joe kolafa | the rich reds of fall | oct. 2019
Fall in Wisconsin has long been a favorite time of year for me. As an adult, the wines we tend to gravitate towards this time of year only make it better! Sure, it's true there's no “right” or “wrong” time of year to enjoy your favorite wine, but fall weather and harvest-food flavors just seem to lend themselves to more earthy, rustic expressions of richer red wines.
A great place to begin in this search for something more bold can be Australia. Wine has been made here for a couple of centuries but has more recently found its way to the rest of the world in a major way. Production has tripled since 1990, with much of that success due to the country's prized grape, Shiraz (the same grape that's referred to as Syrah elsewhere in the world). Australian producers now bottle upwards of 1.5 billion bottles of wine each year (enough to fill a Honda Civic gas tank 26,000 times!).
With so many different wines to choose from, it can be tricky to know what you're getting when you order a glass or pick up a bottle of Australian wine. In terms of the red wines, we've seen a greater diversity of varietals as wineries experiment with grapes like Tempranillo, Montepulciano and others traditionally found throughout the world. That said, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon (or blends based on those two) tend to do particularly well. Not unlike red wines from Sonoma, these are powerful wines with assertive flavors. They also tend to reward those patient enough to allow for a few years to age (both in barrels and bottles). While Australian wine can be excellent to cellar away, the inpatient needn't worry — several producers have properly aged these wines for you — and they're drinking great today!
One such winery, Killibinbin, has some excellent values that serve as a great representation of South Australia's Langhorne Creek region. The wines are made from the grapes of the Metals Estate, not far outside Adelaide. It's a vineyard that has been around since the late 1800s and today is run by fifth-generation owners Guy & Liz Adams. For several generations, wine has been an increasingly important part of the business. Beginning with just a few hectares, 212 are planted to vines today (with the remaining 1,000 hectares used to raise Merino sheep).
The Killibinbin wines pay homage to American film noir of the 1940s with their labels, featuring creative scenes often involving monsters or a buxom detective. The theme is great for Halloween parties and gatherings and the wines are sure to be crowd-pleasers for anyone who likes bold, rich reds. While the winery produces several bottlings, those especially to consider include:
Seduction Cabernet Sauvignon — a “Wine Spectator” Smart Buy for good reason. This Cabernet has loads of dark fruit flavors, along with earthy tobacco notes and touches of vanilla/creme brûlée from the barrel-aging. Boldly-structured, the 2014 vintage finishes elegantly with crisp tannins.
Sneaky Shiraz — Sneaky showcases the robust nature of Shiraz grown in one of Australia's hottest growing regions. Deep red to almost black in color, the wine has lovely plum, black currant and blackberry notes. The tannins are firm, but with a velvety mouthfeel.
Scaredy Cat — This wine is a Cabernet-dominant blend with Shiraz, kind of bringing together the best of both worlds. The herbal notes really shine, with an almost minty herbal side to the dark fruit flavors. The 2012 vintage is phenomenal, but as with any wine this age, it will benefit from an extended period of time to “breathe.” Open the bottle a couple hours before company comes and you'll be amazed with how it opens up.
If these wines appeal to you, you should also consider a California selection — The Culprit. Much like its Australian brethren, this red blend is big, bold and intense! Made from mostly Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Syrah (a varietal that is genetically different from Syrah/Shiraz that has smaller, more dense/tannic grapes) it delivers similar notes of spice, cedar and black fruit with a little more emphasis on ripe red fruits like wild cherries and raspberries.
When it comes to pairing any of these wines, it's hard to go wrong with hearty options. Beef, pork and lamb are great alongside the tannic structure of these wines regardless of how they've been prepared. They also compliment comfort foods like shepherd's pie or braised-meat slow cooker recipes.