Arabella (South Africa, Shiraz/Viognier)

Yes, I tried two of the Naked Wines on the day I received them. (www.nakedwines.com)

At $7/btl (after my $100 voucher was deducted from the case price), I can afford to drink a few glasses and then move on. (This particular bottle retails for $20 but I got it at $12 through Naked Wines, who helps fund Arabella.)

Since the Quevedo Family Vintage #1 Red Blend was so dark-colored, I decided to do a comparison with this South African Shiraz. Shiraz is one of the darkest colored wines out there. I’m not that familiar with Shiraz from South Africa, so was excited to try it.

If it seems unusual to blend a white grape (Viognier) with a red grape (Shiraz), it isn’t. In France’s northern Rhone Valley (particularly the north), it’s very traditional and common for Viognier grapes to grow next to Shiraz and be vinified together. The thinking is that Viognier adds a bit of roundness and aroma to the otherwise dense and peppery Shiraz.

As expected, the wine was dark as squid ink. The aromas were meaty/rich but with an additional odd flavor, perhaps from the Viognier. I’ve seen people write that a Shiraz/Viognier blend smelled like bacon and peaches!

The surprise here was that this ultra-dark wine did not have ultra-dense tannins. In fact, I would have liked a bit more “grip” to counterbalance the perception of blackberry jam sweetness on the finish.

Overall a nice wine with a fun twist.

WINEKNOW:

  • Shiraz (known as Syrah in Australia and sometimes in the USA as well) produced a very dark purple wine. Cote Rotie (in the North Rhone) is the premier area for Shiraz, but Australia’s Barossa Valley is better known for it blockbuster, massively rich and extracted wines.
  • The “Western Cape” on the Arabella label means that the grapes come from within a very large area centering on Cape Town. The most famous wine-producing areas of Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paarl are within the very broad “Western Cape” region. But the fact that the winemaker has not indicated a specific district or ward on the label means that the grapes probably came from multiple areas. (Putting “Western Cape” on a South African wine is a bit like putting “California” on an American wine.)
  • South Africa is still trying to find its “trademark” red wine. Chenin Blanc is definitely its white. Pinotage can be really good or really bad, so it seems like winemakers are trying to move beyond this.
  • I would rate the wine triangle of Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paarl as the most beautiful wine country in the world. Rolling countryside punctuated with huge mountains, Cape Dutch architecture, ancient trees – it’s gorgeous. Rent a car, drive up from Cape Town and spend a few days there.

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