Ask a Sommelier: Shiraz

Q: I love big fruity Australian Shiraz but I would like to try something new. Is there a particular country or grape variety that I should try next to ease me into uncharted territory? There are so many choices out there and I don’t want something too far from what I know I like.

A: I completely understand how you feel. It can be overwhelming to walk the aisles of the wine store and stare at the labels of all these wines that you don’t know. If you are going to lay down your dollars for a bottle of wine, you want to know that you will enjoy it. Given your current preference, here are some suggestions.

First, stay in the New World (anywhere but Europe, where Shiraz is known more commonly as Syrah) and stick to warm-climate wines that will have softer tannins. If you want to keep very close to your comfort zone, you could stay in Australia but try some of the blends. Just adding a second varietal, like a Cabernet blended with Shiraz, might be enough of a change to start. From Australia we recommend Some Young Punks Passion Has Red Lips; and if you want to stray a bit from Australia, try Heron Ridge The Flight from South Africa.

If you want to travel a little further, I would recommend starting in California. Check out some of the Zinfandel-based blends, like Grey Wolf Cellars Zinful Zinfandel Cabernet, which has big fruit qualities and delivers that great punch that Aussie Shiraz can give you. Another option would be Argentinean Malbec, like Zorzal Malbec. These wines are rich and fruit-forward with gentle tannins that don’t dry out your mouth. And remember, your local wine expert is always around to help. We are always looking for a good excuse to talk wine!

–Saralyn Mehta, Banville & Jones Wine Co.

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