RAISE A GLASS TO W.A. SHIRAZ
Winemakers from the other side of the country are leading the way in red wine
There’s naturally a degree of hesitation in expressing an opinion about wine, wine regions and winemakers. After all, opinions are rather self-indulgent and often ill-considered, half-baked and formed in ignorance of the facts. So when I was recently asked for my view as to which region produces the best shiraz in Australia, I baulked. How do you compare apples and oranges and why should one style or profile necessarily be considered superior to another? And how can it be fair to compare shiraz from cool or high-altitude climates with those from a warmer or Mediterranean zone? Well, I guess it’s just an opinion and I’m up for the discussion. But I’m going to offend my good friends in South Australia. And also those in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley and Victoria’s Yarra region. And I apologise unreservedly to the Tasmanian producers who do a sterling job of crafting fine reds in their cool climate. But for the moment at least, I reckon that some of the best shiraz in the country is born in the rather remote Frankland River region in southern West Australia. The Frankland River district is part of the Great Southern region sitting inland from Manjimup, about four to five hours from Perth. The climate is rather Mediterraneanesque as long, warm sunny days and cool nights provide an ideal environ for production of plump, ripe berries. With about 1600ha under vine, the sub-region is one of the largest in Western Australia as well as being one of the oldest in the state. For me, the beauty of the regional shiraz is the power of the fruit, the distinctive black pepper characters on the conclusion, and its presence and charm on the palate. One of the largest and oldest wineries of the sub-region is Alkoomi, which was first planted in 1971. The custodians of the Hallett family’s operation are third-generation vignerons Sandy and Rod Hallett workalongside their three daughters. Their range includes riesling and multiple shiraz but it’s their 2011 Jarrah Shiraz that recently captured my attention. The depth of fruit is telegraphed by the deep crimson colour in the glass before luscious preserved plums and dark cherries emerge the moment it passes your lips.
One of the largest and oldest wineries is Alkoomi, which was first planted in 1971.