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Twist and shout: Hunter shiraz blends you need to know about

​Nothing says winter more than a glass of red wine in front of a roaring fire. It's the perfect time to try a Shiraz with a twist.

Shiraz is the kingpin red in the Hunter Valley, with some of the oldest vines in the country, but today's winemakers are taking Shiraz to an edgy new place, blending it with some different varieties.

Of course, you'll have seen that great Aussie red blend – Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon – on the shelves at your local bottlo. Tyrrell's Vat 8 is probably this blend's local superstar, but you'll also find it at Hanging Tree Wines and Glandore Wines. Over at McLeish Estate their Shiraz blend is Cabernet dominant, and so too is Oakvale's and Hunter's Dream.

While super tasty, these blends aren't all that uncommon. So, do you fancy a blend you've never heard of before? Hang onto your hats. How about Shiraz Pinot, Shiraz Viognier, Shiraz Chambourcin, Shiraz Touriga, Shiraz Mourvedre or Shiraz Montils? Yep, we've got them all.

Shiraz Pinot: popular in the 1940s and 50s these fabled wines went out of fashion for a while but they've made a big comeback with a growing number of Hunter producers making this delectable drop (you can read our feature in Issue 10 of the Hunter Valley Magazine here).

Shiraz Viognier: these blends are downright delicious ­ usually less than 5% of the white grape Viognier is added to create a soft gentle red with a spicy floral aroma. Look for them at Leogate Estate Wines, Bimbadgen Estate, Keith Tulloch Wines and Midnight's Promise.

Shiraz Chambourcin: the deeply coloured French grape Chambourcin is a favourite of those who want a full-bodied red. Both Stonehurst Wines and RidgeView Wines have been known to add it to their Shiraz creating a rich red blend with a touch of spice.

Shiraz Touriga: this is another lip-smacking red blend. Touriga Nacional is Portugal's most famous red grape variety with big bold flavours and intense floral aromas. Whispering Brook's owners Susan Frasier and Adam Bell fell in love with Touriga on their first trip to Portugal in 2007, and Mike De Iuliis is also a fan of the Portuguese globetrotter, planting it in 2008. Both produce luscious award-winning wines based on Touriga: De Iuliis Wines a Shiraz Touriga and Whispering Brook a Touriga Shiraz.

Shiraz Mourvedre: Mourvedre is a French red grape often used in Southern Rhone blends. A few years ago winemaker Andrew Margan from Margan Wines took over what he thought was a block of Shiraz but it ended up being like a bag of licorice allsorts with oodles of different varieties, including Mourvedre.

"It was the only Mourvedre planted in the Hunter Valley and we decided to keep it interplanted with the Shiraz and pick together as a single vineyard wine," he says. "It's the only one made in the region and is a riper, richer wine than usual for the Hunter [think deep chocolate and licorice flavours with warm spices]. It's part of our Breaking Ground Range, which celebrates our focus on innovation and pioneering alternative wines and wine styles," he adds.

Shiraz Montils: this is a lighter style of red that's very quaffable but as rare as hen's teeth. It's also another example of when something old becomes new again (like Shiraz Pinot) as it was originally produced by Mount Pleasant's legendary winemaker Maurice O'Shea in the 1950s as a white wine. Reborn as a dry red in 2013 as part of Mount Pleasant's experimental B-side range, it's as unique as it is exclusive as there are only two rows of Montils left today.

"Montils is a white variety from Cognac, unique to Mount Pleasant in Australia, planted by Maurice O'Shea," says winemaker Adrian Sparks.

"We add the Montils to our Rosehill Shiraz and then treat it like a normal red, with inspiration from the Northern Rhone styles. The Montils provides a softness and fine acidity to the red fruits of Rosehill," he says

So why not try something new the next time you're after a red to warm up over winter. 

PS. By the way, just in case you don't know, if it says Shiraz Cabernet on the label it means the wine is predominantly Shiraz with some Cabernet added but if it says Cabernet first it means there's more Cab than Shiraz. Simple as that.


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