It's not often you come across two wines side by side at a supermarket tasting, each of which vividly illustrate both the finer points of the grape variety and the distinctions of their region. It happened at Sainsbury's this autumn when two sides of the syrah / shiraz coin, one typically French, the uniquely Australian, came head to head.
The French version was a 2001 Crozes Hermitage, Les Chênes Verts, £10.99, from Alain Graillot. Deep in colour, the wine is strikingly aromatic with an intensely tarry, almost iodiney tang to it reminiscent of Crozes' big brother, Hermitage itself. A joy to drink, this savoury, rich red, elegantly infused with peppery, antiseptic grace notes, is still youthful, with a good five to seven years puff in it.
Australia's riposte was the 2002 Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz, £9.99, made by Matt Wenk from grapes grown in South Australia's McLaren Vale. Its aromatic power derives more from oak spice, blackcurrant and pepper, and although clearly richer and more hedonistic, its intense, ripe blackberry fruitiness verges on the overwhelming.
Neither of these wines seeks the limelight of cult status. They are examples to the many overblown, overwrought reds on the market whose prices are more a reflection of the owner's ego than any inherent quality. Both are available through www.sainsburys. co.uk/wine; or, for the Two Hands, try the Great Northern Wine Company, Ripon (01765 606767) and the Alain Graillot, Yapp Bros, Mere, Wiltshire (01747 860423).
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