As winter arrives, the nights get colder and the rain sets in, a big glass of red wine sounds more and more 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 turn their hand to both varieties. Their 2015 Reserve Shiraz has a fragrant aroma of ripe, dark plums and a rich, dense palate full of coffee, chocolate and savoury plum flavours. The 2015 Swan Valley Cabernet Sauvignon jumps out of the glass with violet and blackcurrant aromas, a silky palate alive with blackberry flavours.
Olive Farm is another with both a Valley Shiraz and Cabernet on offer. 2015 Cabernet has a bouquet of eucalyptus mint, Ribena and plums, a smooth, palate of mulberries, plums and spice, while the 2015 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
Lancaster Wines, home of the famous Shed, also has a couple that bear consideration. 2017 Old Vines Shiraz and 2017 9 Rows Cabernet Sauvignon. The Shiraz is big and bold and jammy, has oodles of black pepper on the nose and rich, ripe plums on the palate. The Cabernet, on the other hand, has a touch of violets in the bouquet along with blackcurrants, and smooth, lingering mulberry flavours.
And there are many more besides, so get out and about in the Valley, taste and make up your own mind! Don't forget to buy a few to take home for these long, dark, wintry nights when a big red is just the ticket.