Published on 30 April 2021
by Alf Bock
When winter arrives, the nights get colder and then the rains set in, a big red wine sounds particularly inviting. The Swan Valley has many on offer -but which one should you choose?
Legendary Swan Valley winemaker Jack Mann once said Cabernet Sauvignon was the only wine that would be allowed in heaven – but in the Swan Valley it seems that winemakers have, by and large, come down on the side of Shiraz, with that variety underpinning red wine production in the region.
The warm Swan Valley climate is said to be more suited to growing Shiraz, while Cabernet Sauvignon matches better to the cooler climate areas of Margaret River and the Great Southern. In fact, many Swan Valley wineries source Cabernet grapes from these areas for their wines. But there is still plenty of Cabernet growing in the Valley and they do produce some lovely wines.
Typically, Swan Valley Shiraz is aromatic and boldly flavoured – liqueur chocolate, ripe plums and hints of liquorice and pepper on the nose, while dark chocolate, coffee and earthy plum flavours slide easily over the palate. These are medium to full-bodied wines that improve with age but are also delicious while young.
Wine made from Swan Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, can have a more elegant structure – blackcurrants, violets, mint, tobacco leaf and cedar dominate the bouquet, with smooth tannins supporting rich plum and mulberry flavours. They are medium bodied and also have good ageing potential.
But the best way to decide which one is your style is a journey around the Valley, sipping your way through a few of the best.
Upper Reach in Baskerville with their 2018 Reserve Shiraz set a great standard - it has a fragrant aroma of ripe, dark plums and a rich, dense palate full of coffee, chocolate and savoury plum flavours. They also have some Museum releases which show how well this wine ages – the 2009, 2010 and 2011 are simply outstanding.
Olive Farm in Millendon has both a Valley Shiraz and Cabernet on offer. The 2016 Cabernet has a bouquet of eucalyptus mint, Ribena and plums, a smooth, palate of mulberries, plums and spice, while the 2017 Shiraz has a distinct peppery nose, with spicy nutmeg and liquorice; the tannins make for a more grippy palate, with loads of sweet plum fruit. And why not try the 2017 IJ Yurisich Shiraz/Cabernet to experience just how well these two grapes complement each other?
Lancaster Wines in West Swan and home of the famous Shed, also has a red that bears consideration – Old Vines Shiraz. The Shiraz is big and bold and jammy, oodles of black pepper on the nose and rich, ripe plums on the palate. And they, too, have some older Museum stock to delve into.
Lamont’s pay testament to Jack Mann with their 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon – blackcurrant aromas abound, and the silky, smooth palate is awash with flavours of plums and mulberries.
And there are many more besides, so get out and about in the Valley – taste and make up your own mind – and then buy a few to take home for those long, dark, wintry nights when a big red is just the ticket.