Cute critters. That’s what a majority of people think of when discussing Australian wines. Unfortunately, that also comes with an association with poor quality. For those of us willing to broaden our horizons though, there is PROTOCOL Wine Studio. I participated in my first #WineStudio tasting in November of 2015, a little over a year ago now, and I am so glad I did. I discovered a passion for wine pretty quickly after turning 21, but as most wine clubs, tastings, and chats skew toward the over-40 crowd, I always felt out of the loop. I didn’t own seventy different tasting glasses nor had I tasted anything made before the year in which I was born. I was just a little different than everyone else.
After some time doubting everything that came out of my mouth, I was like Spider-Man after defeating the Green Goblin, ready to take charge. I had tasted more, expanded my horizons, and felled some of the misconceptions I had about wine regions. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve outgrown #WineStudio. This program, a monthly Twitter session on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on the east coast, is meant to bring together wine makes, enthusiasts, and just about anyone else with an interest in wine. I’ve tried Chardonnays, wines of Spain, and bottles filled with sparkling juice, but for October, it was all about Australia and Two Hands Wines. Driven to create quality, the winery focuses mainly on Shiraz and sources grapes from areas with a proven track record like the Barossa Valley. This isn’t mass-produced juice; it’s a labor of love that I only understood after making my way through these samples.
Though most of the wines we’d be trying were Shiraz, a grape I can only pronounce like a Persian, I kicked off that month’s #WineStudio with the only Cabernet Sauvignon in the bunch. Aptly named, the 2015 Sexy Beast was a complex wine that packed a punch. While it wasn’t the most intense Cabernet I’ve ever had, there were a lot of layers in this bottle, including pepper, dark red fruits, and some dry earthiness. The pork shanks with mushrooms that I inhaled while gracefully sipping this option mellowed out the more peppery notes, and made it a pairing I would happily try again. With a SRP of $36, it’s the kind of wine I’d buy a couple of and pull out for friends who appreciate something a little special. If you are rolling in more dough than my twenty-something self, buy a case or two and then float a few my way.
After the Sexy Beast, I chose the opposite end of the name spectrum and opted for the 2014 Angel’s Share Shiraz. As a Medieval literature and history nerd, I was all about this one. Apparently Medieval winemakers thought that angels watched over the winemaking process and took their share, which is how they accounted for the evaporated wine in their oak barrels. The inky purple of this wine seemed like something Maleficent would cloak herself in, and the powerful flavors of dark berries and lavender fulfilled the promises made by the color. It was another one of which I’d pick up a few at a SRP of $36, and if you’re looking for a step up from your standard Shiraz, you should too.
Of the funkier variety was the 2014 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz, a weightier option compared to the Angel’s Share. Although the first Shiraz of this bunch was decadent and fulfilled my constant search for deep flavors, this one was the bottle to open on a frigid winter night. Deep ruby red, spicy, smoky, and full of blackberries, I felt like I should have had a lamb leg in one hand and been drinking out of a bejeweled goblet. Maybe drink this one while watching the next season of Game of Thrones? Let me know how that works out.
For those looking for something with a story behind it, Two Hands’ Garden Series is for you. Meant to highlight the best Shiraz regions of Australia, the 2014 Bella’s Garden Shiraz was the first that I tried from this series. With deep tobacco notes on the nose, this bottle also surprisingly had some of those rich floral elements I found in the Angel’s Share. It was the best of both worlds. It was a big wine, and possibly the most layered of the five we tried. The SRP of $69 demands you spend some time over this one just as much as the complex flavors do, so please don’t open this one at home alone, share it with friends at your favorite BYOB and talk about it.
Saving the best for last, I opened the 2014 Lily’s Garden Shiraz, a bottle than contained many of the elements I’ve come to associate with this grape while also a bit softer than some of the other bottles I tried. Leathery yet silky, earthy yet full of sweet berries, this bottle showed off everything the McLaren Vale has to offer. Unlike the bottle I suggested drinking while watching the Mother of Dragons, I’d open this one in a cozy library in front of a fireplace. At $69 a pop, it’s not the cheapest wine out there, but I’ve done cheap Australian wine before, and I don’t mind making the splurge for something at this standard, even if it is a little outside my standard Wednesday night wine budget.
The wine of Australia is not just the kind you buy when throwing a big party for people who only drink wine once all of liquor is gone. So take a break from the adorable animals on your usual Australian bottles, and discover what else this area has to offer. The only thing you’ll regret is that you didn’t give Australia a real shot sooner.
These wines were kindly provided to me by the winery listed above, but all opinions are my own.