With the holidays approaching fast, I figured I would take this time to introduce you all to one of my favorite and best kept hidden secret wine choices: Sparkling Shiraz. Unique and festive, it really is a great choice for celebrations of all kinds. I was first introduced to this burgundy colored beauty while sitting in my favorite little wine and cheese bar in midtown Manhattan. Lots of people around me were sipping it out of frosty champagne flutes, but the color was not of a rose or blush, instead deep and dark as my favorite full bodied red. Ordered my first glass and my world was changed from that moment. Where had this been all my life?! It’s enjoyed cold, has the same alcohol content of a red wine (actually it’s a little higher around 14%), and is just a nice refreshing and bold party in your mouth.
This particular one I had in the wine and cheese bar, was The Chook, sourced predominantly from regions in South Australia; namely McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. It is aged in old French oak barrels, magnificently smooth with dark berry notes and a rich texture. I’m going to introduce you to three producers in total, this is the most dry and distinguished in taste. It retails at an average of $20 a bottle (Buy Rite in JC has it for $17).
The next one, and my personal favorite, is from a quite humorously named producer Uncle Dick- Bleasdale Vineyards. They have actually since changed the bottle and added an ‘Uncle Dick’s Cellar’ line, while keeping the Bleasdale line separate which now appears to be the only line featuring the sparkling shiraz. However if you search the internet, you can still find the ‘Red Brute’ series bottle pictured below with the vintage old man photo. Side story: I once gave this to one of my bosses at my old corporate job (an SVP at the company), prior to seeing the label. That was interesting to say the least, but luckily she had a great sense of humor! The Uncle Dick is solely from the Langhorne Creek region with similar smoothness and berry fruit flavors as The Chook, however I find it to be slightly sweeter and a better all around taste and finish. The Uncle Dick price actually started around $16, but suppliers started to raise their minimums on shipments, and it became harder and harder to acquire. It is currently averaging around $19 a bottle in shops and websites who still carry it.
The last of this trio, is the least expensive and probably best all around value since they are all so similar in taste. This one is called Paringa aka ‘Aunt Vagina’ as my friends and I dubbed it– Uncle Dick’s partner in crime . Compared to the other two, I would say Paringa is the sweetest and least smooth, but still pretty close. Hmmm, I sense a sparkling shiraz blind tasting in my future… But yes, Paringa pretty much happened when Bleasdale made it harder to find the Uncle Dick. However, we found it to be a great alternative and have been very happy with it for some time. It was also a bit easier on the pockets at $13 per bottle. Unfortunately times have changed and it is now up around $17 (Buy Rite in JC has it for $15).
In conclusion, if you can find the Uncle Dick it’s worth the effort. If not and it’s for a special occasion, gift, or holiday, go with The Chook. But if you’re looking for something to bring to every gathering, BYO, or just sitting home on the couch, it’s Paringa all the way. Enjoy guys, cheers!