BY DUNCAN CROSBY
I begin this week, our final week, with a disclaimer: Mike had nothing to do with this column, so don’t hold my jingoism against him. I review two affordably priced Australian Shirazes this week, due in no small part to the fact that I support the war and thus can no longer stand even to look at French wine. Speaking of the French, wine provides another example of how we saved their butts. In the late 19th century, phylloxera, a tiny, root-eating parasite, devastated nearly all French wineries, devouring their oh-so-clever-but-wimpy vitis vinifera vines. Were it not for hearty American rootstocks onto which the French grafted their vines, there would be no French wine – ooh, la la!
Moving on to other things that suck: the Harvard Provision Company is no more. Those of us who like to pickle our livers on a regular basis will miss its wide selection and close proximity. While we saw the Provo Company’s demise coming (this year’s Unofficial Guide noted rumors of the impending razing of the Provo Company’s building), foreknowledge did not soften the blow. We are now left to the tender mercies of C’est Bon Convenience; God help us all.
Enough about stuff that sucks; Without further ado, I move to the wines. Shiraz, also known as Syrah outside of Australia, is a jammy, spicy and full-bodied red. Besides Australia and the Rhone region of France, several vineyards have had success with Syrah in California. The Australians often blend Shiraz with Cabernet Sauvignon to great effect; we love the Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz (which I believe we reviewed earlier this year). Though generally not as bold and spicy as Zinfandel, Shiraz is still a fun, sassy wine.
Note as you read my insightful reviews that I did not follow ideal wine tasting protocol (e.g., I did not decant!), but did allow wines to mellow in glasses for better than fifteen minutes.
Wolf Blass 2001 South Australia Shiraz ($12.99): Currant and dark berries on the nose, with a touch of clove (jammy, if you can believe it, on the nose). Deep, rich reddish-purple in color with excellent clarity. Thin, slow-moving legs. Initially sweet and fruity, this Shiraz quickly transitions to a somewhat metallic but pleasant, mellow cigar smoke flavor. Somewhat astringent, particularly at the back of the throat. Noticeably sour and bitter on the finish, but with lingering smoke flavor.
Rosemount Estate 2001 Estate Bottled Shiraz ($12.99): Lighter but still reddish-purple in color. Less rich on the nose, some dark berries, but almost mayonnaise-like odor. Pleasantly sweet and fruity with some pepper, and not too full on the palate, turns a bit sour on the leave but without any of the metallic flavor of the Wolf Blass.
The winner: the perennially reliable Rosemount. Wolf Blass gets the silver this week, much as Charles Bronowski (JD ’03), Spiro Karigiannis, Paul Janzen and Tom Rauenbusch did two weeks ago at the College Curling Nationals – way to go!
Since this is the last column, I have to give two quick shouts-out/apologies to Alexei Maltas and Teddy Miller, both of whom had hoped to enjoy a wine tasting with Mike and me, and both of whom I let down. In particular I have to apologize to Alexei, to whom I promised the opportunity to be a “Wine Boob,” which is to say a lay commentator. Don’t worry, fellas, we’ll drink a bottle or two before the year is out. And Alexei, you’ll always be a boob in my eyes.
Finally, thanks to all of you who have followed this column loyally (I think that includes more people than my loving and patient girlfriend Patricia). Why you continue to read us after we published such tripe as the Public Interest wine column is quite beyond us, but we are grateful and honored – you have made it all worthwhile. That, and the free wine.