Neil Hogan on April 29, 2016 1 Comment Where does shiraz really come from? DNA evidence was finally gathered in 1999 to confirm that shiraz, or to be more accurate, syrah, is actually a hybrid of dureza and modeuse blanche varietals from the French viticulture region of northern Rhône. Even though Shirazi in Iran was believed to be the origin due to its historical record of producing wine in the area for hundreds of years, as well as its name, syrah can now be traced back to as early as 2000 years ago in the French region, surpassing any historical records of shiraz or syrah wine trade by over 1800 years. Even so, no matter the history and the DNA evidence, the shiraz we drink today is nothing like the shiraz of the past from either areas. Iran’s Shirazi wine had been reported to have been white, and France’s syrah was generally medium bodied and not as oaked or long lasting. The shiraz we drink today is very different to that in the past. Southern Australia Wines One of the leading wine producing areas of the southern hemisphere is South Australia where an amazing number of wine growers have collected. Barossa Valley, Limestone Coast, Lofty Rangers, McLaren Vale and more, these areas all compete for the palate of the average Australian. These are the areas where you’ll find the very best shiraz that Australia has to offer. Thick, juicy, succulent, with layers of complexity. From young dry shiraz with high tannin, crushed pepper and berry flavors to the old soft tannin, wet leather and cedar varieties. South Australia has the best. Be wary though. If the bottle says South Eastern Australia, then it is a completely different quality and price point altogether. Wines with this label are usually what we refer to in the industry as “clean skins”. Australians in the know also refer to these lesser releases as “goon” and some of them are not only distributed under simple text based stick-on labels, but also released in silver bags enclosed in boxes, referred to colloquially as Eu de Cardboard. Definitely to be avoided if you’re looking for complexity or a night of wine savoring. Thus, while South Australia has claimed the mantle as the place to go for shiraz, that hasn’t stopped other regions from continuing to compete. Victoria is a great case in point. Many wineries exist in the cooler climate areas that haven’t been taken over by the sprawling city of Melbourne, and the state has been able to hold its own in the competitive areas of shiraz, chardonnay and some lesser known varietals. Viticulture began in Victoria in the 19th century and was actually the place for wine in the 1890s, supplying over half of the wine produced in Australia. While it is now the third largest producer of wines, thanks to South Australia’s massive production, there are still many amazing vineyard regions. Well known wine producing areas include The Yarra Valley, Rutherglen, Heathcote and Great Western. Best’s Great Western Bin No.1 Shiraz One of the most famous wineries is Best’s Wines. Best’s Wines was established in 1866 in the area of Great Western and they celebrated 150 years in 2016. The winery was purchased in 1920 by the Thomson family and has continued to be family-owned ever since, with Viv Thomson being the current vinter. Last year they released vintage 2014 Best’s Great Western Bin No. 1 Shiraz, to celebrate 150 years in 2016. Having tried it recently I have to say it has so many delicious layers and cellaring potential that I highly recommend you put a few aside for 2026! Normally, I do not drink a shiraz so young. Under two years old suggests high tannins with strong berry flavors. I tend to prefer the softer tannins, cedar, tobacco and wet earth characteristics. However, with such a wine history, a bin with a great pedigree, and with the winery having received hundreds of awards, I had to try this 2014 vintage early. I wasn’t disappointed! Savory spices and white pepper nose with a touch of aniseed, nutmeg, clove and mulberries. Some dried herbs as well as fruity notes. There is also a very faint hint of eucalyptus and mint along with old smoky oak. The color of the wine is an attractive deep violet-purple. The texture is lighter, softer and sweeter at the front and drier with strong acidity at the back. Soft, velvety rich, light and smooth with the first sip, the mid palate explodes with flavor, exploring essences of dark chocolate, plum and succulent berries. The back palate enjoys a touch of the old leather and earth, so this wine is developing quite nicely. There is quite a lot of acid but it is balanced so not so overpowering. While the bottle says 14.0%, I have a feeling it is more like 14.5%. Pairing Opportunities While Shiraz is generally enjoyed with hearty meats like grilled steak, this wine deserves some leaner meat styles with less fat. Slow cooked kangaroo or lightly cooked ox tongue would work in its favor, though these pairings will change as the wine ages. A few years later it should be suitable for lamb or venison. Cheddar or blue cheese could also work, though not my preference. This is not yet a wine to be savored with cheese. Rather, this is to be enjoyed with a hearty meal. Again, give it a few years and you’ll be rewarded. And, I would say, cheese pairings would be perfect in about 5 year’s time. Overall this is a young and fruity wine with some interesting secondary characteristics that are ideal for a better class of meat dish with friends. Cap sealed, with a silver and black label, it’s hard to miss. It will definitely reward with cellaring. A very approachable wine. I give it 92 points. Those points will continue to increase with age and I would expect to give it 94 in 2020 and 96 in 2024. Highly recommended. If you’d like to find out more about Best’s Great Western, please visit their website by clicking HERE.