about this wine may be the price. At $10 a bottle it's an incredible deal.

Taltarni T Series Shiraz '10

Taltarni T Series Shiraz '10

Made of 93% Shiraz, with 4 percent Mourvedre and 3 percent Viognier add for complexity and extra body, Taltarni T Series Shiraz '10 is an excellent wine that retails for lest than $20. Though it hails from Victoria, Australia, from an appellation that's a bit on the warm side, 2010 was a cool year, and the '10 Shiraz shows off many of the softer qualities of Rhone Shiraz. The flavor has plenty of dark fruit, with a subtle undertone of spice that makes this one of the most complex Shiraz for less than $20. The tannins are full but very soft, and the mouthfeel smooth and juicy. Though it has enough body to hold up to a few years in the cellar, this wine is ready to drink right now.

Mitolo Jester Shiraz '11

Mitolo Jester Shiraz '11

Affectionately known as "Baby GAM" by the people at Mitolo Winery, Mitolo Jester Shiraz is an inexpensive Shiraz made by the same people that make the high-end, well respected GAM Shiraz. Jester '11 is a softer wine, grown in an especially cool year that lent this vintage delicate berry flavors that include cranberry and blueberry. Additionally, there are notes of black pepper and oak that help to round this wine out. It's also been aged in oak for 9 months. In fact, once GAM is taken out of the barrels and bottled, Jester moves into the very same barrels, which gives it a little extra structure from the high-end Shiraz that's flavored the oak. This wine will be at its peak from 2015 to 2020.

Calcareous Syrah '10

Calcareous Syrah '10

Australia may be famous for its world class Shiraz, but California also makes a mean bottle of this bold, fruity wine. Our favorite Shiraz is Calcareous Syrah '10, a wine that won not only best Syrah at the San Francisco Chronical Wine Competition, but also took home the trophy for the best red wine overall. This is a truly remarkable wine. It has flavors of mocha, dark berries, and even a touch of smoked bacon thanks to the time it spent in old French oak. The aroma highlights plum and caramel, and the mouthfeel is soft and luxurious, with plenty of tannins to provide structure. There's a hint of spice on the finish, which is very long though not at all harsh. This is a big wine and though it's excellent right now, it won't reach its full potential until at least 2020, and it will probably hold up at least another decade beyond that.

Mitolo "GAM" Shiraz '04

Mitolo "GAM" Shiraz '04

With scores in the mid 90's from professional wine critics, Mitolo "GAM" Shiraz '04 is one wine you won't want to miss. This wine is intense, with aromas of plum, black cherry, and mint, and flavors of blackberry, mocha, and vanilla. The mouthfeel is soft and the finish long, with plenty of tannins to help support this full-bodied wine. Though it's already had a few years of rest in the bottle and is almost perfect right now, a couple more years will see this wine develop even more complex, well-rounded flavors. The '10, which is the winery's current release, is also looking to be an incredible wine, though it will need a little extra time in the wine cellar.

Cornas Les Vieilles Vignes '11

Cornas Les Vieilles Vignes '11

From Rhone, the historic home of the Shiraz grape, Cornas Les Vieilles Vignes '11 is one of our favorite wines. The vines are over 30 years old so they've had time to develop taproots that reach deep into the decomposed granite hillside, pulling lots of earthy minerality from the soil. This wine is fermented in stainless steel, which helps keep the flavors pure, and then aged for 18 to 20 months in old barrels, lending the wine a great deal of complexity and even more earthy flavors from the wood in the barrels. Since it's a cool-weather Shiraz, this is not overly heavy in body. It has aromas of graphite, blackberry, and flowers, and flavors of plum, blackberry, and even a little licorice. It's ready to drink now and will continue to be at its peak for the next 10 years.

L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Syrah '10

L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Syrah '10

L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Syrah '10 is one of the best Shiraz to come out of North American wineries. The grapes are grown in the cool climate of Washington State and the resulting wine has lots of berry flavor, plenty of soft yet structured tannins, and an acidic bite that Shiraz from warmer climates can lack. On the nose, it has notes of black raspberry and oak. The palate is full and luscious, with an intensely fruity flavor that finishes just a touch sweetness. In the glass, this wine is a dark ruby color, which suits it perfectly. This wine is a great choice for anyone who doesn't want to wait around for a Shiraz to mature as it'll be at its peak by the end of 2014.

Lagier Meredith Syrah '11

Lagier Meredith Syrah '11

An award winning wine that consistently scores in the mid to high 90s with critics including Wine Spectator and The Rhone Report, Lagier Meredith Syrah '11 is a superb Shiraz. Though 2011 was a difficult year for California winemakers, the few grapes that did survive the season were the highest quality, leading to incredible wines, even though there turned out to be less of them. The color of this wine is almost on the purple side, which perfectly suits the flavors of dark fruit that predominate on the palate. The nose is slightly perfumed, with a smokey undertone, a little bit of white pepper and lots of ripe plum. The tannins are very soft and smooth, though they don't fall flat in the least. This wine will continue to mature for the next 7 to 10 years.

Crystal Beran
Crystal Beran has spent the past 10 years immersed in the exciting and delicious world of food and drink. She has honed her cooking skills as a baker, a caterer, and a personal chef, and currently spends a good deal of her time training the next generation of young chefs. Her work as a wine steward has helped her to develop a discerning palate and a love of excellent wines from all over the world. Over the years, she has had the good fortune to visit wineries in Northern California, Tanzania, France, and Italy. In her spare time, she brews beer and invents delectable dishes to share with friends, family, and students.
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