Saturday, December 15, 2012

Aussie Wines for the Office Party

The office Christmas Party has arrived and it's always good for a couple of additions to The List.  Dinner was in Vancouver's West End; so, Boo and I made a bit of side trip on the way to the restaurant to take in a quick look at our favourite massively lit tree at English Bay.  One day, we'll have to take a bottle with us so that I can use the view under the display as a blog location.  That's to be another time though because we were running a little behind for the office do.

I was chatting to The Boss a couple of days beforehand to talk possible wine choices and he mentioned, afterward, that he basically had fun just picking and grabbing an assortment of bottles that he thought looked interesting.  I was looking forward to seeing his choices since I certainly know that browsing for a case of wines ranks highly on my scale of enjoyable activities.

It's amusing that he went with primarily Aussie choices since we were dining at an Italian restaurant but there's no doubt that The Boss grabbed a mixed bag.  In some instances, he only bought single bottles and, accordingly, there were a couple of interesting bottles that were already finished off by the time we arrived.  I settled in with sipping from a bottle of something old and another of something new.

1307.  2011 Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise Shiraz - Cabernet Sauvignon - Petit Verdot (Adelaide - South Australia)

The Scrubby Rise is the "something old" bottle.  Scrubby Rise (and the slightly more expensive Church Block) have long been on my radar as great sips at a good price.  I'm actually rather shocked to see that this is the first Wirra Wirra wine to be added to The List.  I must have a fair number of W2 bottles in the "cellar" because I know they've ended up in my shopping basket on many an occasion.  Boo and I even visited the winery during our short visit to McLaren Vale back in the Spring.  It's definitely time for a bottle to be added.

The bottle states that the wine is from the "Adelaide region."  I'm not familiar with Adelaide as a named production area but maybe, in their current efforts to emphasize regional Aussie wines, marketers are using "Adelaide" as a more comprehensive region when grapes are sourced from more than one of the smaller zones.  The grapes going into Scrubby Rise hail from both the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu areas but maybe "Adelaide Region" is thought to be more of a premium appellation than South Australia would be.

Doesn't matter to me.  Website notes refer to the wine as a "twist on an Australian classic - Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon."  Petit Verdot is a classic Bordeaux blender and Wirra Wirra's winemakers look to PV to "take this wine to another level, with its vibrant colour and rich fragrance."  As you might expect, the wine is big with lots of ripe, dark fruit.  But, being from regions that are slightly cooler than the Barossa, there is more restraint on those flavours than many of the similarly priced easy drinking Aussie wines.  At $15 (in the Vancouver market), it's an easy choice for all sorts of  parties.

1308.  2010 Henry's Drive Vignerons - Morse Code Shiraz (Padthaway - Australia)

The Morse Code Shiraz, on the other hand, was new to me.  I've seen it on some local shelves but I can't say that I've ever tried it.  Turns out that Morse Code is one of a number of brands that are produced by Henry's Drive.  They are one of a handful of wineries that are working to establish a regional name for Padthaway.  Found to the North of Coonawarra, Padthaway is a sub-region of the Limestone Coast; however, the area has largely been monopolized by bigger, commercial wine producers and doesn't have nearly the name recognition of neighbouring wine areas.

Henry's Drive is relatively new on the scene, having been established in 1998.  Despite its recent heritage, the diversity of labels sees the winery producing around 150,000 cases annually - large by BC standards but hardly the volume of the big Aussie brands.  As with the Wirra Wirra, the fruit on the Morse Code is still front and centre; however, it's more subtle than most economical brands from the Barossa.  For $14, this is another wine that punches above it weight.

The good news was that, Italian inspired cuisine or not, the wines went over nicely.  The bad news, such as it might be, was that I was feeling rather under the weather and, so, I didn't try any other wines.  In fact, I was one of the first to leave the evening's activities and that's a bit of a first in itself.  Pacing, especially during the holiday season, is critical though - and there are plenty more opportunities scheduled to add bottles to The List before the year is out.

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