If you’re in Australia or North America, chances are your first experience with Shiraz was in the form widely-available from Rosemount Estates. Shiraz is derived from the same stock as Syrah that is grown in France’s Rhone Valley. The Australian “father of viticulture,” James Busby, brought Syrah to the continent in the 1830s while collecting vines in Spain and France.
I think I bought my first bottle of Rosemount Shiraz in 1996 or 1998 for $7.99 USD; it can still be had for $10 or $11. In this grad student/postdoc-friendly price range, the wine was quite drinkable as compared with too-tannic or unbalanced Cabernet Sauvignons or watery Merlots – I think the pros call this one an “early-drinking red.” The Rosemont of my memory had a full fruit flavor of dark berries and a spiciness that worked alone or with burgers and pizza, but could still be reasonable with a decent cut of beef. (Some define the spicy flavor as jalapeño but I think it is more like black pepper.)
The quality and character of Rosemount seemed to decline over the last 5-8 years, perhaps coincident with the sale of the Oatley family-owned winery to Southcorp Wines. Interestingly, I’ve read in Wine & Spirits Daily that 80-year-old Robert Oatley and his children have launched a new wine brand under his name. Beginning with fruit from the family’s seven vineyards in the Mudgee region of Australia, they began distributing a half dozen varietals in the US in August that includes Shiraz. However, these more carefully crafted offerings are in the $18 to $20 range.
Most Shiraz I see today in the $15-25 range is an intense purple, rip-your-head-off 13%-16% alcohol that probably ages nicely, but isn’t quite what I’m looking for to go with the average Pharmboy meal. (Australian writer Jeni Port describes the “hijacking” of Shiraz by “out of town interests” to be one style: “big, alcoholic, and syrupy-rich.” You’ve got to love a wine writer whose surname is Port.)
But thanks to my local estate-grown wine purveyors, Wine Authorities, I’ve been turned on to the Shiraz of my younger days:
2006 Shiraz (Nugan Estate)
Nugan Estate, Shiraz, Riverina, Australia, 2006
REMARKABLY DRY, BALANCED AND JAMMY FRUIT Amazingly, this is one of the few wineries that can produce such fine Shiraz made in a non-manipulated, well-balanced and refined manner in the “daily” category! Dive into spiced berry, restrained jelly flavors and black cherry jubilee. The black pepper and vanilla oak serve as a “pie crust” for the wine’s fruit. This is typical of Shiraz, but made in a beautifully well integrated manner. Forget the sweet, fruity, cheap stuff. Will the real Shiraz please stand up? And here it is…Nugan Estate Shiraz. Try With: Bleu cheese burger; braised short ribs with star anise, onions, clove and rosemary
I can’t get enough of this stuff. If you are in the NC Research Triangle area (Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh), the Nugan Shiraz is on the Enomatic this week at the Wine Authorities store where you can try 1, 2.5, or 5 oz pours with your Enomatic smart card. But at this price, just spend the $12 and get a bottle.
Nugan wines are also available around the world at your better wine merchants who focus on estate-grown and vinted wines. For example, Pascale’s Liquor Square in Syracuse, NY, carries the 2003 Nugan Shiraz. The Huntington Beach, CA, importer, Southern Starz, appears to be the US distributor for Nugan (this map will give you importer contacts worldwide). And our lucky readers in Australia can buy all of the Nugan wine offerings online.
Beyond the sensory experience of the wine itself, I find it sometimes equally interesting to dig into the winery’s website to learn more about the history, geography, and tidbits on the folks who brought this fine beverage to life.
The Nugan family has a rich history in Australia with patriarch Alberto Nugan emigrating in 1940 from Spain to Griffith, New South Wales, to launch a fruit and vegetable business. His son, Ken, took over the business but was claimed by cancer at a relatively young age, leaving his wife, Michelle, to lead the company. With Michelle’s leadership and vision and the support of their children, Nugan grew from a highly-successful fruit juice exporter to a winery about ten years ago.
The family is remarkable – Michelle Nugan has been honored by numerous awards business awards and her son, Matthew, and daughter, Tiffany, are equally accumulating honors for their contributions to the business community and economic development, particularly with regard to exports. While Ken joined the company when he was 19, Tiffany didn’t come onboard until 2001 when she left what sounds like a very successful law practice.
All this talk of South Australia really makes me want to pay a visit to my SuperReader, Prof Ian Musgrave, a pharmacology professer and astonomer in Adelaide. He’s been busy as of late with family business and training for a 6 km run to benefit the Brain Foundation. Shout out to Ian: have you tried any of the Nugan wines?
All other readers: let us know if you’ve had any experience with Nugan or if you have a particular favorite Shiraz.