Shiraz, Syrah, Rioja, Wine Advice: Le Sommelier International Answers Your Questions

Our resident sommelier, Julius P. Johnson IV, answers your questions on wine as part of our monthly series…

I’m looking for a good wine that I can buy by the case, so I’ve always got something really drinkable on hand. I don’t want to spend more then $20 a bottle. Can you help?

But of course! That’s one of my favorite categories: the mass quantity drinkablenobility. Instead of benchmarking bottle cost, let’s talk case price (12bottle bushels) – at 60bucks I just found a new favorite friend from Australia… Kirralaa Bushvine Shiraz (pronounced with a salty-Oz accent “shee-RAZ”)

This is a warm n’ hearty red wine from the Syrah grape (same one found in California and famed in the Rhone wines), mashed and fermented to produce a liquid flavor that splashes in the mouth of blackberry, currant and my favorite…pepper (v’02). The nose has hints of lavender – but who cares about the nose you’re supposed to put it in your mouth fool! Ok, so if you haven’t guessed already – you can find this gem at Trader Joe’s. You’ve heard of “Two-Buck-Chuck”, ya? Well consider this the “Five dollar Larry” – because, as the Aussies put it, after a few bottles you’ll be as happy as a Larry on Tuesday. Kirralaa, the word, is Australian (yes, they speak another language… well – the aboriginals do, and then the Larrys steal it and take credit) for “star”. Stars are pretty, and so is this wine… go buy it.

Can you recommend some Spanish Wine?

Mmmmmmmm Spain. Rioja. For the affordable quaff go for Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza Red at under $15/btl. Its great when eating red meat. So the next time you kill something in your backyard – I highly recommend you have a bottle handy. The 2001 vintage smells like summer berries and spice and everything nice, while in the mouth (the recommended entry orifice)you’ll find delicious and rich fruit, blended with tannin. What is tannin? Its the byproduct of stems and skin which has a sensation that dries your tongue; similar to that of sucking on aspirin or chewing on a teabag. I see it like cilantro; some people like it and some people don’t – if you don’t like it, then F-k you.

If elaborate indulgence is what you are after, check out the Vega-Sicilia ‘Unico’. One of the most prestigious wine estates in Spain, known for importing Bordeaux grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec)to add to the local Tinto Aragones (Tempranillo strain) Garnacha Tinata and Albillo. Blah, Blah, Blah – Ok, so now the “technical” speak is out of the way… here’s where it really gets interesting. Only the unpressed vin de goutte is used, fermented for 15 days and matured in Bordeaux barricas for no less than 10 years for the great reserva Unico. The result is a wine combining immense power and unmistakable ‘breeding’ (don’t worry – condoms are filtered out before bottling). The perfume is intoxicating… I know, because I dropped a bottle of the ’68 on a concrete floor and sat crouched over the red puddle with two buddies for 3 hours solving the world’s problems… If you are the type of person who can have whatever you want, when you want… Then I dare you to get your hands on the vintages: 1968, 1975 and 1976 preferably in magnums.

I am a big fan of Syrah/Shiraz. Can you recommend a few choice bottles?

Shoot for the star baby! I’m referring of course to the Australian Shiraz Kirralaa mentioned above. It’s good. I mean it. Another tasty treat that keeps you off the poverty line is the Rosemount Estate Shiraz. Yeah, I’m shameless. It runs huge discounts at all the corporate grocery chains… why? Because this wine is produced by the same huuuge conglomerate responsible for slipping mind-controlling fluoride into our drinking water – whoops, did I say that out loud? I better drink another bottle.

On the more pure side – you can seek out the masterful works of the Henschke estate. Man, they make good sh-t. The wine is so good that it rarely makes it off the continent…. Those Larrys can really drink it up. A notable fan of the wine: the lead singer of TOOL. What’s his name? Anyway, he reportedly spent $9,400aus on a single bottle of the ’94 Mount Edelstone Shiraz at a charity auction, and that’s not even a stellar year! Good taste – fuzzy math. Interesting tasting note from the 1984 vintage: “On opening, the bouquet reeked of dirty earth, feral animals and hints of Brett, which were almost unbearable.” Go for it!

Blends seem to be rising in popularity. What are some standout blends?

Like the philosophy behind Vega-Sicilia in Spain.. the meritage blend (a Bordeaux grouping consisting mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec) is muy delicioso. One of my favorites is the Opus One. This is a vintage bottling from Napa Valley, underwritten by the famed Robert Mondavi and the Baronnes Philippe de Rothschild. Both are vinous visionaries who appreciated the value of merging old world Bordeaux with radical California. The vintages are subject to variation based on weather (and winemaking) condition. An easy rule of thumb for the last decade in Napa is: ’90, 91, 94, 95, 97 and 2000. Got it? Good.

Send your questions to: usounds AT gmail dotcom.

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