1996 Clarendon Hills Shiraz Clarendon Australia

SKU #1130147 92 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 Clarendon Hills' red wines are about as decadent and rich as red wine can get. The husky, dense ruby/purple-colored 1996 Shiraz reveals a knock-out nose of pepper, raspberry liqueur, blackberries, and spice. The wine possesses terrific fruit, full body, an unctuous texture, and a whoppingly long finish that lasts for over 30 seconds. Although soft and approachable, it will keep for a decade or more. This is one of my favorite Australian wineries and readers who have followed my reviews know of my enthusiasm for recent vintages of the Old Vine Grenache, Astralis, and Merlot. I have not reviewed any Clarendon Hills Chardonnays because I am not fond of oxidized, earthy Chardonnays.  (2/ 2002)

91 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

 Bright ruby-red. Reticent but pure aromas of blackberry, pepper, orange peel and woodsmoke. Big, sweet and lush; concentrated, crunchy dark berry flavor gives an impression of strong extract. Finishes ripe and impressive, with a note of pepper and substantial tongue-coating tannins. Should age well.  (8/ 1998)

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Price: $79.99

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Varietal:

Shiraz/Syrah

- One of France's noblest black grape varieties, Syrah is known for its intense and distinctive perfume reminiscent of briar fruit, tar, spice and black pepper and its firm structure. One of few black grape varietals frequently vinified on its own, the best examples of Syrah come from the Northern Rhône, particularly Hermitage, but also Côte-Rôtie, Cornas, Crozes-Hermitage and St-Joseph. These wines are very astringent in their youth, though some Crozes-Hermitage and St-Joseph can be enjoyed young, relatively speaking. Given the requisite patience, though, these wines can reveal amazing complexity and secondary fruit characteristics like plum and blackcurrant as well as subtle hints of smoke and flowers. In the Southern Rhône, Syrah is used to add structure and complexity to wines dominated by Grenache and complemented by Mourvèdre, like the more immediately drinkable Côte du Rhônes, as well as the long-lived wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In recent years, plantings of Syrah have spread throughout the Languedoc-Roussillon where it is produced on its own or blended with other varietals. Outside of France, the most important Syrah growing country is easily Australia, where it is called Shiraz. Quality levels here depend greatly on yields and geography, and the wines range from bold, fruity and easy-drinking to intense and ageable, like the famed Penfolds Grange. Often bottled on its own, in Australia Syrah is also can be blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre, as in the Southern Rhône, and is increasingly combined with Cabernet Sauvignon. Syrah has also been steadily increasing in popularity in California, thanks to a group of advocates called the Rhône Rangers. Its most successful iterations come from the Central and Sonoma Coasts, where winemakers are pushing boundaries and creating some incredible wines. In recent years Syrah has also found a number of proponents in Washington State, which is definitely a region to watch for this variety.
Country:

Australia

- While it is true that the greatest strides in Australian winemaking have come in the last 30 years or so, commercial viticulture began as early as the 1820s and has developed uninterrupted ever since. The majority of the great Region are in the southeastern area of the continent, with the Barossa Valley, Claire Valley, McLaren Vale, and Coonawarra in South Australia, the Yarra Yarra Velley and Pyrenees in Victoria and the Upper and Lower Hunter Valleys in New South Wales. Many of the wines from Southeastern Australia are based on Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon and various blends including Grenache and Mourvedre. In Western Australia, along the Margaret River, great strides are being made with Pinot Noir as well as Bordeaux-styled reds. There are also many world-class releases of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling from the land Down Under. While many equate Aussie wines with "value", there are more than a few extremely rare and pricey options, which never fail to earn the highest ratings from wine publications and critics throughout the world. Click for a list of bestselling items from Australia.