Mr Smith McLaren Vale Shiraz (on sale at various independent merchants)

If you can name just a few grape varieties, I’ll bet Shiraz is one of them. In the late nineties and early noughties, we Brits went mad on vino from the land of Oz, and Shiraz was at the forefront of that craze. Now picking a bottle of this stuff leaves you worrying that you’ve succumbed to a cliché, and that you’ve started buying your wine with all the care and consideration you’d expect from Skippy.
Well, maybe. Kangaroos may well be inclined towards a certain brand whose labels bear their image, but I suspect they’d be less likely to venture into their local, independent merchant’s premises to peruse the wares. And that is where you’re most likely to find Mr Smith.
Yes, I’m taking a short break from reviewing the supermarket wines. If you can’t bear the thought of ever spending over £10 on a bottle, I understand. Skip to my next article. If however, you’re tempted to learn what you might be missing out on by refusing to spend an extra £2…
You probably have to be able to think like an Australian to understand the marketing of this wine. First of all, the name! No offence to all its namesakes out there, but I’m quite sure you wouldn’t get away with this branding in the Dragons’ Den. And then there’s the label. They seem to have looked to their neighbours in New Zealand for inspiration here, because it’s all black. Literally. So you can have fun with Mr Smith before you’ve even bought it, if your idea of fun is a game of hide and seek in the presence of a rather bemused shopkeeper.
Once those silly games have become tiresome and you trouble yourself to check the tasting notes, you’ll be relieved to find they’re written in white. They promise blackberries, plums, chocolate and a touch of sweet spices. For those who’ve checked red wine tasting notes before, this probably sounds all too familiar and you’re already preparing yourself for disappointment. But you’re going to be surprised, because this one does, undeniably, deliver all of those flavours. And what’s more, they are far from fleeting. You swallow, the wine goes down the hatch, the flavours stay. You could be convinced that the air you’re breathing is now infused with fruit and chocolate.
It would be wrong to say this wine is just about the flavours though. At 14.5% abv, it’s a heady, warming tipple, but balanced with enough acidity to keep your palate refreshed and wanting more. It’s definitely not one of those ‘barbecue wines’. The time to reach for it is when the family and friends are venturing back indoors after the fireworks on Bonfire night. Just don’t let them drink too much, lest they end up ‘down under’ the table (sorry).

Tom BradfordMr Smith McLaren Vale Shiraz (on sale at various independent merchants)

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