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Winner Details

New World: Shiraz/Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre & Rhône Blends: Australia

2014: Gold 4 Silver 10 Bronze 5 Commended 9
2013: Gold 5 Silver 5 Bronze 5 Commended N/A 
Must-list status: 95%
Overall SWA performance 2014: C

We all know Australian Shiraz, don’t we? Tonnes of fruit, great value, and all the subtlety and finesse of Liam Gallagher. Well, on this evidence, maybe we need to rethink a bit. 

For the Barossa wines, at least, our tasters found wide variations in style – typical big, swirling, mad-fer-it spice-busters for sure, but also far lighter, more restrained versions. This may have been down to the troublesome 2012 vintage (no 2012s did better than Commended), or it may have been down to the same kind of general winemaking shifts that we’ve seen from Oz in Chardonnay and Cabernet. But either way, these Neo Barossas were significantly less popular.

‘They should stick to what they do well,’ said a disappointed Andrea Briccarello of Galvin Restaurants, with the air of a man whose paid to see the Manc rockers at the Etihad only for them to be playing Swan Lake. ‘It’s not remotely what you would expect.’ 

McLaren Vale had no such sensitivities. It was big, it was fruity and it didn’t give a damn who knew it. Its self-confidence was all the more impressive, since it never spilled over into arrogance. Few of these wines were clumsy and over-extracted.

‘Not many years ago these wines were very inky. Now with this flight you only had a couple that had that very high intensity,’ said Lionel Periner of The Lucky Onion. ‘The rest had medium intensity.’

What none of the flights had much of was good cheap wines. Admittedly, many of the sub-£12 examples are entered in the Varietal Classic part of this competition.

But while there seems to be little dissent about Australia’s ability to make really good wines with its Rhône varieties, it’s becoming ever more apparent that restaurants will have to pay Rhône-like prices for them.

FOOTNOTE: Includes wines where Syrah, Grenache, or Mourvèdre is the main varietal, or Rhône blends. Australian Shiraz/Syrah costing less than £12 ex-VAT can be entered either here or in the relevant Varietal Classic category.

From the Tasting Teams

‘There’s no personality at around £9. You would get more personality with the Rhône Valley at that price.’ Lionel Periner, The Lucky Onion

‘One of the problems we found with this flight was the use of screwcaps, which doesn’t do this style of wine any favours. The winemaking isn’t being adjusted to take account of that – some of these were very reductive.’ Natasha Hughes, team leader

‘They were strong between £11 and £18. Perhaps they’re a bit of a hand-sell, but if you get the team behind it they can sell these at £50-60 on a list.’
Richard Howard, Blakeney Hotel